Thursday, 21 February 2013

Auspicious

AUSPICIOUS

Adjective. Late 16th century.
[French, or Latin auspicium taking omens from birds, from avis bird + var. stem of specere look + -OUS]

1 Propitious; favourable, favouring; conducive to success. L16

2 Giving or being an omen;
specifically of good omen, betokening success. E17

B Of a person: predicting or prognosticating good. E18

3 Prosperous, fortunate. E17

Auspicious was requested by one of Lexicolatry's readers who remembers discovering it while reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and thus became one of her favourite words. This struck a chord with me because I specifically remember highlighting auspicious the very first time I read the Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, as its etymology is fascinating. Apparently, the taking omens from birds was a big thing in times past, particularly with the Romans. This doesn't strike a chord with me, as I always find flocks of birds directly above my head to be a markedly inauspicious occurrence.

I'm sure there any many examples in art and literature of birds betokening success. The one that immediately springs to mind is that of the dove auspiciously returning to Noah's Ark with the olive leaf in its beak. If anyone can think of any others, please leave examples in the comments section. Thank you to Chloe Antonia for suggesting the word.

3 comments:

  1. Good morning Eddie!
    I don't know much on the issue but, after a brief google search, I found this:

    http://notableinklings.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/good-omens-of-birds/

    I hope you'll find it helpful.

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  2. Thank you Evi! It would seem from that link that ducks are particularly auspicious, although personally I think it's all quackery ... *groans*

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  3. A bird sings to Siegfried in the Ring Cycle.

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