May 9, 2007


The Divine Comedy's

illustrated by
Gustave Dore.

empyrean adj. [em-pi- ree'-un or em-pur'-ee-un]
1. of or relating to the sky or heavens;
  • "the empyrean sphere"
2. inspiring awe;
  • "well-meaning ineptitude that rises to empyreal absurdity"—M.S. Dworkin;
  • "empyrean aplomb"—Hamilton Basso;
1. the apparent surface of the imaginary sphere on which celestial bodies appear to be projected [syn: celestial sphere]

Synonyms for the noun empyrean: firmament, heavens, vault of heaven, welkin

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

empyrean adj. & noun

From the Medieval Latin empyreus, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek, in or on the fire (pyr). Properly Empyrean Heaven, the place in the highest heaven, which in ancient cosmologies was supposed to be occupied by the element of fire (or aether in Aristotle's natural philosophy).

It was thus used as a name for the firmament, and in Christian literature, notably the Divine Comedy, for the dwelling-place of God and the blessed, and as the source of light.

The word is used both as a substantive [noun] and as an adjective. Having the same Greek origin are the scientific words empyreuma and empyreumatic, applied to the characteristic smell of burning or charring vegetable or animal matter.Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

Empyrean IN USE:
"[Kate] Blanchet, 38, this month, has graced heist movies (Bandits) and angsty art films (Coffee and Cigarettes). But she's really an emmissary from another, older world: the empyrean of classic movie glamour."—Richard Corliss. Time100, Artists & Entertainers, Time Magazine, May 14, 2007.

Kate Blanchett


[from Medieval Latin empyreus, empyræus, from the Greek - fiery) + -AL]

—————————————————————————————————————FROM FROM THE OED: ADDITIONAL EXAMPLES OF empyrean IN USE:

empyrean 1682
A. adj. Of or pertaining to the sphere of fire or highest heaven. Also used figuratively.
  • Above the starry sphere..finally the empyrean heaven, or heaven of heavens. 1796
  • Drenched in empyrean light. From the Courts of the Empyrean dome Came forth what seemed a fiery car.1805 WORDSWORTH, WILLIAM. Prelude IV. (1850) 98
empyrean 1667
B. noun 1. The highest heaven. In ancient cosmology the sphere of the pure element of fire: in Christian use, the abode of God and the angels. Also used figuratively.
  • The empyrean, the first work of creation and the residence and throne of God. 1755
  • The empyrean, or kingdom of fire. 1878
2. a. The visible heavens or firmament.
m||b. The whole extent of cosmic space.
  • The vast empyrean of the sky. 1821
  • The physical universe itself [becomes] a drop suspended in the infinite empyrean. 1880.
["Ascent to the|Empyrean,"/
Heronymus/Bosch. Above.]


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