gno·​mic | \ ˈnō-mik How to pronounce gnomic (audio) \

Definition of gnomic

1 : characterized by aphorism gnomic utterances
2 : given to the composition of gnomic writing a gnomic poet

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Did You Know?

A gnome is an aphorism-that is, an observation or sentiment reduced to the form of a saying. Gnomes are sometimes couched in metaphorical or figurative language, they are often quite clever, and they are always concise. We borrowed the word gnome in the 16th century from the Greeks, who based their gnome on the verb gignōskein, meaning "to know." (That other gnome-the dwarf of folklore-comes from New Latin and is unrelated to "aphorism" meaning.) We began using gnomic, the adjective form of gnome, in the early 19th century. It describes a style of writing (or sometimes speech) characterized by pithy phrases, which are often terse to the point of mysteriousness.

Examples of gnomic in a Sentence

He made gnomic utterances concerning death.
Recent Examples on the Web Some of the passages closely echo Oyler’s riffs on contemporary foibles, except written in gnomic fragments. Kate Knibbs, Wired, "Two Paths for the Extremely Online Novel," 1 Feb. 2021 Coleman had a gnomic way with words himself, however. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Radically Inclusive Music of Ornette Coleman," 5 June 2020 In images, the work appears as an eerie, gnomic scattering of 24 tall, white boxes, isolated on a hill. Nikil Saval, New York Times, "The Architect Making Conceptual Art Out of Buildings," 2 Mar. 2020 Samuel Greenberg, the doomed, gnomic poet-naif Crane describes, was already six years dead at the time of the letter’s writing, having succumbed to tuberculosis in 1917, at the age of twenty-three, in the Manhattan State Hospital on Wards Island. Dustin Illingworth, The New York Review of Books, "A Lost Original," 29 Apr. 2020 His gnomic statement reflects that period when Public Enemy waned. Armond White, National Review, "Public Enemy Meets the Enemy," 8 Apr. 2020 Stein’s gnomic text, full of repetitions and oddities, and Thomson’s jaunty marches, waltzes and folk-like tunes create a stew of noise and conflict, with Susan B.,... Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "Struggles for Justice Take Center Stage," 12 Feb. 2020 Behind Cunningham’s pioneering compositional methods and gnomic pronouncements lies a craftsman whose precision, rigor, and imagination could take your breath away. Marina Harss, The New Yorker, "Dancing with Merce Cunningham in Three Dimensions," 9 Dec. 2019 Hammons, whose eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch drawing could be said to have precipitated both projects, has played a quiet and somewhat gnomic role in the first one’s realization. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, "David Hammons Follows His Own Rules," 2 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gnomic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gnomic

1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gnomic

borrowed from Greek gnōmikós "dealing in maxims, didactic," from gnṓmē "maxim" + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at gnome entry 1

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Last Updated

15 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gnomic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for gnomic



English Language Learners Definition of gnomic

formal : said or written using few words that are difficult to understand

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