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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(adj.) covered in golden sands

The word pactolian cropped up on HH this week—an adjective describing anywhere covered in golden sands.

The word pactolian name-checks the Pactolus, an ancient river of Asia Minor that flows into the Aegean Sea in what is now modern-day Turkey. According to legend, the sands that line the banks of the Pactolus were once quite literally furnished with gold, washed down from the gold-rich mountains of ancient Lydia.

It was this gold that supposedly earned the legendary King Croesus his wealth (a ruler whose name lives on in the expression as rich as Croesus), and it was in the river Pactolus that King Midas (he of the Midas touch) rid himself of his cursed ability to transform anything into gold with just the touch of his hand.

From the literal gold that once lined the Pactolus’ shores, the adjective pactolian eventually came to be used more figuratively to refer to any lush, rich, sandy beach, or else anything lavish, ostentatious, or displaying great wealth.

Golden sands on a tropic beach, origin of pactolian

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