Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Intended to ward off evil: an apotropaic symbol.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Intended to ward off evil.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Possessing the property of an apotropaion; having the reputed power of averting evil influences.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. having the power to prevent evil or bad luck

Etymologies

From Greek apotropaios, from apotrepein, to ward off : apo-, apo- + trepein, to turn; see trep- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek ἀποτρόπαιος (apotropaios), from ἀποτρέπω. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Looking through the exhibition checklist for the show (see previous post) at the Corning Museum of Glass, I came across the term "apotropaic", referring to "objects such as amulets and talismans or other symbols intended to 'ward off evil' or 'avert or combat evil.'" [wiki] The term apotrope comes from the Greek meaning "to turn away", and seems to express itself a great deal in eye symbology.

    Archive 2007-09-01

  • Linda Seidel has shown, for instance, that Van Eyck's famous Arnolfini portrait is best understood as something like a marriage contract, and the "cave canem" inscription on the fierce dog mosaics at Pompeii (often cited by Gombrich as examples of "apotropaic" imagery) seems redundant in view of the image.

    Notes, Mitchell, "Ekphrasis and the Other"

  • But the term "apotropaic" is generally used of expulsive ceremonies in which a whole community takes part.

    Introduction to the History of Religions Handbooks on the History of Religions, Volume IV

  • The carving which induces the magical substitution has not only a sheltering (or passive, apotropaic) role to play.

    Experience, Figuration, the Avant-Garde, My Grouse : Ange Mlinko : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • What is odd about Achilles' shield in this context, however, is that it does not contain an apotropaic image, but an encyclopedic vision of the Homeric world, filled with narrative scenes rather like those we find on Keats's urn.

    Ekphrasis and the Other

  • Indeed, at least one of our canonical psalms was used for such “apotropaic purposes,” that is, to counteract evil.

    In the Valley of the Shadow

  • Lizzy L, #498: Well, apotropaic devices include amulets, crucifixes, etc--any small portable object charged with the Power of Folklore.

    Making Light: Open thread 136

  • Now, the Old Testament Law is apotropaic because it has one major goal in mind -- that goal is the right ordering of the universe, or more locally, of the Land of Israel.

    RCIA Presentation: The Old Testament

  • If the sacrificial system of ancient Israel is a real system of real apotropaic magic designed to stave off cosmic chaos with blood, could the New and better Covenant replace it with mere symbols?

    How I Became a Sci Fi Catholic, Part 3

  • Secondly, bells were long thought to possess apotropaic powers, or the power to ward off evil spirits.

    Archive 2009-07-01

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Comments

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  • "A forty-dollar tangerine of nutmeat
    ribboned by slender Greek
    fingers of lovers so charmed
    his coiffed stubble matched her armpit hairs
    was handed to me, apotropaically,"
    from "Epicurean" by Danielle Chapman, in the New Yorker, p 97 of the November 21, 2011 issue

    December 8, 2011

  • JM is in the market for some new apotropaic strategies.

    January 10, 2011

  • Great word use it all the time, keeps those damn witches away.

    May 19, 2008