Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Etymology Today from M-W: ambrosia \am-BROH-zhuh or am-BROH-zhee-uh\
*1 a : the food of the Greek and Roman gods b : the ointment or perfume of the gods 2 : something extremely pleasing to taste or smell 3 : a dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut

"Ambrosia" literally means "immortality" in Greek; it is derived from the Greek word "ambrotos," meaning "immortal," which combines the prefix "a-" (meaning "not") with "-mbrotos" (meaning "mortal"). In Greek and Roman mythology, only the immortals -- gods and goddesses -- could eat ambrosia. Those mythological gods and goddesses also drank "nectar," the original sense of which refers to the "drink of the gods." "Nectar" (in Greek, "nektar") may have implied immortality as well, as it probably translates literally as "overcoming death." (Even today, you'll often find the words "ambrosia" and "nectar" in each other's company.) While the "ambrosia" of the gods offered immortality, we mere mortals use "ambrosia" in reference to things that just taste or smell especially delicious.
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