ha·​rus·​pex | \ hə-ˈrə-ˌspeks, ˈher-ə-, ˈha-rə- \
plural haruspices\ hə-​ˈrə-​spə-​ˌsēz \

Definition of haruspex

: a diviner in ancient Rome basing his predictions on inspection of the entrails of sacrificial animals

Did You Know?

Haruspex was formed in Latin by the combination of "haru-" (which is akin to "chordē," the Greek word for "gut") and "-spex" (from the verb specere, meaning "to look"). Appropriately, "haruspex" can be roughly defined as "one who looks at guts." The ancient Romans had a number of ways of determining whether the gods approved of a particular course of action. Such divination was called "augury," and a haruspex was a type of "augur," an official diviner of ancient Rome. (Other augurs divined the will of the gods through slightly less gruesome means, such as observing the behavior of birds or tracking celestial phenomena.) "Haruspex," like "augur," has developed a general sense of "one who prophesies," but this use is somewhat rare.

First Known Use of haruspex

1584, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for haruspex

borrowed from Latin haruspex, harispex, from a stem haru-, hari-, presumed to mean "intestines" (probably going back to Indo-European *ǵhr̥H-u-, u-stem derivative of *ǵhr̥H- "gut, cord made from animal intestines") + -spex, noun derivative of a verbal base -spec- "see, observe" — more at yarn entry 1, spy entry 1

Note: The noun stem haru- is unattested aside from this word and a derivative, hariolus "soothsayer, diviner." The relatively rare Latin nouns [hīra] "intestine" and hernia, hirnia "rupture of an organ through connective tissue, inguinal hernia" (see hernia) are of uncertain relation; hīra would be difficult to produce from *ǵhr̥H- in a way compatible with sound laws, and hernia, though conceivably from *ǵherH-n-, is not very close semantically.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about haruspex

Listen to Our Podcast about haruspex

Statistics for haruspex

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for haruspex

The first known use of haruspex was in 1584

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on haruspex

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with haruspex

Comments on haruspex

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


to gather or build up little by little

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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