eudaemonia

An interesting article that I read in the August 25th New York Times about genes and happiness contained the fancy word eudaemonic, which is the adjective corresponding to the noun eudaemonia (also spelled eudaimonia). According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the noun means ‘happiness or well-being; specif[ally], in Aristotle’s philosophy, happiness or well-being, the main universal goal, distinct from pleasure and derived from a life of activity governed by reason.’ The Spanish form of the word is eudemonía.

The Greek original is a compound of two fairly familiar components. The first is eu- ‘good, well,’ which we find in other compounds like euforia/euphoria, eulogia/eulogy, and eufemismo/euphemism. The second component of eudaimonia is Greek daimon, which English also spells daemon, and which Spanish and English have in the more common form demonio/demon. In Greek mythology, a daimon was ‘an inferior deity’ or ‘an attendant spirit.’ Originally such a mythological being wasn’t necessarily either benevolent or malevolent, but as we use demonio/demon today it designates ‘an evil spirit.’ The corresponding adjective is demónico/demonic.

If you’d like to learn more about the development of the concept of a demon, you can read the Wikipedia article in Spanish or English.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim in IA
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 08:21:07

    Is there any connection to the oft used phrase in sports of ‘youdaman’?

    Reply

  2. shoreacres
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 11:20:59

    The article was interesting. It did leave me wondering about people who truly believe “the one who dies with the most toys, wins”.

    It seems as though the study might have considered them hedonic, while people I’ve known with that attitude would place themselves squarely in the eudaemonic camp. I’ll have to look up a couple of them and see how their health’s been.

    Of course, as an Iowan raised on “The Music Man”, I thought of Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, wife of the Mayor of River City. It turns out that Eulalie comes from Eulalia.

    Reply

    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 23, 2013 @ 12:31:41

      I looked at Wikipedia and found that Eulalia can be a genus of annelid worms; a synonym for the genus Odontomyia of flies; a genus of grasses.

      According to Hanks and Hodges’s A Dictionary of First Names, Eulalia “was very common in the Middle Ages, when it was to a large extent confused with Hilary, but is now rare.” The Eulalie in The Music Man is one of those rare examples, but I expect the writer chose that name because of its old-fashioned sound.

      My guess is that the Greek verb lalein was created to imitate the baby-talk sound of la-la. Etymology puts me in the eudaemonic camp.

      Reply

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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