Friday, August 21, 2020

Word of the Day: Stygian


extremely dark, gloomy, or forbidding

a woman waits at the end of a gloomy pier does she wait for charon the ferryman to the underworld it is dark but she carries a parasol

The "dark and gloomy" sense of stygian is a figurative one, as the original meaning of the word (which may also be found in capitalized form) was decidedly literal ("of or relating to the river Styx"). This was the river presided over by the boatman Charon, who would ferry across the souls of the dead on their way to the underworld of Hades. The literal sense began to be used in the early 16th century, and by the beginning of the 17th had taken on its figurative sense.
Now mischief, murder, wrath of hell drawth nere 
and dyre Phlegethon flood doth blood require 
Achilles death shalbe reuenged here 
With slaughter such as Stygian lakes desyre 
Her daughters blood shall slake the sprites yre, 
Whose sonne we slew. wherof doth yet remayne, 
The wrath beneath, and hell shalbe theyr payne.
—Lucius Annaeus Seneca (trans. by Jasper Heywood), The Sixth Tragedy, 1559