Printable Version
Pronunciation: myu-zee-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A building or other place where interesting and valuable objects of cultural interest are kept, studied, and displayed to the public.

Notes: This word came to represent the "library" in Alexandria, Egypt. In fact, this building was a collections of works, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and gardens and was the major center of scholarship in the ancient world. Apparently, it originally meant "the shrine of the Muses", for mousa in Greek meant "Muse". The Muses according to the Greeks, were the nine goddesses of the arts. The fires set by the army of Julius Caesar in 48 BC and an attack by Aurelian in the 270s AD resulted in a colossal lost of ancient manuscripts from ancient times.

In Play: First, we have the ordinary use of today's word: "The British Museum is filled with the plunder from all continents explored by British explorers over the centuries." But this word may be used figuratively for a long-standing collection of anything: "Harley Davidson's house is a museum of the history of local motorcycle gangs."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin museum "library, study", which Latin borrowed from Greek mouseion "place of study", a direct translation of the genitive case of Mousa "of the Muses". Greek inherited and denasalized PIE men-/mon- "mind, thought, think" to produce mousa. Music is another originally Greek word based on mousa. The adjective for this word was mousikos "of the muses"; specifically the phrase mousike techne "art of the muses". The nasalized form of this PIE word shows up everywhere in the Indo-European language's, including English mind, Sanskrit mantrah "sacred formula repeated in prayers to invoke a magic spell", Greek mantis "seer", and Latin mens, mentis "mind", which it converted to a suffix -ment. This suffix was borrowed by English and other IE languages in many abstract noun derivations. (Now let's thank Chris Stewart, our long-time South African friend, for suggesting yet another fascinating Good Word for our edification.)

Dr. Goodword,

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