Word of the Day : July 1, 2019


noun uh-FLAY-tus

What It Means

: a divine imparting of knowledge or power : inspiration


"Allmusic lists quite a few tunes called 'Crystal City,' like this smooth-jazz number by André Ward and this prog-rock song by Steve Hillage, but it wasn't immediately clear whether the Arlington neighborhood served as afflatus for any of them." — Andrew Beaujon, Washingtonian, 13 Nov. 2018

"If one were to throw away the 300 cantatas, the 100-odd chorale preludes, the three oratorios, the passions, and the Mass (which would be the equivalent of destroying half of Shakespeare), still the other half would sustain Bach as a creature whose afflatus is inexplicable in the absence of a belief in God." — William F. Buckley Jr., The Universal Press Syndicate, 23 Mar. 1985

Did You Know?

Inspiration might be described as a breath of fresh air, and so it is appropriate that inspire derives in part from a word meaning "to breathe"—Latin spirare. Afflatus is a lesser-known word for inspiration that followed a parallel route. Afflatus, which in Latin means "the act of blowing or breathing on," was formed from the prefix ad- ("to, toward") and the Latin verb flare ("to blow"). That Latin verb gave us such words as inflate and (via French) soufflé. The Roman orator Cicero used afflatus in his writings to compare the appearance of a new idea to a breath of fresh air. Nowadays, one often finds the word preceded by the adjective divine, but poets and artists can find afflatus in the material world as well.

Word Family Quiz

What is the meaning of sufflate (a word related to the Latin verb flare)?



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