Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Apotheosis

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is apotheosis. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Apotheosis means “the perfect form or example of something” or “the highest or best part of something.” It can also mean “elevation to divine status; deification.”

// Some consider (however ironically) french fries to be the apotheosis of U.S. cuisine.

// Their music reached its creative apotheosis in the late aughts, which is also when they won two Grammys.


“Having begun 4,000 years ago, as ‘strange little rooms in modest Mesopotamian houses’ storing cuneiform tablets, libraries reached their Western European apotheosis by the 18th and 19th centuries as grand paneled spaces with fireplaces, ornate ceilings, built-in shelves, hard and soft chairs (for serious and relaxed reading), plush carpets, game tables, maybe a grand piano and secret doors (through which servants discreetly entered to tend fires).” — Julie Lasky, The New York Times, 26 Dec. 2021

Did You Know?

Among the ancient Greeks, it was sometimes thought fitting to grant someone “god” status. Hence the word apothéōsis, from the verb apotheóō or apotheoûn, meaning “to deify.” (All are rooted in Greek theós, meaning “god,” which we can also thank for such religion-related terms as theology and atheism.). There’s not a lot of literal apotheosizing to be had in modern English, but apotheosis is thriving in the 21st century. It can refer to the highest or best part of something, as in “the celebration reaches its apotheosis in an elaborate feast,” or to a perfect example or ultimate form, as in “a movie that is the apotheosis of the sci-fi genre.”

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