• paean •
Pronunciation: pee-ên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A song of praise. 2. A song, poem, or other expression of profound joy, gratitude, or triumph.
Notes: The original paean was a hymn of praise sung to Apollo or other gods for safety before going into battle, or on other occasions. Do not confuse today's Good Word with a peon [pee-ahn] "serf, drudge, underpaid worker", with the stronger second syllable. No one would write a paean to a peon.
In Play: Paeans tend to be formal expressions of praise or triumph, "Gladys Dunn's farewell speech was a paean to all those she had worked for without a crumb of recognition and for those who had worked for her." Are you tired of apologizing for the state of your home? Try this instead: "My house is a passionate paean to disorder."
Word History: Today's Good Word is an exact copy of Latin paean "hymn of thanksgiving". The Romans simply transliterated the Greek paian, a commonization of Paian. This word was originally the name of the physician to the gods but later became a form of address for the god Apollo, to whom most paeans were addressed. No one really knows where Paian's name comes from. (No better source for a word as Greek as today's than the Stargazer of our Alpha Agora, Larry Brady)