Word of the Day

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

deus ex machina

\DAY-uhs-eks-MAH-kuh-nuh; -nah; -MAK-uh-nuh\ , noun;
1.
In ancient Greek and Roman drama, a god introduced by means of a crane to unravel and resolve the plot.
2.
Any active agent who appears unexpectedly to solve an apparently insoluble difficulty.
Quotes:
In times of affluence and peace, with technology that always seems to arrive like a deus ex machina to solve any problem, it becomes easy to believe that life is perfectible.
-- Stephanie Gutmann, The Kinder, Gentler Military
But we also need the possibility of cataclysm, so that, when situations seem hopeless, and beyond the power of any natural force to amend, we may still anticipate salvation from a messiah, a conquering hero, a deus ex machina, or some other agent with power to fracture the unsupportable and institute the unobtainable.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, Questioning the Millennium
Origin:
Deus ex machina is New Latin for "god from the machine"; it is a translation of the Greek theos ek mekhanes.

Trivia: The dramatic device dates from the 5th century BC and is especially associated with Euripides, one of the greatest classical tragedians.

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