Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê-frah-sê-nee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Moderation, self-control, prudence, temperance. Antonym: hubris

Notes: This rare word expresses Hesiod's Golden Rule of ancient Greek life: ". . . moderation is best in all things." Sophron "of sound mind, moderate, temperate" is another rare word (though recognized by my spellcheck) that underlies today's word. It has a lexical family: the verb is sophronize "to imbue with self-control" and a sophronist is someone who seeks to regulate, moderate things.

In Play: John Gardner wrote in Wreckage of Agathon (1970): "Even when his ideas were crazy, the man had sophrosyne, as they used to call it in the old days." So, we should be able to come up with expressions more contemporary like: "Miles Overland's sophrosyne guided him through all the adventures of his life."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Greek, Ancient and Modern, derived from sophron "of sound mind, prudent, temperate", which is a combination of sos "safe, sound, whole" + phren "mind". Phren seems to have come from phrazomai "to become informed, to think, consider, imagine", the passive of phrazein "to tell, declare, inform", source also of Greek phrenitikos "frenzy, mental disease" derived from phrenitis "mind infection". English, with a little help from French, trimmed down the Latin borrowing phreneticus to frenetic. Frantic is also a kinword. Phrasis "speech, phraseology", the noun from phrasein, was borrowed by Latin for its phrasis "diction", which made its way via French to English as phrase. (Let's now applaud Ben Travato for suggesting today's Good Word, a rare gem of a word that should be less rare.)

Dr. Goodword,

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