The previous post dealt with auspiciososo/auspicious, an adjective based on the Latin noun auspex, with stem auspic-, that meant, in the words of Lewis and Short’s A Latin Dictionary, ‘ a bird inspector, bird-seer, i. e. one who observes the flight, singing, or feeding of birds, and foretells future events therefrom; an augur, soothsayer, diviner.’ The corresponding abstract noun for the process was auspicium ‘divination by observing the flight of birds, augury from birds,’ which Spanish has taken over as auspicio, and for which the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española gives three definitions:
1. m. agüero.
2. m. Protección, favor.
3. m. pl. Señales prósperas o adversas que en el comienzo de una actividad parecen presagiar su resultado.
The matching English form is auspice, a singular that I don’t ever recall seeing. The 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary gave this first definition of the word: ‘A divining or taking of omens by observing birds; an omen as to an undertaking, drawn from birds; an augury; an omen or sign in general; an indication as to the future.’ The second definition, which has become the most common one, was: ‘Protection; patronage and care; guidance.’ The dictionary went on to note that “In this sense the word is generally plural, auspices; as, under the auspices of the king.” Similarly, Spanish can also use the plural, but whereas the English preposition is always under, an Internet search turns up Spanish examples of con los auspicios de and bajo los auspicios de. It’s not clear to me whether the use of bajo is due to influence from English. It is clear to me that anyone who observes flights of birds from below may need protection from what falls from above.
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman