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Cerberus (SUR-buh-ruhs) noun

A powerful, hostile guard.

[From Latin, from Greek Kerberos.]

Cerberus (also Kerberos) was the three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Hades, the infernal region in classical mythology. Ancient Greeks and Romans used to put a slice of cake in the hands of their dead to help pacify Cerberus on the way. This custom gave rise to the idiom "to give a sop to cerberus" meaning to give a gift to quiet a troublesome person.

Cancerbero (from Spanish can: dog) is one of the Spanish terms for a goalkeeper in fútbol (football). Kerberos is the name given to an authentication protocol for computer networks.

See more usage examples of cerberus in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

Pictures of Cerberus.

"Making their task even more difficult has been a sentinel at the entrance to this political inferno named Paul Christensen, a Cerberus if ever there was one." Jon Ralston; County's Refusal to Bid Insurance Contract Sparks Nasty Flap; Las Vegas Review-Journal; Apr 25, 1991.

This week's theme: words derived from the names of mythical creatures.


A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil. -Victor Hugo, author (1802-1885)

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