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ekphrasis, n.

Forms:  16– ecphrasis, 19– ekphrasis. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from Latin. Partly a borrowing from Greek. Etymons: Latin ecphrasis; Greek ἔκϕρασις.
Etymology: < (i) post-classical Latin ecphrasis (15th cent.),
and its etymon (ii) Hellenistic Greek ἔκϕρασις description < ancient Greek ἐκϕράζειν   to recount, in Hellenistic Greek also to describe ( < ἐκ-   (see ex- prefix2) + ϕράζειν   to tell, explain: see phrase n.) + -σις  -sis suffix.
Compare earlier paraphrasis n.
Compare the following slightly earlier example of the Anglicized form ecphrase:
1626   F. Hamilton King Iames His Encomium sig. * (heading)    A Poeticall Ecphrase and Paraphrase on the 13 verse of the 14 chapter of S. Iohns Revelation.

  Originally: an explanation or description of something, esp. as a rhetorical device. Now: spec. a literary device in which a painting, sculpture, or other work of visual art is described in detail.

1632   J. Weemes Exercitations Divine i. xv. 158   An Ecphrasis is an exposition of this Paraphrase.
1683   tr. H. de Valois in tr. Eusebius et al. Hist. Church iv. xxxi. 492/2 (margin)    Paulus Silentiarius describes these Windows, in his Ecphrasis.
1739   J. Holmes Art Rhetoric made Easy i. iii. 59   Exegesis, or epexegesis, explication..; call'd also ecphrasis.
1814   Edinb. Rev. 24 65   The same florid effeminacies of style..in..an ecphrasis of Libanius, are harmless.
1920   E. S. Duckett Hellenistic Infl. on Aeneid 13   Direct address to the reader is a feature of ecphrasis found in the poetry of Apollonius and of Moschus, and in the Aeneid; the Homeric description of Achilles' shield, on the other hand, does not contain this detail.
1922   J. M. Campbell Infl. Second Sophistic on Style Serm. St. Basil Great viii. 71   The orator's enthusiasm at the conclusion of his dramatic ecphrasis on the death of Gordius sweeps him into the following extravagance on the uproar of the people witnessing the martyrdom.
1989   N.Y. Times Bk. Rev. 15 Oct. 12/1   Botticelli undertook to re-create the lost ‘Calumny’ of Apelles, perhaps the most famous painting of antiquity, from a brilliant ekphrasis by the poet Lucian.
2013   New Yorker 21 Oct. 101/2   Tartt slows from her adventurous storytelling to the eventless calm of ekphrasis, and describes the mournful splendor of Fabritius's own painterly experience.

1632—2013(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, December 2016).

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