Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê--fik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Related to the seraphim, the highest rank of angels, devoted to God. 2. Imposingly serene, sublime, calm. 3. Sweet-natured and pure as an angel, angelic.

Notes: Here is an adjective based on a noun strictly from the Bible. The noun, seraph, is not found in the Bible but seems to have been backformed from seraphim, its presumable plural form. (However, see Word History.) We may extend this word by -al if we please, but we must extend it before the adverbial suffix -ly: seraphically.

In Play: Seraphs seem to be adults while cherubim are often represented today as babies for no apparent reason: "After church, Raymond took a nap and, in his sleep, he saw a seraphic presence in the room." Otherwise, this word may be used to figuratively refer to any of the presumed trains of a seraph: "Claude put Agnes's new seraphic image down to medical intervention."

Word History: Today's Good Word was apparently based on seraph, a word that was backformed from seraphim "seraphs", a term that appears seven times in the Bible. But seraphim itself is the Hebrew plural of saraph "burning", used in the Bible sometimes and for some reason to denote a serpent. If we put these two concepts together "burning serpent" and "heavens", we could get to "lightning", so saraph quite possibly could have originally referred to a god of lightning. But that leads us into a field of wild speculation, a lonely place, indeed. (Let's now thank, yet again, Professor Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon, a subscriber to the Good Word series since 2009, for today's angelic Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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