• chiromancy •
ki-rê-mæn-see • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Palmistry, palm-reading, prognosticating the future on the basis of the lines in the palm of the hand.
Notes: The trick of today's Good Word is to remember that the CH in this word is the Greek CH pronounced [k], as in psyche and chorus. Someone who practices chiromancy chiromances and is a chiromancer, though the adjective chiromantic may be used as a noun with the same meaning. There are many words for divination; gastromancy is one we have already examined. Others include divination by cats (ailuromancy), numbers (arithmomancy), stones (lithomancy), and pieces of wood (xylomancy) among about 200 others.
In Play: Humans are uneasy facing an unknown future. Today's word is just one of the more than 200 ways we have invented to try to peer into the future: "It doesn't take chiromancy to see from your hands that you are not involved in heavy labor." How many times have you practiced chiromancy with your child like this: "Yes, honey, the lines in your hand tell me that you are going to the bathroom and wash them in the very near future."
Word History: This Good Word comes to us from Latin chiromantia, the Latin version of Greek cheiromanteia "hand divination", based on cheir "hand" + manteia "divination, prophecy". Little is known about the origin of cheir. The Latin variant also appears in chiropractic, manipulation of the body with the hands. Manteia, on the other hand, comes from mantis "prophet, sooth-sayer", a word related to mania "madness, frenzy". The original root apparently had to do with thinking since it came to Latin as men(t)s "mind", the noun which ended up a French and English suffix marking abstract nouns: -ment. Mantis? you ask. Yes, it was the Greeks themselves who saw the resemblance of the praying mantis to a praying prophet and first used this word for the insect.
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