alexandra alger


As I gaze into the empyrean….

It’s been a while since I’ve run across a word that’s made me sit up and take notice. Here’s one: empyrean.

It’s another word for heavenly or celestial. It specifically refers to the highest reaches of the heavens, a sphere composed of pure fire or light, according to ancient and medieval cosmology, so says Merrriam-Webster online.

Empyrean. Em-peer-ee-an. Oxford Dictionaries online provides a list of rhyming words, most of which (oddly but amusingly enough) derive from Greek mythology or geography: Caribbean, Cyclopean, Fijian, Herculean, Sisyphean, Tanzanian…Oxford, how about just any word that ends with the sound “ee-an”?

Wiki tells me I’d know this word if I’d gotten around to reading Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Oh, well. As it happens I found this word in Anthony Doerr’s mesmerizing All the Light We Cannot See. At least I think I did—for the life of me I cannot re-find it, even though I’m sure it was used to describe the 133-carat diamond that is both a wonder in the novel and a wonder of the novel.

Empyrean. It can be used as a noun (the empyrean) or an adjective (and there’s also empyreal). I wonder if I can figure out how I can use it without sounding pretentious. Doerr can get away with it, because he’s a gorgeous writer. He doesn’t use many fancy words; he uses the right words. If you haven’t read this book, try to!

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One thought on “As I gaze into the empyrean….

  1. You will also see liberal use of the word (with a capital E) in Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso.

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