Word of the Week

I first saw skiamachy years ago when I was just randomly browsing the dictionary. I was struck how this work exemplifies how English has all these incredibly specific words. I know other languages do too. Just take German’s Schadenfreude and others.

skiamachy, n.
‘ A sham fight or argument; conflict or argument with an imaginary or insubstantial opponent; shadow-boxing.’
Pronunciation: Brit. /skʌɪˈaməki/, U.S. /skaɪˈæməki/
Forms: 16 sciamachie, 16 19– sciamachy Brit. /sʌɪˈaməki/, U.S. /saɪˈæməki/, 16–18 sciomachy, 17–18 skiomachy, 18– skiamachy.
Etymology: < (i) post-classical Latin sciamachia (1502 or earlier; also sciomachia (1514 or earlier); earlier as a Greek word in the classical Latin author Cicero),

and its etymon (ii) Hellenistic Greek σκιαμαχία (also σκιομαχία) action of fighting against a shadow, mock fight < ancient Greek σκιά shadow (see scio- comb. form) + -μαχία -machy comb. form.
A sham fight or argument; conflict or argument with an imaginary or insubstantial opponent; shadow-boxing.
1623 H. Cockeram Eng. Dict., Sciamachie, counterfeit fighting.

1637 G. Ironside Seven Questions Sabbath To Rdr. sig. Biijv, Least thou shouldst perhaps think I affected a Sciomachy or Umbratilous skirmish.

1657 W. Morice Coena quasi Κοινὴ xv. 187 Their arguing against it is but a Sciamachy.

1747 H. Fielding Answer Scurrilous Libel 18 But enough of this Skiomachy.

1833 Philol. Museum 2 170 A great part of Cotta’s argumentation becomes a mere sciomachy.

1862 Christian Remembrancer Apr. 446 As we have no taste for skiomachy, we leave the fuller exposure of this portentous mare’s nest to other hands.

1917 R. Rooper in V. Gollancz Making of Women iii. 91 Weary of such profitless skiamachy, suffragists have..fallen upon the physical force argument.

1952 Crisis Aug. 424/1 Most observers of the South Carolina and Virginia cases regarded them as sciamachies preparatory to the inevitable argument before the Supreme Court.

2005 J. Henderson in K. Freudenburg Cambr. Compan. Rom. Satire 313 People..live inside their skin, in their skull, in their losing skiamachy between their selves.


2 thoughts on “Word of the Week

  1. You’d only find it, I think, if you happened to just be playing around with the dictionary. I was looking for another word that began with S and had time on my hands.

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