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From Ancient Greek ἱεροφάντης (hierophántēs), from ἱερός (hierós, holy) + φαίνω (phaínō, I show, make known)


  • IPA(key): /ˈhaɪəɹəˌfænt/


hierophant (plural hierophants or hierophantes)

  1. An ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries.
  2. An interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge.
    • 1975, Peter Porter, “Baroque Quatrains Dedicated to James Fenton”, in Living in a Calm Country:
      Ambassadors of northern countries stand / Impassive while our hierophants intone / Long canticles of Christ the Contraband: / Our grandees' hearts are shrunk to kidney stones.
    • 1987, Peter Porter, “A Tribute to my enemies”, in The Automatic Oracle:
      No, I must play creator / And make them up, these hierophants.
  3. One who explains or makes a commentary.


  • 1837, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Athens: Its Rise and Fall:
    The exhibition of ancient statues, relics, and symbols, concealed from daily adoration (as in the Catholic festivals of this day), probably, made a main duty of the Hierophant.
  • 1894, Arthur Machen, Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt:
    Thus I became the hierophant of those three worthy and talented men, who, in spite of their literary accomplishments, were not wise, since they were infatuated with occult and fabulous sciences, and believed in the existence of phenomena impossible in the moral as well as in the physical order of things.
  • 1918, Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop:
    If books are as provocative as you suggest, one would expect every librarian to utter the shrill screams of a hierophant, to clash ecstatic castanets in his silent alcoves!
  • 1947, Malcolm Lowry, Under The Volcano:
    What did even the hierophants of science know of the potencies of, for them unvintageable evil?

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