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World of Words
A monthly blog of interesting words, phrases, and idioms.  Like us on Facebook to receive new posts.

It's getting toward the end of the month, and I was trying to think of a good word to write about for the blog, and suddenly, I had an epiphany! Have you ever had an epiphany? If you've ever had a sudden flash of insight or realization, then yes, you've had an epiphany. 

If you want to understand the word epiphany, you should remember that old story of Archimedes, jumping out of the bathtub and running down the streets of Syracuse, shouting "Eureka! Eureka!" because he had suddenly realized that a bathtub (and the water it contained) could be a wonderful tool for determining the volume of an object.

Mind you, an epiphany does not require you to shout "eureka," and it also doesn't require you to run down the streets of the city in your bath-time wardrobe. But it is -- like Archimedes' realization -- a sudden, startling insight.

The word epiphany comes to us from Greek, by way of Old French and Latin. The Greek word was epiphainein, and it simply meant "reveal." This definition fits nicely with our modern understanding of the word; when we have a flash of insight, we often have the feeling that the answer has been there all along, but it was hidden from us -- right up until the moment it was revealed.

Epiphany is also a "December word" -- in the sense that it is closely tied to the Christian Advent season. The Greek word epiphainō, (another form of the Greek word mentioned above) appears in the book of Titus chapter 2, in the following contexts:

Titus 2:11 -- "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."

Titus 2:13 -- "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."

These two verses encapsulate one of the main themes of the Advent celebration -- that The Christ appeared (was revealed), and that he will appear (be revealed) again.

After Christmas, the holiday of the "Three Kings" is celebrated. This holiday is also called "Epiphany," because it represents the revealing of the child to the kings of this world. In the eastern tradition, the holiday celebrates the baptism of Christ, because it was his revealing to the people of Israel.

As one last bit of Christmasy trivia, Bishop Nicholaus of Myra (the man we typically refer to as Santa Claus), was a 3rd century man who lived in Asia Minor. His father's name was Epiphanius, which is, of course, a variation on the word epiphainō.

May your Christmas season be filled with epiphanies!

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