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Mar 30, 2020
This week’s theme
Words coined after mountains and hills

This week’s words
Olympian
balkanize
Areopagus
Everest
Pelion

olympian
Mount Olympus

Previous week’s theme
Terms derived from horses
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The English language has many mountain-related idioms, because there have been mountains for at least as long as there has been language.

One may make a mountain out of a molehill (exaggerate a minor problem), face a mountain of paperwork (a huge amount), or have a mountain to climb (an extremely difficult or impossible task).

There’s also the idiom older than the hills (extremely old).*

In this week’s A.Word.A.Day we have identified five mountains or hills that have become words in the English language.

*It would appear that mountains or hills have been around forever, but most are relatively young. Take the Himalayas, for example, they are only about 50 million years. Compare that with the age of the Earth, about 4.5 billion years. Another way to understand this is that if the Earth were a human, the Himalayas would be a one-year-old baby. As the lawyer and orator Robert Green Ingersoll once said, “In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds.”
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa are the oldest on Earth: about 3.6 billion years.

Olympian

PRONUNCIATION:
(oh-LIM-pee-uhn, uh-)

MEANING:
adjective:1. Lofty; surpassing others.
 2. Like an Olympian god: majestic or aloof.
 3. Of or relating to the Olympic Games.
 4. Of or relating to Mount Olympus or gods and goddesses believed to be living there.
noun:1. A person of great achievement or position.
 2. A contestant in the Olympic Games.
 3. A native or inhabitant of Olympia, Greece.
 4. One of the ancient Greek gods.

ETYMOLOGY:
Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, was believed to be an abode of the gods in Greek mythology. Also, Olympia, a plain in ancient Greece, was the site of the ancient Olympic Games. Earliest documented use: 1487.

USAGE:
“Many of their decisions, such as giving every state two senators regardless of population, were the product not of Olympian sagacity but of grubby power-struggles and compromises.”
The Perils of Constitution-Worship; The Economist (London, UK); Sep 23, 2010.

“As a modern woman and mother, with her children backstage, Ms. McCartney understands the Olympian task of dressing for what life throws at you.”
Suzy Menkes; Stella McCartney’s Olympian Task; The New York Times; Mar 5, 2012.

See more usage examples of Olympian in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. -Vincent van Gogh, painter (30 Mar 1853-1890)

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