Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Homer: [while throat singing with the medicine woman] How long are we doing this?
Medicine Woman: Until you have an epiphany.
Homer: Okay. [they continue throat singing; he pauses and taps her on the shoulder] What’s an epiphany?
Medicine Woman: Sudden realization of great truth.
– The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Barney: Guys, I was sitting at home last night, and all of a sudden, I had a piphany! And my piphany was this–
Ted: Actually, it’s e-piphany.
Barney: No, Ted, this is the piphany.
– How I Met Your Mother (Season 7, Episode 21 – Now We’re Even)
I know, I don’t usually use two examples in one vocabulary post, but I had such a hard time choosing between these two that I just decided to go with both! In the former scene from The Simpsons Movie, an Inuit medicine woman is teaching Homer throat singing to help him come to the revelation that will save his family and his town. Meanwhile, in the latter scene from How I Met Your Mother, Barney tells his friends about his own revelation without knowing how to properly pronounce the word for it. Whether it’s “In order to save myself, I have to save Springfield!” or “Make every night legendary!”, Homer and Barney have something in common: they each claim to have had an “epiphany”!
An “epiphany” is a moment of sudden insight or revelation. The word arose in Middle English and comes from the Greek noun epipháneia, meaning “manifestation”. This noun stems from the verb epiphaínō “I appear”, which comprises the preposition epí “upon” and the verb phaínō “I bring to light”.
While its meaning as a revelation seems to be the most common use of the word, the primary definition of “epiphany” actually refers to “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12)”. In Christianity, the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day, is a festival celebrating the revelation of God in human form as His Son, Jesus Christ. According to the American English edition of Oxford Dictionaries, the word can also be used in the general sense of “a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being”. If your stories call for your characters experiencing “Eureka!” moments or sightings of divine beings, you may soon find yourself writing about an “epiphany”!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?