One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Chiefly with reference to the titles of books by Arrian and Hanno: an account or narrative of a circumnavigation or other voyage; a manual of navigation.
2A circuit; a circumnavigation; a voyage or journey round a coastline; an epic journey, an odyssey.
3Ancient Greek Nautical. A manoeuvre in naval warfare involving sailing round an enemy fleet.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Samuel Purchas (bap. 1577, d. 1626), geographical editor and compiler and Church of England clergyman. From classical Latin periplūs account of a circumnavigation (Pliny, as the title of a work by Xenophon) from ancient Greek περίπλους circumnavigation, manoeuvre in naval warfare, in Hellenistic Greek also account of a circumnavigation from περι- + πλοῦς (uncontracted πλόος) voyage from an ablaut variant of the base of πλεῖν to swim.
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