• Manichaean •
mæ-nê-kee-ên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective
Meaning: 1. A devotee of Manichaeanism, a religion created by a Persian prophet, Mani (210-276 CE), by combining Zoroastrian and Christian principles. The basic principle of this religion is that the world is a struggle between good and evil, the soul and matter. It became widely popular for about a millennium but did not survive much beyond that. 2. A person who believes in the dualism that the world is divided into good and evil.
Notes: English offers quite a bit of latitude in spelling today's word. Manichean is also acceptable and a person who believes in Manichaeanism may also be called simply a Manichee. So don't let the three sequential vowels in the middle of this word throw you. Remember, you can always omit the first A and spell this word Manichean. Whichever variant you use, the CH is always pronounced [k] and this word is still capitalized.
In Play: This Good Word today refers to people who think the world is divided cleanly into good and evil with no gray areas: "Don't waste your time explaining yourself to a Manichaean like Lyda Cain; she either loves you or hates you and nothing will change her mind." Whenever your options boil down to a choice between good and evil you will find room for today's word: "Heathcliff is faced with the Manichaean decision of whether to marry Lady Mondegreen or abandon her heavy with child."
Word History: English acquired this word from 4th-century Latin Manichaeus, an adaptation of Byzantine Greek Manichaios "Manichaean". The Greeks took the word from the name of Mani which they converted into Manis, a common name for slaves, and then to Manichaios, allegedly to avoid any confusion of Mani and mania. (We are grateful that Dr. Lyn Laboriel has something of a mania for Good Words like today's and periodically brings them to our attention.)
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