ankou

noun
an·​kou | \ ˈäŋ-(ˌ)kü How to pronounce ankou (audio) \
variants: or Ankou

Definition of ankou

: death personified as a skeleton with a scythe or spear especially in the mythology of Brittany, France Ankou is the figure in Breton myth who collects spirits of the dead and brings them to hell.— Miriam Van Scott, Encyclopedia of Hell, 1998 often used with theLegend has it that whenever a cemetery was started, some poor, unfortunate slob was buried alive to create the ankou.The Orlando (Florida) Sentinel, 28 Oct. 1993… serpents, demons and omens of death including the ankou. — David Powell, The Daily Post (Liverpool, England), 11 Apr. 2005

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

First Known Use of ankou

1869, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ankou

borrowed from Breton, going back to Middle & Old Breton ancou, going back to Indo-European *ṇḱu- “death” (whence Cornish ancou “death,” Middle Welsh angheu, Welsh angau, Old Irish éc), zero-grade form of *neḱ- “be destroyed, disappear”

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ankou

Time Traveler for ankou

Time Traveler

The first known use of ankou was in 1869

See more words from the same year

Statistics for ankou

Cite this Entry

“Ankou.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ankou. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

Comments on ankou

What made you want to look up ankou? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Thing: Animal Edition

  • alt 5a023732e6f75
  • Name that animal:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!