• ephebic •
i-fee-bik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to a young man In ancient Greece,18-20 years of age, undergoing military training for full Athenian citizenship. 2. Related to some adolescent boy or teenager.
Notes: This adjective derives from ephebus "youth in ancient Greece undergoing training for full Athenian citizenship" and ephebe "any adolescent youth". An ephebophile is someone who is partial toward teenagers, and an ephebophobe is someone who fears them. Ephebology, of course, is the study of puberty.
In Play: This word is used in its original sense, referring to ancient Greek youth: "In order to achieve citizenship in Athens, a boy reaching the age of 18 had to take the ephebic oath and serve in the army." Today, however, it is occasionally used in an extended sense: "Todd exhibited his ephebic naiveté when he had his current girlfriend's name tattooed on his chest."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from the Latinized form, ephebicus, borrowed from Greek ephebikos "of an ephebus" from Latin ephebus, borrowed from Greek ephebos "pubescent boy". This word is based on epi "upon" + hebe "early manhood, puberty". The Greek root was inherited from PIE yeu- "power, youth, strength", which obviously picked up a suffix -b along the way. Germanic languages preferred the suffix -g in their versions jung "young" in German and Dutch, and young. In Latin the same root went into the making of juvenis "young", where the J was pronounced [y]. English, in borrowing this word as juvenile, changed the pronunciation to the regular English pronunciation of J. In ancient Athens, a youth of 18 underwent his dokimasia, had his hair cut off, and was enrolled as a citizen after taking the ephebic oath. His chief occupation for the next two years was garrison duty. (Thank you, Sue Gold, of Westtown School, for thinking of this series when you came across today's Good Word in your reading.)
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