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Why Did People Look Up This Rare and Unusual Word?

A link in an online puzzle caused lookups for 'corybantic' to spike


The text accompanying a puzzle that was posted on the web site fivethirtyeight.com led a large number of people to turn to the dictionary in search of a word that is not often encountered in modern prose: corybantic.

The solution is exhaustive, to say the least, and corybantic, to say the most, and you certainly needn’t have worked out all its pieces to answer the problem correctly.
—Oliver Roeder, fivethirtyeight.com, 15 July 2016

corybantic

'Jupiter Among the Corybantes' by Giuseppe Maria Crespi. 'Corybantic' means "wild and frenzied."

Corybantic (“being in the spirit or manner of a Corybant; especially; wild frenzied”) has been in use since the middle of the 17th century. The Corybants were attendants or priests of Cybele, a nature goddess of ancient Asia Minor, and were known for wildly emotional processions and rites.

Neither corybant and corybantic are in common use, but they are still far more common than the verb form of the word, corybantise, which appears to occur but a single time, in a 1605 work by Pierre le Loyer. Thankfully, this author provided a definition for the word in his text, and, what it lacks in semantic exactness, it more than makes up for in its phrasing.

To Corybantise, to make the leape parillous, to shake the hair or lockes, and (as the common speech is) to nodde or cast the head to the dogges.
—Pierre le Loyer, A Treatise of Specters or Straunge Sights, Visions and Apparitions Appearing Sensibly vnto Men, 1605



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