Monday, March 05, 2007

Musings about Muse

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Muse (muūz) n. Greek Mythology. Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science. muse A guiding spirit. A source of inspiration. muse A poet. [Middle English, from Old French, from Latin Mūsa, from Greek Mousa.]

WORD HISTORY The Muse has inspired English poetry since Chaucer invoked her in 1374. Muse comes from Latin Mūsa, from Greek Mousa. There are Greek dialect forms mōsa and moisa, and all three come from an original *montya. As to the further origins of this form, a clue is provided by the name of Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and mother of the Muses. Her name is the Greek noun mnēmosunē “memory,” which comes from *mnā–, an extended form of the Greek and Indo-European root *men–, “to think.” This is the root from which we derive amnesia (from Greek), mental (from Latin), and mind (from Germanic). The reconstructed form *montya that is the ancestor of Greek Mousa could then mean something like “having mental power.”

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