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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Arete \A`r[^e]te"\, n. [F., lit., a sharp fish bone, ridge, sharp edge, fr. L. arista beard of grain.] (Geog.) An acute and rugged crest of a mountain range or a subsidiary ridge between two mountain gorges.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"sharp crest of a mountain," 1862, from Swiss French arête, from Latin arista "ear of grain, the top of an ear," which probably is of Etruscan origin. The figure is of something jagged.


important concept in Greek philosophy, "virtue, excellence," especially of manly qualities; literally "that which is good." The comparative form is areion, the superlative is aristos (compare aristocracy).


Etymology 1 n. virtue, excellence. Etymology 2

n. (alternative spelling of arête English)


n. a sharp narrow ridge found in rugged mountains


Arete, Areté or Areté may refer to:

Abstract notions
  • Arete (moral virtue) (Greek: Ἀρετή), a term meaning "virtue" or "excellence"
  • A synonym for enlightenment in the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension
Names of persons, fictional or real:
  • Queen Arete (mythology), a character in Homer's Odyssey
  • Arete of Cyrene, a 4th-century BC Greek philosopher
  • Arete, daughter of Dionysius the Elder and wife of Dion (tyrant of Syracuse)
  • Princess Arete, a 2001 animated Japanese film and its title character
Names of objects or animals:
  • 197 Arete, an asteroid
  • Arete (shrimp), a genus of snapping shrimps in family Alpheidae
  • Arête, a thin ridge of rock formed by glaciers
  • Areté, an arts magazine
Placenames normally transliterated Areti:
  • Areti, Cyclades, a village on the island of Milos, Cyclades
  • Areti, Elis, a village in Elis
  • Areti, Ioannina, a village in the Ioannina regional unit
  • Areti, Thessaloniki, a village in the Thessaloniki regional unit
Arete (mythology)

In Greek mythology, Queen Arete (; Greek: , Arêtê) of Scheria was the wife of Alcinous and mother of Nausicaa and Laodamas. Arete is a descendant of Poseidon, who, making love to Periboea, begot Nausithous, who in turn had two sons, Rhexenor and Alcinous. Rhexenor later spawned Arete with Apollo.

When Odysseus arrived in Scheria, he appealed first to Arete for protection, and she treated him hospitably. He did so on Nausicaa and Athena’s instructions, the goddess having described Arete thus:

Her Alcinous made his wife, and honored her as no other woman on earth is honored, of all those who in these days direct their households in subjection to their husbands; so heartily is she honored, and has ever been, by her children and by Alcinous himself and by the people, who look upon her as upon a goddess, and greet her as she goes through the city. For she of herself is no wise lacking in good understanding, and for the women to whom she has good will she makes an end of strife even among their husbands.

Arete is also depicted as an intelligent and generous hostess by Apollonius in Book 4 of the Argonautica, where he recounts the story of Jason and Medea.

When the Argonauts arrived at the island, Arete and her husband received them and Medea hospitably. The Colchians arrived soon after in pursuit of Medea and demanded to take her back to face punishment for the death of her father, Aeëtes. Medea appealed to Arete, and Arete in turn appealed to her husband to grant mercy to Medea. When Alcinous compromised with the declaration, “If she be yet a maid I decree that they carry her back to her father; but if she shares a husband's bed, I will not separate her from her lord; nor, if she bear a child beneath her breast, will I give it up to an enemy,” Arete went to Jason and Medea in the night and told them to marry so that Medea’s life would be spared. Through her efforts, the two were wed and the Colchians were forced to return to their homeland without Medea.

Her name appears to be associated with the Ionic noun ἀρητή, meaning "sacred", "cursed" or "prayed." Some sources claim that it means "righteous", while others connect it with Ares, the Greek god of war.

Arete (moral virtue)

Arete ( Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means "excellence of any kind". The term may also mean "moral virtue". In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.

The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, Arete is frequently associated with bravery, but more often with effectiveness. The man or woman of Arete is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties—strength, bravery and wit—to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, Arete involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against an individual effectiveness in the world.

In some contexts, Arete is explicitly linked with human knowledge, where the expressions "virtue is knowledge" and "Arete is knowledge" are used interchangeably. The highest human potential is knowledge and all other human abilities are derived from this central capacity. If Arete is knowledge and study, the highest human knowledge is knowledge about knowledge itself; in this light, the theoretical study of human knowledge, which Aristotle called "contemplation," is the highest human ability and happiness."


thumb|right| Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park is an arete.

An arête is a thin, almost knife-like, ridge of rock which is typically formed when two glaciers erode parallel U-shaped valleys. The arête is a thin ridge of rock that is left separating the two valleys. Arêtes can also form when two glacial cirques erode headwards towards one another, although frequently this results in a saddle-shaped pass, called a col. The edge is then sharpened by freeze-thaw weathering, and the slope on either side of the arete steepened through mass wasting events and the erosion of exposed, unstable rock. The word "arête" is actually French for edge or ridge; similar features in the Alps are described with the German equivalent term Grat.

Where three or more cirques meet, a pyramidal peak is created.


Areté is an arts magazine, published three times a year, edited and founded in 1999 by the poet Craig Raine. The magazine aims to give detailed coverage of theatre, fiction, and poetry, while also serving as a platform for new writing in all genres. Raine has described its editorial policy as to "publish anything we like. The result is a magazine catholic in its taste ... . The purpose of any literary magazine is the correction of taste, the creation of mischief and entertainment—and the discovery of new writers."

The magazine has published contributions by a wide range of authors, including Ian McEwan, Patrick Marber, Tom Stoppard, and Julian Barnes. It has also promoted new authors such as Adam Thirlwell, Jeremy Noel-Tod, Peter Morris, James Womack and Tom Welsford. Members of Craig Raine's immediate family such as his wife Ann Pasternak Slater and children Moses and Nina Raine have also been frequent contributors.

One of the publication's defining features is "Our Bold", in which the editorial team takes sloppy critics to task. (An index of "Our Bold" from issues 1–34 appears in issue 35, Autumn 2011). The magazine prides itself on high editorial standards and on close and accurate reading where others appear to have read superficially. Unashamedly nostalgic for the informed critical discourse of magazines such as the Paris Review, it is strongly associated with New College, