Word of the Day : January 22, 2021
sarcophagus \sahr-KAH-fuh-gus\ noun
: a stone coffin; broadly : coffin
Did You Know?
Body-eating coffins might sound like something out of a horror film, but flesh-eating stone? The latter plays a role in the etymology of sarcophagus; it is the literal translation of líthos sarkóphagos, the Greek phrase that underlies the English term. The phrase traveled through Latin between Greek and English, taking on the form lapis sarcophagus before being shortened to sarcophagus. It's not clear whether the ancient Romans believed that a certain type of limestone from the region around Troy would dissolve flesh (and thus was desirable for making coffins). That assertion came from Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, but he also reported such phenomena as dog-headed people and elephants who wrote Greek. Regardless, there is no doubt that the ancient Greek word for the limestone combined sárx, meaning "flesh," with a derivative of phagein, a verb meaning "to eat."
Aired January 22, 2021
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