vestal

vestal

[ves-tl]

Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English (adj.) < Latin vestālis. See Vesta, -al1

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World English Dictionary
vestal (ˈvɛstəl)
 
adj
1.  chaste or pure; virginal
2.  of or relating to the Roman goddess Vesta
 
n
3.  a chaste woman; virgin
4.  a rare word for nun

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Word Origin & History

vestal
"chaste, pure, virgin," 1590s, originally (early 15c.) "belonging to or dedicated to Vesta," Roman goddess of hearth and home. The noun is recorded from 1570s, short for Vestal virgin, one of four (later six) priestesses (L. virgines Vestales) in charge of the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta in Rome.
The goddess name, attested in English from late 14c., corresponds to, and may be cognate with, Gk. Hestia, from hestia "hearth," from PIE base *wes- "to dwell, stay" (cf. Skt. vasati "stays, dwells," Goth. wisan, O.E., O.H.G. wesan "to be").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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