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

  • n. A metrical foot having two short or unaccented syllables.
  • adj. Of or characterized by pyrrhics.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of or characterized by pyrrhics.
  • adj. Relating to Pyrrhus, a Macedonian king, or some of his costly victories he had while fighting Rome.
  • n. An Ancient Greek war dance.
  • n. A metric foot with two short or unaccented syllables.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to an ancient Greek martial dance.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to a pyrrhic, or to pyrrhics; containing pyrrhic.
  • n. An ancient Greek martial dance, to the accompaniment of the flute, its time being very quick.
  • n. A foot consisting of two short syllables.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An ancient Grecian warlike dance, in quick and light measure, accompanied by the flute.
  • Of or pertaining to the Greek martial dance called a pyrrhic.
  • In prosody, consisting of two short times or syllables: as, a pyrrhic foot; composed of or pertaining to feet so constituted: as, pyrrhic verse; pyrrhic rhythm.
  • n. In ancient prosody, a foot consisting of two short times or syllables. ;
  • Pertaining to Pyrrhus, especially to Pyrrhus, King of Epirus (see phrase below).

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

  • adj. of or relating to or containing a metrical foot of two unstressed syllables
  • n. a metrical unit with unstressed-unstressed syllables
  • adj. of or relating to a war dance of ancient Greece
  • adj. of or relating to or resembling Pyrrhus or his exploits (especially his sustaining staggering losses in order to defeat the Romans)
  • n. an ancient Greek dance imitating the motions of warfare


Latin pyrrhicius, from Greek purrikhios, from purrikhē, a war dance, perhaps from Purrikhos, supposed inventor of the dance.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin pyrrhichius, from Ancient Greek πυρρίχιος (pyrrichos), from πυρρίχη (pyrriche, "war dance") (Wiktionary)


Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Thanks rolig! There's also a Wiktionary definition at Pyrrhic.

    June 6, 2012

  • The sense you mention, alasdair17, pertains to the noun phrase Pyrrhic victory, not to the word pyrrhic per se, which is why I do not give it here. I do, however, provide it under "Pyrrhic victory" (note the capital "P", which I prefer since in this sense the word derives from the proper noun Pyrrhus). By the way, there really was no need to use four question marks in a row. I hope you have calmed down a little.

    June 5, 2012

  • pyrrhic - you quote a number of examples of the use of pyrrhic in the sense most commonly seen - pyrrhic victory i.e. a victory at such cost it was probably not worth winning and yet you do not give that sense as one of the definitions of the word????

    June 5, 2012

  • Where the 'means' defeats the 'ends' rather than the 'ends' justifying the 'means'...

    January 3, 2007