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adjective (1)

Ap·​ol·​lo·​ni·​an ˌa-pə-ˈlō-nē-ən How to pronounce Apollonian (audio)
: of, relating to, or resembling the god Apollo
: harmonious, measured, ordered, or balanced in character compare dionysian


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adjective (2)

: of, relating to, or characteristic of the Greek poet Apollonius or his writings

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To the ancient Greeks, Apollo represented the perfection of youthful manhood. He was the god of music, poetry, archery, prophecy, and healing, among other things. English speakers began using the adjective Apollonian for someone who resembled Apollo in physical beauty or talent as long ago as 1663. Due partly to the work of Nietzsche and other German scholars, we now associate Apollo with the forces of calm rationality (as opposed to the Dionysian forces, which are instinctive, frenzied, and uninhibited). Despite these associations, Apollo himself was not always a force of reason-he had a terrible temper and a lust for young girls as well.

Examples of Apollonian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
But no uncertainty hindered Stella’s progress, a career arc that suggested, and still does, an irresistibly Apollonian art history, dismissive of alternate trends. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 4 May 2024 But where Winogrand and Friedlander used their cameras to capture the city’s high-speed, off-kilter energy, Estes had Apollonian impulses. Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2023 Haag and Kertzer began the program on Haag’s 23rd birthday with a weeklong primer on Apollonian circle packings — the ancient study of how circles can harmoniously squeeze into one larger circle. Quanta Magazine, 10 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Apollonian.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Adjective (1)

1663, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective (2)

1664, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Apollonian was in 1663


Dictionary Entries Near Apollonian

Cite this Entry

“Apollonian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Apollonian. Accessed 26 May. 2024.

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