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 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

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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”

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Cite this Entry

“Ankou.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

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