Pe·​nel·​o·​pe | \ pə-ˈne-lə-pē How to pronounce Penelope (audio) \

Definition of Penelope

: the wife of Odysseus who waits faithfully for him during his 20 years' absence

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In the Odyssey, Penelope waits 20 long years for her husband Odysseus to return from Troy. During that time, she must raise their son and fend off the attentions of numerous rough suitors. She preserves herself for a long time by saying she cannot remarry until she has finished weaving a funeral shroud for her aging father-in-law; however, what she weaves each day she secretly unravels each night. A Penelope thus appears to be the perfect, patient, faithful wife (and may be using her clever intelligence to keep herself that way).

First Known Use of Penelope

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Penelope

Latin, from Greek Pēnelopē

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The first known use of Penelope was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Penelope.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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