Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Afflatus – Wacky Word Wednesday

Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, is going to blow you over with its divine message!

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s wacky word:

af·fla·tus

[uh-fley-tuhs]

-noun

- inspiration or mental force that comes from within; divine communication of knowledge

A cartoon depiction of afflatus, inspiration or mental force that comes from within; divine communication of knowledge.

Afflatus comes from the Latin afflatus, which means “a breathing upon” or afflare, which means to breathe or blow on. This word first came into use in the 1660s, when people who were privy to “miraculous communication of supernatural knowledge” were known to have afflatus. The original spelling of this was was adflatus, with ad- meaning “to” and flatus meaning “blowing or breathing.” Similarly, the word inspiration is derived from the Latin inspirare, which also means “to breathe” or “the inhalation of air into the lungs.”

Research suggests that afflatus was originally derived from Marcus Tullius Cicero in De Natura Deorum (The Nature of the Gods), in which he said:

    Nemo igitur vir magnus sine aliquot adfluatu divino umquam fuit.
    No man was ever great without a touch of divine afflatus.

Circero was a Roman scholar and philosopher, considered one of Rome’s greatest orators. He used afflatus to mean a great gust of inspiration and inner knowledge, brought on unexpectedly by a powerful force.

Afflatus is also often associated with the Aeolian harp, a musical instrument that is fashioned from a wooden sounding box with strings that stretch across the length of the box, fastened by two bridges on each side. The Aeolian harp is “played” as the wind blows against the strings, creating something called the von Karman vortex street effect. Because of this technique, it is commonly placed near a open window.

The name Aeolian, is named after Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of wind. The Aeolian harp was popular during the Romantic Era, a period of artistic, literary and intellectual movements during the last half of the 18th century, characterized by an emphasis on intuition, imagination and feeling. The Aeolian harp is usually used as a symbol for afflatus or inspiration in poetry.

If you’re interested in learning more wacky words, make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic updates from T for Translation!

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses

July 13, 2011

Interesting that a Latin word like this would bring different associations in English – the one recognizable syllable, “flat”, means precisely the opposite of inspired.


July 15, 2011

Yeah, but in this case, “flat” isn’t the Latin root.

It’s sad that you were getting all analytical while reading this, whereas the only thing I was thinking the whole time was that this wacky word has “flatus” in it… which means fart >_<

Yeah, I'm a child. Sue me.