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Calque of Ancient Greek ἔπεα πτερόεντα (épea pteróenta), often used by Homer.[1] Compare German geflügeltes Wort.


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winged word (plural winged words)

  1. (idiomatic, chiefly in the plural) A well-known and attributable quotation. [early 17th c.]
    • 1841, Samuel Gilman Brown, The Studies of an Orator: An Inaugural Address, Delivered at the Annual Commencement in Dartmouth College, July, 1840, page 22
      Often by some winged word — winged as the thunderbolt is — of a Luther, a Napoleon, a Goethe, shall we see the difficulty split asunder, and its secret laid bare ; while the Irrefragable, with all his logical roots, hews at it, and hovers round it, ...
    • 2010, Piero Boitani, Winged Words: Flight in Poetry and History (Large Print 16pt), →ISBN, page 387
      Homer often speaks of epea pteroenta, “winged words”: in traditional interpretations, this metaphor stood for the swift and lofty birdlike flight of language, particularly poetic language. This meaning has certainly sustained me throughout: as in a ...