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 inside their skin, in their skull, in their losing skiamachy between their selves.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Colline
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 07:16:54

    This is not a word I have come across before.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. smkelly8
    Aug 26, 2015 @ 10:01:32

    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.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter
%d bloggers like this: