Arete – Friday’s Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day at Dictionary.com is arete, a noun that means the aggregate of qualities, such as valor and virtue, making up good character.

It is Greek in Origin as Dictionary.com summarizes:

It is hard to imagine a more Greek word than aretḗ “excellence.” The excellence is of all kinds: military (bravery and prowess), sports (footracing), but also intelligence, public speaking, and good character. Aretḗ applies to the gods and women as well as to warriors and heroes: Penelope in the Odyssey (book 18, line 251) complains that “The immortals destroyed all excellence of mine, in beauty and stature, when the Argives sailed for Troy, and with them my husband Odysseus.” Aretḗ also applies to land (“productive”) and domestic animals (horses, dogs). Socrates pursues aretḗ “virtue, excellence” even if it costs him his life. In the Septuagint and New Testament, aretḗ also means “rewards of excellence, distinction,” as also in classical Greek. Arete entered English in the 16th century.

Here’s a nice bit of info to round out the application of this word. According to Greekmythology.wikia.com:

Arete was the goddess or daimona of virtue, excellence, goodness and valour. She was depicted as a fair woman of high bearing, dressed in white. Her opposite number was the daimon Kakia, lady of vice.  The best known story of Arete is when Arete and Kakia approached Heracles and offered him a life of valour or a life of luxury.  Based on his numerous adventures it is clear that he chose the life of valour.

Arete is the theme Aristotle’s philosophical virtue theory. You can read more about it HERE. Basically Aristotle believed: Arete roughly means “moral virtue”. It refers to an innate “Excellence” or “Essence” in all things, and the striving toward that potential or purpose.

Incidentally, for obvious reason, businesses love to use arete or symbols of arete in their titles and logos. If you google arete, you find a long list of companies who advertise their excellence in this way.

Well, before I get lost in my thoughts as I consider the arete of the various aspects of my life…this could take some time. I better give you a Haiku.

Go forth the, and prosper. Be the best you can be. Strive for arete!

when arete is scorned
by ignominious fools
virtue is disdained

~kat


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