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An ithyphallic pendant (sense 2) found in London, UK, dating to the Roman or post-Medieval period[n 1]

Borrowed from Late Latin ithyphallicus, from Ancient Greek ἰθυφαλλικός (ithuphallikós), from ῑ̓θῠ́φαλλος (īthúphallos, phallus carried in festivals of Bacchus; ode sung in honour of the phallus; dance accompanying such an ode; dancer performing such a dance) + -ῐκός (-ikós, suffix forming adjectives meaning ‘of or pertaining to’). ῑ̓θῠ́φαλλος is derived from ἰθῠ́ς (ithús) (variant of εὐθῠ́ς (euthús, straight)) + φαλλός (phallós, penis; image of a penis, phallus). The English word can be analysed as ithyphallus +‎ -ic.[1]

As regards the noun, compare Latin ithyphallicum (poem with the same metre as the hymns to Priapus).[1]



ithyphallic (comparative more ithyphallic, superlative most ithyphallic)

  1. (historical, Ancient Rome) Of or pertaining to the erect phallus that was carried in bacchic processions.
    • 1822 June, R. P. Knight, “An Inquiry into the Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology”, in The Classical Journal, volume XXV, number L, London: Printed by A[braham] J[ohn] Valpy, []; sold by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown [et al.], OCLC 614391535, part VI, paragraph 138, page 243:
      The title ΣΟΤΗΡ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ upon the composite priapic figure published by La Chausse is well known; and it is probable that the ithyphallic ceremonies, which the gross flattery of the degenerate Greeks sometimes employed to honor the Macedonian princes, had the same meaning as this title of Saviour, which was frequently conferred upon, or assumed by them.
    • 2013, Eric Csapo, “Comedy and the Pompe: Dionysian Genre-crossing”, in E[mmanuela] Bakola, L[ucia] Prauscello, and M[ario] Telò, editors, Greek Comedy and the Discourse of Genres, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, pages 67–68:
      In late classical and Hellenistic times the theatre could be the site of a prolonged and climactic performance by phallic choruses: Hyperides mentions the ithyphalloi dancing in the orchestra and Semos' account of both ithyphalloi and phallophoroi focuses on the moment that the choruses enter the theatre. But the ithyphalloi remained primarily processional and non-theatrical, as is clear from Demochares' account of the ithyphallic procession to meet Demetrius the Besieger.
    1. (specifically) Of a poem or song: having the metre of an ode sung in honour of the bacchic phallus.
      • 1830, [Johann Gottfried Jakob] Hermann, “Of Ithyphallic Verse”, in John Seager, transl., Hermann’s Elements of the Doctrine of Metres, Abridged and Translated into English, London: Printed by A[braham] J[ohn] Valpy, []; sold by Longman & Co. [et al.], OCLC 614391535, § 131, page 29:
        Ithyphallic verse, which, because it consists of one periodic order, ought to have all pure trochees, and admits no other foot, except a tribrach, [] and that scarcely in the last place, because the rhythm ought to be more remiss at the end, is used chiefly by lyric poets in place of an epode.
      • 1844, Edward Munk [i.e., Eduard Munk], “Rhythms, the Fundamental Foot of which is Tripletimed; the Double or Trochaic-Iambic Class”, in Charles Beck and C[ornelius] C[onway] Felton, transl., The Metres of the Greeks and Romans. A Manual for Schools and Private Study. Translated from the German, Boston, Mass.: James Munroe and Company, OCLC 458785631, part II (The Application of the Laws of Rhythm to Poetry by the Greeks and Romans), section I (Simple Rhythms), page 70:
        Archilochus and other writers of epodes frequently use the ithyphallic in distich composition, and in asynartete verses as the closing rhythm. The ithyphallic occurs sometimes in the beginning, or middle, []
  2. Of or pertaining to an upward pointing, erect penis; (specifically) of an artistic depiction of a deity or other figure: possessing an erect penis.
    Synonym: priapic (one sense)
    • 1852, C[arl] O[tfried] Müller [i.e., Karl Otfried Müller]; F[riedrich] G[ottlieb] Welcker, “Appendix. The Nations Not of Greek Race.”, in John Leitch, transl., Ancient Art and Its Remains; or A Manual of the Archæology of Art. [...] Translated from the German, new edition, London: Bernard Quaritch, [], OCLC 1084040039, section I.3.b (Subjects), page 232:
      Phthas, the inscription in phonetic hieroglyphs Ptah, in close-fitting dress, with the feet joined together, leaning on the platform consisting of four steps []. Also dwarfish and ithyphallic as in the temple at Memphis [].
    • 1963, Joseph L[ewis] Henderson; Maud Oakes, “Introduction”, in The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth, and Resurrection (Patterns of Myth; Myth and Experience), New York, N.Y.: George Braziller, OCLC 449774937, section III (Death and Rebirth as Cycles of Nature: The Descent of Inanna):
      In a symbolism which does justice to the biologically sexual phase of life but which quickly transcends it, we find ithyphallic deities such as Thoth in Egypt and Hermes in Greece, as the spiritual messengers necessary to guide the souls of the dead to their resting place.
    • 1974, Rupert C. Allen, “Part One. Psyche and Symbol in Perlimplín.”, in Psyche and Symbol in the Theater of Federico García Lorca: Perlimplín, Yerma, Blood Wedding, Austin, Tex.; London: University of Texas Press, →ISBN, page 77:
      The phallic symbolism of the finger has long been popularly used. The middle finger is commonly held up as an ithyphallic insult, as is the thumb in the sign of the fig. The ancient Romans called the middle finger impudicus, "lewd."
    • 1987, M[anohar] L[axman] Varadpande, “Contribution of Religion”, in History of Indian Theatre, volume 1, New Delhi: Shakti Malik, Abhinav Publications, →ISBN, page 151:
      We have already referred to a stone sculpture suggestive of an ithyphallic dancer found at Harappa, a prototype of the Shiva at Nataraja. [] The sculptures of Shiva as an ithyphallic dancer are found in Orissa. At Asanpat in Keonjhar district an eight-armed ithyphallic sculpture of a dancing Shiva was found.
  3. (by extension) Lascivious, obscene.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:obscene
    • 1856 November, “Leaves of Grass. [By Walt Whitman.] Brooklyn, N.Y. 1855. 4to. pp. 95. Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn, N.Y. 1856. 16mo. pp. 384. [book review]”, in The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, volume XXVI (4th Series; volume LX overall), number III, Boston, Mass.: Crosby, Nichols, and Company; New York, N.Y.: C. S. Francis & Co.; London: Edward T. Whitfield, [], OCLC 1084647938, page 473:
      [I]t is specially desirable to be able to discern the difference [] between the "εὐνῇ καὶ φιλότητι" or "φιλότητι καὶ εὐνῇ μιγῆναι" of the Iliad and Odyssey, and an ithyphallic audacity that insults what is most sacred and decent among men.

