cy·​clo·​pe·​an ˌsī-klə-ˈpē-ən How to pronounce cyclopean (audio) sī-ˈklō-pē- How to pronounce cyclopean (audio)
often capitalized : of, relating to, or characteristic of a Cyclops
: of or relating to a style of stone construction marked typically by the use of large irregular blocks without mortar

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The Cyclopes of Greek mythology were huge, crude giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Odysseus and his men had a terrible encounter with a Cyclops, and escaped utter disaster only by stabbing a burning stick into the monster's eye. The great stone walls at such ancient sites as Troy and Mycenae are called cyclopean because the stones are so massive and the construction (which uses no cement) is so expert that it was assumed that only a superhuman race such as the Cyclopes could have achieved such a feat.

Examples of cyclopean in a Sentence

a cyclopean granite statue that the dictator himself had commissioned
Recent Examples on the Web The five-story Osaka Castle, a recreation of the original keep (which was destroyed on several occasions), is built on solid cyclopean foundations, with mint green roof tiles and golden accoutrements that bear striking similarities with Nagoya Castle. CNN, 19 Jan. 2022 The wall was built with a range of construction techniques, including cyclopean masonry. Isis Davis-Marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Aug. 2021 If a mutation causes sonic hedgehog activity to become too muted, the result can be a birth defect called holoprosencephaly, marked in the most extreme cases by a head with a single, cyclopean eye. George Johnson, Discover Magazine, 16 Sep. 2013 Rachmaninoff’s humbling presence, re-encountered, is gigantic, cyclopean. Joseph Horowitz, WSJ, 17 Sep. 2018 Vividly monumental aggregates of cyclopean arches, inverted pyramids, louvered domes, layered patterns and saturated colors—this is not the rigidly principled modernism of Le Corbusier or the inviolate geometry of Louis Kahn. Julie V. Iovine, WSJ, 22 Feb. 2017 Of course, the short, goggled and sometimes cyclopean minions are on hand, engaging in a prison food fight and dancing in a cancan-like production number. Innocuous pandemonium ensues in candy colors. Andy Webster, New York Times, 29 June 2017 Iran, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea, Iraq—in a Cyclopean cellar wrapped in near-total darkness. Ali Arkady, Smithsonian, 2 May 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cyclopean.' 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

1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cyclopean was in 1582

Dictionary Entries Near cyclopean

Cite this Entry

“Cyclopean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

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