Definitions

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

  • n. A herald's wand or staff, especially in ancient times.
  • n. Greek Mythology A winged staff with two serpents twined around it, carried by Hermes.
  • n. An insignia modeled on Hermes's staff and used as the symbol of the medical profession.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The official wand carried by a herald in ancient Greece and Rome, specifically the one carried in mythology by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, usually represented with two snakes twined around it.
  • n. A symbol (☤) representing a staff with two snakes wrapped around it, used to indicate merchants and messengers, and also sometimes as a symbol of medicine.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The official staff or wand of Hermes or Mercury, the messenger of the gods. It was originally said to be a herald's staff of olive wood, but was afterwards fabled to have two serpents coiled about it, and two wings at the top.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In classical mythology, the rod or wand borne by Hermes, or Mercury, as an ensign of authority, quality, and office.

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

  • n. an insignia used by the medical profession; modeled after the staff of Hermes

Etymologies

Latin cādūceus, alteration of Greek dialectal kārūkeion, from kārūx, herald.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Via Latin cādūceus, cādūceum, adaptation of Doric Ancient Greek καρύκειον (karukeion, "herald’s wand or staff"). This and Attic Greek κηρύκειον (kērukeion) are derived from κῆρυξ (kērux, "herald, public messenger"). Related to κηρύσσω (kērussō, "I announce"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Except when incorporated as part of the cap device, the corps device shall be so place on the uniform that the staff of the caduceus is vertical and the anchor is pointing inward.

    EXECUTIVE ORDER 9993

  • Except when incorporated as part of the cap device, the corps device shall be so placed on the uniform that the staff of the caduceus is vertical and the anchor is pointing inward.

    EXECUTIVE ORDER 9655

  • The caduceus was a symbol of healing, and the card spoke to her of alliances, of a balanced partnership.

    Rogue Oracle

  • It was an array of clocks containing mercury ions, and the caduceus is a symbol of the god Mercury!

    The Omega Theory

  • In astronomy, the caduceus is a symbol for the planet Mercury.

    The Omega Theory

  • And in Whittaker Chambers 'face he raises his caduceus, which is the great imperial staff, and he says, "Tell me what one wish you desire."

    Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist

  • The bars represent lines of print on a page, and the caduceus was the winged wand entwined with serpents carried by Mercury, the messenger of the gods.

    The World of 1975

  • In historical times the caduceus was the attribute of Hermes as the god of commerce and peace, and among the Greeks it was the distinctive mark of heralds and ambassadors, whose persons it rendered inviolable.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 4, Part 4 "Bulgaria" to "Calgary"

  • A caduceus is the twisting-snakes symbol that you usually see at hospitals and doctors’ offices.

    The Omega Theory

  • The staff with two snakes, chosen by the American Medical Association as an emblem, is actually the wand of Hermes, called a caduceus, which he used to conduct the dead to Hades. "

    Julia Gorin: Americans Want Universal Access to Graveyards

Comments

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  • Per saltire or and erminois, on a saltire azure between a caduceus in chief and a pine-apple in base proper, two swords in saltire argent, pomels and hilts gold -- BARROW, Bath. Has anyone seen my pine-apple?

    October 3, 2011

  • "The caduceus, the traditional symbol of Hermes featuring two snakes around an often winged staff, is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine, especially in North America, due to widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings. The two snake caduceus design has ancient and consistent associations with commerce, eloquence, trickery and negotiation."

    - From this Wikipedia article.

    July 27, 2010

  • Ah, what the hell. Added. :-)

    February 15, 2008

  • It probably wouldn't qualify, but this seems like a perfect candidate for reesetee's "It Has a Name??" list. I remember learning this word as a child, and thinking just that very thought.

    February 15, 2008