• pandemonium •
pæn-dê-mon-i-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Total and complete chaos, usually caused by a mob of angry, irreconcilable people or animals.
Notes: No, we are not talking about the panda section at the zoo, but complete chaos, what we would expect if demons took control. It comes with at least two adjectives, pandemoniac and pandemonic, and the first of these may be used to refer to a disorderly, raucous person. If you need an extra syllable, this word may be used adjectivally as pandemoniacal. Either may be converted to an adverb, but I prefer pandemonically of the two possibilities here.
In Play: We don't have to look far for an excellent example of pandemonium these days: Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo erupted in total pandemonium as Mubarak supporters attacked thousands of Egyptians who had gathered there to protest President Mubarak's excessively long term in office." Smaller samples of pandemonium may be found nearer home: "Will you pandemoniacs please calm down? A sleep-over isn't supposed to be complete pandemonium."
Word History: Seldom do we know exactly when, why, how a word entered the language, and by whom. Today's Good Word is the exception. Pandemonium (originally Pandæmonium) was coined by John Milton as the name for the "high capital of Satan and all his peers" in Paradise Lost (1667). Milton created his word from Greek pan "all" + daimon "lesser god", a word borrowed by Latin as dæmon and reduced to demon in English. By Milton's time, this word referred to evil spirits and it was this sense that Milton intended. We have already met pan in panacea, pandemic, and my personal favorite, pandiculation. (Let's express a word of gratitude to Rob Towart for helping us out of any mental pandemonium caused by confusion over today's Good Word.)
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