ouroboros

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English[edit]

Drawing by Theodoros Pelecanos, in an alchemical tract attributed to Synesius (1478).

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Ancient Greek οὐροβόρος (ourobóros, tail-devouring), a compound of οὐρά (ourá, tail) + -βόρος (-bóros, -devouring), which is derived from the verb βιβρώσκω (bibrṓskō, to eat up).

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /uːˈrɒbəˌrɒs/, /ˌuːrəˈbɒrəs/
  • (file)
  • enPR: o͞o-rŏbʹə-rŏs, o͞o-rə-bŏrʹ-əs

Noun[edit]

ouroboros (plural ouroboroi or ouroboroses)

  1. (mythology) A serpent, dragon or worm that eats its own tail, a representation of the continuous cycle of life and death.
    • 2004, Adrian Bejan et al., Porous and Complex Flow Structures in Modern Technologies, Springer Science & Business Media (→ISBN), page 121:
      One myth speaks of Ouroboros, a serpent-like creature that survived and regenerated itself by eating only its own tail. By neither taking from nor adding to its environment, this creature was said to be completely environmentally benign and self-sufficient.
  2. A picture or symbol thereof.
    • 2013, Jackie DiSalvo, G. A. Rosso, Christopher Z. Hobson eds., Blake, Politics, and History, Routledge (→ISBN)
      First, the snake has not caught its tail—the ouroboros figure is uncompleted. Blake executed fully formed ouroboros figures for the verso of this Night Thoughts page and for a later passage (6:690-92), and was familiar with numerous full ouroboros figures from contemporary and earlier sources []

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