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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a ship’s light

A pharol is a ship’s light. That’s a word dating back to the mid 1600s in English, but with a much longer history behind it than that.

English adopted this word from either Spanish or Portuguese, both of which adopted it from Latin. Before then, pharos was a Greek word for the light of a ship—used in allusion to the great Pharos of Alexandria, the beacon-like lighthouse that stood on the island of Pharos, or Pharus, off the coast of Egypt.

The Pharos was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—but given that the Pyramids are the only one of that group still standing today, nothing of the Pharos remains today.

Built during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the third century BC, the lighthouse was damaged by a series of earthquakes between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, and abandoned. Finally, in 1480, the last of its ancient stones were recycled to build the Citadel of Qaitbay, a large fortress in the city of Alexandria, which still stands to this day.

The lighthouse might have long gone, but its stones live on in the same place—and its name lives on in the dictionary.

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