Sunday, 11 May 2014

Chthonic - Styx Underground

A painting of a fiery underworld
Aeneas and the Sibyl in the Underworld
Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-78)


Adjective. Late 19th century.
[from Greek khthon earth.]

Dwelling in or beneath the earth or in the underworld;
of or pertaining to the underworld.

When I was little, my Dad used to take me caving, and I was struck by both the intensity of the darkness in that subterranean world, and how hot it was. My Dad explained the reason for the heat, and how it was also the likely origin of the Hell myth, and why Hell was placed underground in superstition rather than in the sky like Heaven.

As an adjective for that which is of the underworld, a place not just of fire and brimstone, demons and the Devil, but also occupied by various Greek deities according to their chthonian mythology, I do like chthonic - its awkward initial consonants make it fittingly uncomfortable and give it an alien, Lovecraftian air. For speakers of British English, it is pronounced ker-thonic, whereas American dictionaries tend to drop the initial ch- in pronunciation, rendering it simply thonic.

Do please leave any comments down below.


  1. Caves scare me. So dark, eerie, and downright creepy!
    I've only been in a couple, but that was enough for me.

    Nice adjective Eddie - Lovecraftian. First time I've heard it!

    1. Thanks Jingles. I didn't use 'Lovecraftian' lightly - he's one of the few authors whose stories have genuinely given me the heebie jeebies!

  2. I can't remember how to select my profile. Anyway, I'm Mike Bandy (@MichaelMBandy on Twitter).

    I've known the word "chthonic" for decades, but I always thought it was pronounced /kˈθɒnɪk/. I unsuccessfully tried to prove it by checking a few dictionaries. Finally, I found where Wikipedia gave something similar as a substandard pronunciation. lol

    1. Hi Mike. Logging in for comments is rubbish, isn't it? : o )

      The dictionaries I consulted said there are two pronunciations - one with the initial CH- and one without. I prefer the one with!