Printable Version
Pronunciation: sti-ji-ên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Capitalized) Related to the river Styx of Greek mythology. 2. Gloomy, dark, black as the Styx. 3. (Agreements) Solid, extremely binding.

Notes: A stygian oath or agreement are both iron-clad, because the Greek gods always swore by the goddess of the river, also named Styx. Although this adjective is seldom used today, it does appear occasionally in published writings, and begs for wider use.

In Play: The waters of the Styx were black, lending the name of the river to that color: "The stygian night made torches essential." "Black" in both literal and figurative senses: "Izzy Badenov has a stygian heart that would allow him to stab his grandmother and take bets on which way she would fall."

Word History: English patterned its word after Latin Stygius "related to the Styx", from Greek Stygios, from Styx (genitive Stygos), the name of a mythological river that divides the underworld (Greek Hades) from the Earth in Greek mythology. The name comes from Greek stygos "hatred, loathing" or stygnos "gloomy, hateful", the adjective for the verb stygein "to hate, loathe, fear". Greek inherited the word from Proto-Indo-European (s)teu- "to strike, knock, beat" with a Fickle S. With the S and with a -g suffix it emerged as Greek stygios and Styx. In English this variant emerged as stoke and in German it came up as stauchen "to ram, to upset" and Stuka "bomber". ('Twould be a stygian oversight to forget an expression of gratitude for Rob Towart, a long-time contributor of ideas, who suggested today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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