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

  • n. An ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries.
  • n. An interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge.
  • n. One who explains or makes a commentary.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries.
  • n. An interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge.
  • n. One who explains or makes a commentary.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The presiding priest who initiated candidates at the Eleusinian mysteries
  • n. an advocate or spokesperson.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In ancient Greece, a teacher of the rites of sacrifice and worship; hence, a demonstrator of sacred mysteries or religious knowledge; a priest.


Late Latin hierophanta, from Greek hierophantēs : hieros, holy; see eis- in Indo-European roots + -phantēs, one who shows (from phainein, phan-, to show; see bhā-1 in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek ἱεροφάντης (hierophantēs), from ἱερός (hieros, "holy") + φαίνω (phainō, "I show, make known") (Wiktionary)


  • This would be a good exercise for your inner hierophant.

    Archive 2007-07-01

  • But I always thought hierophant was feminine gender.

    Sudden Rain

  • I was about to offer a lie to the arthygater, since the truth displeased her, when the hierophant halted the torments.


  • We know the answer of the Spartan whom a hierophant would have persuaded to confess himself: “To whom should I acknowledge my faults? to God, or to thee?”

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • Grecian hierophant, Calchas, the moment of your just punishment has returned again; the hour of vengeance has arrived — the bell has sounded! the druid and calchas.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • It is indisputable, that persons had not their sins washed away in these mysteries, but by virtue of their oath to become virtuous: the hierophant in all the Grecian mysteries, when dismissing the assembly, pronounced the two Egyptian words, “Koth, ompheth,” “watch, be pure”; which at once proves that the mysteries came originally from Egypt, and that they were invented solely for the purpose of making mankind better.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • Eleusinian mysteries, he confessed himself to the hierophant, though no man had less need of confession than himself.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • This secret was undoubtedly not worth knowing, as the assembly was not a society of philosophers, but of ignorant persons, directed by a hierophant.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • The 95 year-old hierophant Nestorius, ends the Eleusinian Mysteries and announces the predominance of mental darkness over the human race.

    The Church-State Alliance and the future of humanity

  • Among others, they burn down the Eleusinian Sanctuary and burn alive all of its priests (including the hierophant of Mithras Hilarius).

    The Church-State Alliance and the future of humanity


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  • Gloria had put "Church of Scotland" on Graham's admission form just to annoy him if he lived. Now she rather regretted not putting "Jain Buddhist" or "druid," as it might have led to an interesting and informative discussion with whatever hierophant represented their religion in the Royal Infirmary.
    Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 104.

    June 5, 2016

  • hadn't a cloo as to what this was. part of the title in an old steve hackett song...

    November 18, 2008

  • More precisely: phan- is "show, reveal" in Greek. To it was attached an agent ending -tês (as in the ancestors of 'athlete', 'Cypriot'), so phantês "revealer". Add to this hier- "sacred" and the connecting vowel -o- between consonants, and we get hierophantês "revealer of the sacred", first declension masculine.

    In Latin the corresponding ending is -a (as in nauta, agricola), so it got borrowed into Latin as hierophanta. Here normal phonetic processes accumulate to lose the final -a and change the other sounds to their modern English values.

    The Greek verb meaning "show" is listed in dictionaries under a citation form—either present indicative phainô "I show" or infinitive phainein "show". This latter consists of the root phan-, a verb class formative (I think) -j-, and the infinitive ending -ein. In early Greek phanj- changed to phain-. So the phant- doesn't come from this; what they share is rather the basic root phan-. It may seem pedantic to write all this out, but I increasingly think the alternative is misleading: to suggest that -phant somehow comes phonetically from phainein.

    August 18, 2008

  • A prophet; from Greek: 'hiera' holy things 'phanein' to bring to light.

    August 18, 2008