Saturday, January 10, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: mantic \MAN-tik\
: of or relating to the faculty of divination : prophetic

The adjective "mantic" comes from the Greek word "mantikos," which itself derives from "mantis," meaning "prophet." (The mantis insect got its name from this same source, supposedly because its posture - with the forelimbs extended as though in prayer - reminded folks of a prophet.) Not surprisingly, the combining form "-mancy," which means "divination in a (specified) manner" (as in "necromancy" and "pyromancy"), is a relative of "mantic." A less expected, and more distant, relative is "mania," meaning "insanity marked by uncontrollable emotion or excitement" or "excessive enthusiasm." "Mania" descends from the Greek "mainesthai" ("to be mad"), a word akin to "mantis" and its offspring. And indeed, prophesying in ancient Greece was sometimes believed to be "inspired madness."

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