Did You Know?
Chthonic might seem a lofty and learned word, but it's actually pretty down-to-earth in its origin and meaning. It comes from chthōn, which means "earth" in Greek, and it is associated with things that dwell in or under the earth. It is most commonly used in discussions of mythology, particularly underworld mythology. Hades and Persephone, who reign over the underworld in Greek mythology, might be called "chthonic deities," for example. Chthonic has broader applications, too. It can be used to describe something that resembles a mythological underworld (e.g., "chthonic darkness"), and it is sometimes used to describe earthly or natural things (as opposed to those that are elevated or celestial).
"In Greek mythology, the Eumenides were three goddesses tasked with protecting the cause of justice.… In Aeschylus' tragedies, they are chthonic, ambiguous forces. They do not tire and they do not stop; their persistence … feels almost monstrous." — Katy Waldman, Slate, July/August 2017
"Yet Dean's music inducts us more gently, with a deep, almost chthonic orchestral rumble, punctuated by occasional drum and electronic sounds as we first see young Hamlet, head in his hands, almost paralysed at the edge of his father's grave." — John Carmody, The Australian, 14 June 2017
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