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rhapsode

a singer in ancient Greece. Ancient scholars suggested two etymologies. The first related the word with the staff (rhabdos) on which the singer leaned during his performance. In that view, the rhapsode is a "singer with a staff." The second connected the word with the poetic act of sewing (rhaptein) the poem (oide). Thus, the rhapsode is a "stitcher of songs." Modern scholars prefer the second etymology, which is attested in a fragment of Hesiod (7th century BC) and in Pindar's Nemean ode 2, lines 1-3. Both passages use the word rhaptein to describe the act of poetic composition. The noun rhapsoidosis is first found in 5th-century-BC inscriptions and literary sources, including Herodotus (History, Book V, part 67) and Sophocles (Oedipus Tyrannus, line 391).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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