from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A game in which a person, on finding a double-kernelled almond or nut, may offer the second kernel to another person and demand a playful forfeit from that person to be paid on their next meeting. The forfeit may simply be to exchange the greeting "Good-day, Philopena" or it may be more elaborate. Philopenas were often played as a form of flirtation.
  • n. The occasion on which a philopena is forfeited; the forfeit paid.
  • n. A nut or almond with a double kernel, as used to set a philopena.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A present or gift which is made as a forfeit in a social game that is played in various ways; also, the game itself.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A custom or game of reputed German origin: two persons share a nut containing two kernels, and one of them incurs the obligation of giving something as forfeit to the other, either by being first addressed by the latter with the word philopena at their next meeting, or by receiving something from the other's hand, or by answering a question with yes or no, or by some other similar test as agreed upon.
  • n. The salutation in the game or custom thus described.
  • n. The kernel of the nut used in the game.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The origin of philopena is unclear. Despite its appearance, it is not formed from classical roots. The traditional game seems to have originated in Germany, and to have included a formulatic greeting, Gutenmorgen Vielliebchen ("Good morning, sweetheart"), with Vielliebchen being accepted into French as a proper name, and the game's tag becoming "Bonjour Philipine".


  • The subsequent Christmas dinner was a festival, and the dessert was prolonged with cracking nuts, making "philopena" bargains, opening sugar kisses and exchanging "verses."

    Her Mother's Secret

  • "Boys, I move that he keeps still and lets this human philopena snip you out a speech."

    Pudd'nhead Wilson

  • I can't help it if the boys send me philopena presents, as they do to the other girls.

    An Old-Fashioned Girl

  • "I owe him a philopena, and that would have been a splendid way to pay it."

    Tabitha at Ivy Hall

  • But when Lena had reminded him of all sorts of promises, and Frau Dörr with much emphasis and much use of her eyes had reminded him of the still outstanding philopena, he yielded and decided to spend the evening.

    Chapter X

  • That is, if I may and if I shall not be in the way of the philopena.

    Chapter X

  • While they were standing there Frau Dörr reminded them that after all they had forgotten the philopena.

    Chapter X

  • We must eat a philopena to-day and then we’ll call it square.

    Chapter IX

  • They'd been lookin 'for the same old elephant with two men inside, the good old chestnut that they'd been tryin' to laugh over for years, and when this philopena was sprung on 'em they were as tickled as a baby with a jack-in-the-box.

    Shorty McCabe

  • I can't help it if the boys send me philopena presents, as they do to the other girls. "

    An Old-Fashioned Girl


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  • (noun) - Another, and highly reprehensible way of extorting a gift, is to have what is called a philopena with a gentleman. This very silly joke is when a young lady, in cracking almonds, chances to find two kernels in one shell; she shares them with a beau; which ever first calls out "philopena" on their next meeting, is entitled to receive a present from the other; and she is to remind him of it till he remembers to comply. So much nonsense is often talked on the occasion, that it seems to expand into something of importance, and the gentleman thinks he can do no less, than purchase for the lady something very elegant, or valuable; particularly if he has heard her tell of the munificence of other beaux in their philopenas.

    --Eliza Leslie's Behaviour Book, 1854

    January 16, 2018

  • "Beneath the profusion of sapphire charms, enamelled four-leaf covers, silver medals, gold medallions, turquoise amulets, ruby chains and topaz chestnuts there would be on the dress itself some design carried out in colour which pursued across the surface of an inserted panel a preconceived existence of its own, some row of little satin buttons which buttoned nothing and could not be unbuttoned, a strip of braid that sought to please the eye with the minuteness, the discretion of a delicate reminder; and these, as well as the jewels, gave the impression—having otherwise no possible justification—of disclosing a secret intention, being a pledge of affection, keeping a secret, ministering to a superstition, commemorating a recovery from sickness, a granted wish, a love affair or a philopena."

    -- Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, Revised by D.J. Enright, pp 268-269 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    April 20, 2008