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See also: Nepenthes



A statue of the semi-legendary Greek author Homer from the Villa of the Papyri in the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum, now in the collection of the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. In Homer’s Odyssey (book IV, line 221), Helen of Troy places a nepenthes (sense 1) into some wine.
Nepenthes distillatoria, the type species of nepenthes (sense 2). A nepenthes is also known as a monkey cup or tropical pitcher plant.


Etymology 1Edit

Borrowed from Latin nēpenthes (a drug bringing relief from grief), from Ancient Greek νηπενθές (nēpenthés), neuter of νηπενθής (nēpenthḗs, sorrow-banishing), from νη- (nē-, not) + πένθος (pénthos, grief) (from πάσχειν (páskhein), present active infinitive of πάσχω (páskhō, to be ill or injured in a certain way; to suffer), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷendʰ- (to endure, to suffer)). Compare French népenthès (a plant from which a drug supposedly bringing relief from grief may be obtained; such a drug).


nepenthes (uncountable)

  1. A drug mentioned in Homer's Odyssey (c. 8th century B.C.E.) as bringing relief from anxiety or grief; hence, any drug or substance seen as bringing welcome forgetfulness or relief.
  2. A Southeast Asian carnivorous plant of the genus Nepenthes; a monkey cup or tropical pitcher plant.
    • 1863, Spenser [Buckingham] St. John, “Introduction”, in Life in the Forests of the Far East; or Travels in Northern Borneo. [...] With Numerous Illustrations. In Two Volumes, volume I, 2nd rev. edition, London: Smith, Elder and Co., page 11:
      And how marvellous were the shapes of the nepenthes, how beautiful the colour, how delicate in form!
    • 1867, “NEPENTHA′CEÆ”, in Charles Knight, editor, Natural History or Second Division of “The English Cyclopædia”, volume III, London: Bradbury, Evans, & Co., 11, Bouverie St., Fleet St., E.C.; New York, N.Y.: Scribner, Welford, & Co., 654, Broadway, OCLC 61167125, column 1080:
      NEPENTHA′CEÆ, Nepenths, a natural order of Exogenous Plants inhabiting the damper and warmer parts of Asia, and having, in the place of leaves, large hollow bodies furnished with a lid, and containing water secreted from a peculiar glandular apparatus with which they are lined. [] [T]he adherent ovary of Birthworts, their highly developed calyx, axile placentation, and hermaphrodite flowers, are serious difficulties in the way of a close contact between them and Nepenths, unless the peculiar structure of the wood, the consideration of which I for the present abandon, should lead to the final establishment of the class of Homogens, in which case Nepenths and Birthworts will be brought into contact or at least a near neighbourhood.
    • 1875 July 29, Lawson Tait, “Insectivorous Plants”, in Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science, volume XII, number 300, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., page 252, column 2:
      When studying the nepenthes, I was puzzled to see the use of the channel which exists on the back of the pitchers, and which is formed by two ridges furnished with spikes in most of the nepenthes, but not in all, which run up to the margin of the lip of the pitcher.
    • 2013, Anwar Shahzad; Taiba Saeed, “In Vitro Conservation Protocols for Some Rare Medicinal Plant Species”, in Mohd. Shahid, Anwar Shahzad, Abida Malik, and Aastha Sahai, editors, Recent Trends in Biotechnology and Therapeutic Applications of Medicinal Plants, Dordrecht: Springer, DOI:10.1007/978-94-007-6603-7, →ISBN, page 265:
      Different techniques in plant tissue culture may offer certain advantages over traditional methods of propagation which include [] Production of plants from seeds that have very low chances of germinating and growing, i.e.: orchids and nepenthes.
Alternative formsEdit
  • (substance bringing forgetfulness or relief): nepenth (obsolete, rare), nepenthe (archaic)
  • (plant): nepenth (obsolete, rare)
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

nepenthe +‎ -s.



  1. (archaic) plural of nepenthe.

Further readingEdit