Sorry, no definitions found. Check out and contribute to the discussion of this word!


Sorry, no etymologies found.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word cledonism.


    Sorry, no example sentences found.


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

  • circumlocution used to avoid speaking unlucky words

    April 24, 2008

  • Ah, I'm delighted there's a name for this.

    April 25, 2008

  • as when you say "break a leg" to an actor before a performance of "the Scottish play"?

    April 25, 2008

  • is there a word for when you avoid words that are too holy to be spoken, such as when translations of the Bible replace the name "Yahweh" with "the LORD"?

    April 25, 2008

  • In such cases in the Hebrew Bible where the reading diverges from the text, what is read is call qere (or "kere") and what is written is called ketiv (or "kethib"). Not all instances of qere/ketiv are to avoid pronouncing God's name; some are just grammatical.

    Saying "Adonai" instead of pronouncing the tetragrammaton becomes completely automatic when one learns Hebrew. There's nothing quite like it in English (saying "namely" for "viz." or "kernel" for "colonel" are perhaps analogous).

    April 25, 2008

  • Apparently, this is related to ornithomancy.

    April 25, 2008

  • Would you care to elaborate, r_t? How do the birdies come into this?

    April 25, 2008

  • I'll do my best, but I just discovered the connection myself. This word apparently comes from the Greek for "rumor" (or "report") and "avis," so a second meaning for cledonism appears to relate to the ancient Greek practice of augury of birds, mostly through flight and song. Have you heard of this, sionnach, or anyone else who's familiar with ancient Greece?

    April 25, 2008

  • Mollusque -- what about saying "that is" for "i.e." and "for example" for "e.g."? For me, that's completely automatic.

    April 25, 2008

  • r_t: This is what my little researches turned up -

    Cledonismancy or cledonismantia:

    Divination by first words uttered upon meeting friends, after salutations., Derived from ancient Greek kledonisma a sign or omen.

    1855 Edward Smedley in Smedley et al. Occult Sci. 327: cledonism, Or, in full, Cledonismantia, is good or evil presage of certain words uttered without premeditation when persons come together in any way;

    it also regulated the words to be used on particular occasions. Cicero says the Pythagoreans were very attentive to these presages; and according to Pausanius, it was a favourite method of divination at Smyrna, where the oracles of Apollo were thus interpreted.

    on edit: I assume you are referring to the Wikipedia part of the entries here


    My knowledge of Greek is zero, but even taking it at face value that κληδὸν has a secondary meaning 'bird', it seems fairly clear that it is the first meaning (rumor/report) which drives the etymology. In other words, the last sentence, equating it with ornithomancy seems to me not to have been justified by anything that has gone before.

    April 25, 2008

  • By the way, the link below is always my starting point when I am trying to figure out any Greek/Latin-based etymology (or construct fanciful faux-etymologies, or new-old 'words'):

    most amazing tabulation of various Greek and Latin root words, alphabetically indexed and with a plethora of examples and much other fun stuff - it's a veritable cornucopia of geeky etymological facts

    Well worth bookmarking.

    April 25, 2008

  • Thanks, s. I hadn't read that Wikipedia entry, but maybe it was picked up by the source I checked.

    April 25, 2008

  • I've quoted it on ornithomancy, but regarding the question of divination from birds' flight, etc. have a look at Aristophenes' Chorus of Birds.

    April 26, 2008

  • I remember reading years ago that Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who stuttered, was able to deliver entire speeches that avoided any words beginning with the letters he stuttered over. That might not have its own name, but I thought it was interesting....

    June 22, 2009