an·​kou ˈäŋ-(ˌ)kü How to pronounce ankou (audio)
variants or 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 the
Legend 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

Word History


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"

First Known Use

1869, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ankou was in 1869

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Dictionary Entries Near ankou

Cite this Entry

“Ankou.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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