Word of the Day : March 29, 2011

wraith

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noun RAYTH

Definition

1 a : the exact likeness of a living person seen usually just before death as an apparition

b : ghost, specter

2 : an insubstantial form or semblance : shadow

3 : a barely visible gaseous or vaporous column

Did You Know?

If you see your own double, you're in trouble, at least if you believe old superstitions. The belief that a ghostly twin's appearance portends death is one common to many cultures. In German folklore, such an apparition was called a "Doppelgänger" (literally, "double goers"); in Scottish lore, they were "wraiths." The exact origin of the word "wraith" is misty, however. Etymologists can only trace it back to its first use in an English text in a 1513 translation of Virgil’s "Aeneid" by Gavin Douglas (the Scotsman used “wraith” to name apparitions of both the dead and the living). In current English, "wraith" has taken on additional, less spooky, meanings as well; it now often suggests a shadowy -- but not necessarily scary -- lack of substance.


Examples

We paused on our morning hike to watch the wraiths of mist rising from the swamps beyond the low hills in front of us.

"Esben and the Witch take their name from a spooky Danish fairy tale. We expect dark gothic vibes and a singer who sounds like an eerie female wraith. We get both in Violet Cries. But this ambitious debut album also delivers much more." -- From a review by Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the Financial Times, January 29, 2011



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What 11-letter word beginning with "p" refers to a noisy and usually mischievous ghost? The answer is ...


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