Related termsEdit



ithyphallic (plural ithyphallics)

  1. A poem or song in an ithyphallic metre.
    • 1614, John Selden, chapter VI, in Titles of Honor, London: By William Stansby for Iohn Helme, [], OCLC 55171491, part 1, page 117:
      And wanton Catullus, comparing a heauie fellow, vnworthily bleſt with a Delicacie in the marriage bed, to a log, hath this Ithyphallique: Talis iſte meus Stupor nil videt, nihil audit. [Such a dolt as this one of mine sees nothing, hears nothing.]
    • 1844, Edward Munk [i.e., Eduard Munk], “Composition by the Line (Stichic Composition)”, in Charles Beck and C[ornelius] C[onway] Felton, transl., The Metres of the Greeks and Romans. A Manual for Schools and Private Study. Translated from the German, Boston, Mass.: James Munroe and Company, OCLC 458785631, part II (The Application of the Laws of Rhythm to Poetry by the Greeks and Romans), section II (The Combination of Simple Rhythms in Larger Rhythmical Portions), page 160:
      We may, therefore, assume two epochs for the Saturnian verse. In the first epoch, until Livius and Saevius, its measure is yet very unsettled; the rhythm is, however, evidently trochaic. It usually corresponds to two ithyphallics, sometimes with, sometimes without an anacrusis before the first ithyphallic.
    • 1874, Edward A[ugustus] Freeman, “Rede Lecture. [Notes.]”, in Comparative Politics. Six Lectures Read before the Royal Institution in January and February, 1873. [], New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., OCLC 15355288, note 27, page 496:
      See Plutarch, Dêmêtrios, 10, for the title of Καταιβάτης given to Dêmêtrios at Athens, and the altar dedicated to him under that name, and, still more, the account of the flatteries offered to him given by Dêmocharês and the ithyphallics of Douris of Samos, in Athênaois, [].
  2. A lascivious or obscene poem or song.
    • 1822 October 15, Quevedo Redivivus [pseudonym; Lord Byron], “The Vision of Judgment: Preface”, in The Liberal. Verse and Prose from the South, volume I, number I, 2nd edition, London: Printed by and for John Hunt, [], published 1823, OCLC 29743109, page 3:
      I omit noticing some edifying Ithyphallics of Savagius, wishing to keep the proper veil over them, if his grave but somewhat indiscreet worshipper will suffer it; but certainly these teachers of "great moral lessons" are apt to be found in strange company.



  1. ^ From the collection of the Museum of London in London, England, UK.


Further readingEdit