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See also: Mephitis




From Latin mefītis, mephītis, from the name of a Samnite goddess who personified the poisonous gases emitted from swamps and volcanoes. The name is from Oscan and ultimately Proto-Italic.


mephitis (countable and uncountable, plural mephitises)

  1. A poisonous or foul-smelling gas, especially as emitted from the earth; an unpleasant smell.
    • 1822, Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Cabinet of curiosities: natural, artificial, and historical[1], page 140:
      The Abbe had, in the district of Latera, observed that in a mephitis of hydrogenous sulphurated or hepatic gas, a slow combustion of phosphorus took place, with the same resplendence as in the atmospheric air.
    • 1868, John Loraine Abbott, The Home-book of Wonders, in Nature, Science and Art[2], page 135:
      He attempted several times to fire inflammable gas, with electric sparks, in the mephitic vapor, by means of the conductor of the electrophus; but, notwithstanding his utmost endeavors to animate the electricity, he could never obtain a single spark, the non-conductor becoming a conductor the moment it entered into the mephitis, on account of the humidity which adhered to its surface.
    • 1883, George MacDonald, Paul Faber, Surgeon[3]:
      and not seldom did the fire which the torch of his prophecy had kindled upon her altar, kindle again that torch, when some bitter wind of evil words, or mephitis of human perversity, or thunder rain of foiled charity, []
    • 2008, Peter Cunningham, The Sea and the Silence, page 1:
      [] conveyancing of property to a background of ships loading or discharging and the clanging of wharf cranes, but in August, when the tide was low, the River Lyle's gum-like, perspiring mud banks released a mephitis []
  2. (homeopathy) A dilution of fluids derived from skunks or polecats.
    • 1854, C. Neidhard, “Mephitis Putorius and Other Remedies in Hooping Cough”, in The British Journal of Homoeopathy[4], page 436:
      Mephitis, in water, did not at first relieve the cough, so that I was compelled to prescribe another remedy; but after taking this for a short time, the father averred that he thought the first remedy, Mephitis, had a better effect than the last.
    • 1907, American Institute of Homeopathy, Transactions of the Sixty-third Sessions[5], page 501:
      I do not see why Dr. Hensley should object to the internal administration of Variolinum any more than to that of lachesis, mephitis, etc.
    • 1906, Nashville Journal of Medicine and Surgery[6], volume 74, page 60:
      Mephitis, a highly prized remedy of the Homeopaths, is prepared by taking one part. in weight, of the characteristic fluid expelled by the pole-cat and dissolving it in ninety parts of alcohol.


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