One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A river in South America, flowing over 6,683 km (4,150 miles) through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil into the Atlantic Ocean. It drains two fifths of the continent and in terms of water flow it is the largest river in the world.
The river bore various names after it was first encountered by Europeans in 1500 and was finally called Amazon after a legendary race of female warriors believed to live on its banks.
1A member of a legendary race of female warriors believed by the ancient Greeks to exist in Scythia or elsewhere on the edge of the known world.
- ‘Eleanor and some of her entourage appeared before the barons dressed as Amazons, declaring their willingness to fight for Christ.’
- ‘These legendary Amazons appear in several Greek fables.’
- ‘The first theme relates to the Christian iconography of Charity, and the eighteenth-century cult of Nature, as we shall see; the second to classical mythology about virgin goddesses and warrior Amazons.’
- ‘Theseus defeated the Amazons in battle and took one of their captive leaders as his wife or concubine.’
- ‘Hippolyta is the conquered queen of Amazons who marries Theseus and returns to Athens with him.’
- ‘Perhaps the most widely known of legendary women warriors are the Greek Amazons and the Nordic Valkyries.’
- ‘The very idea of the Amazons, of ruthless women warriors who live apart from men, excites people at a deep level.’
- ‘While Boadicea was a warrior woman, the Amazons were not, primarily because their existence is wholly fictitious.’
- ‘The ancient Herodotus thought the Amazons did exist, but were extinct by the time that he lived.’
- ‘Some radical historians, Bacher said, believed the tribe was descended from seafaring Scythian Amazons fleeing the encroachment of imperial Greece.’
- ‘The ancient Greeks believed that there had been Amazons and celebrated their victory over them.’
- ‘In the 5th century political symbolism was couched in mythological terms, and the battles of gods and giants, Greeks and Amazons or Trojans, and Lapiths and centaurs stood for the historical battles of the Persian Wars.’
- ‘Still, there seems to be a kind of secretive admiration of the Amazons by the male myth makers.’
- ‘What makes all this more ironic is that these exhausted women were the original Amazons, the warrior caste Alexander supposedly would not fight.’
- ‘Early map-makers were happy to leave blanks for terra incognita or to stock those empty spaces with headless cannibals, giant monopeds, Amazons and dragons.’
- 1.1 A very tall and strong or athletic woman.
- ‘He's a small man - four feet tall, I'd say - with an Amazon for a wife.’
- ‘Contrary to the myth that older women don't play sports, these Amazons all happen to be over 30.’
- ‘They are gorgeous, sexy, and tough as nails - amazons with attitude.’
- ‘She was not taller than me, perhaps, but an amazon among most her age and gender.’
2A parrot, typically green, found in Central and South America.
- ‘A very high proportion of Amazon parrots are threatened with extinction because of their slow rate of reproduction.’
- ‘More than other parrot species, Amazons are well known for their strong or often moody characters.’
- ‘Vocally they are distinct from other parrots although any Amazon in a mixed collection may mimic other sounds.’
Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek Amazōn, explained by the Greeks as ‘without a breast’ (as if from a- ‘without’ + mazos ‘breast’), referring to the fable that the Amazons cut off the right breast so as not to interfere with the use of a bow, but probably a folk etymology of an unknown foreign word.
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