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pythoness (PIE-thuh-nis) noun

1. A woman with the power of divination.

2. The priestess of Apollo at Delphi in Greek mythology.

[Ultimately from Greek puthon (python).]

"The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god ..." Honore de Balzac; The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee; 1830s. (translated from the French by Robert Onopa)

"For this was a time when women were privileged, when female narratologists had skills greatly revered, when there were pythonesses, abbesses and sibyls in the world of narratology, who revealed mysteries and kept watch at the boundaries of correctness." A S Byatt; The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye; The Paris Review (Flushing, New York); Winter 1994.

This week's theme: words that aren't what they appear to be.


Tears are not arguments. -Machado de Assis, writer (1839-1908)

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