Usage Note:

Etymologically, this word has overtones of blissful ignorance. Originally, it was word for a medicinal balm, but note: it referred to a soothing drug, not a curative one. The pain lessened or alleviated by nepenthe is never resolved; it is merely repressed, whether consciously or subconsciously.

"But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe. In the supreme horror of that second I forgot what had horrified me, and the burst of black memory vanished in a chaos of echoing images."
     -H. P. Lovecraft,
The Outsider

"Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
'Wretch,' I cried, 'thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.' "
     -Edgar Allen Poe,
"The Raven"

Ne*pen"the (?), n. [Fr. Gr. removing all sorrow; hence, an epithet of an Egyptian drug which lulled sorrow for the day; not + sorrow, grief.]

A drug used by the ancients to give relief from pain and sorrow; -- by some supposed to have been opium or hasheesh. Hence, anything soothing and comforting.

Lulled with the sweet nepenthe of a court. Pope.

Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe. Poe.


© Webster 1913.

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