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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) the pleasure or excitement that comes from anticipating success

Athletes at a start line, the origin of nikhedonia

An old favourite of HH (and of those endless viral lists of things-you-didn’t-know-there-was-a-word-for) popped up on the Twitter feed tonight: nikhedonia, as defined by the monumental Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary, is the excitement or pleasure that comes from anticipating a success.

So when you can see victory in that game of noughts and crosses, or you can see a checkmate in your grasp, that excited levity you can feel building up inside is called nikhedonia. And here’s where that word comes from.

That initial “nik–” comes from nike, the Greek word for “victory”—and, when spelled with a capital N, the name of the goddess who personified victory in Greek mythology. (Bonus fact: Nike’s Roman mythological counterpart, Victoria, is the origin of the word victory.)

That final “–hedonia,” meanwhile, comes from the Greek word for “pleasure,” hedone. To most English speakers, that will be most familiar as the origin of words like hedonism and hedonist, but it also crops up in somewhat rarer terms like anhedonia (a pathological inability to experience pleasure) and hedonometer (an, until recently, purely theoretical device for measuring pleasure or delight).

Sandwich those two Greek roots together, and you have a word combining victory with pleasure—with the implication of eliciting pleasure from anticipating being victorious.


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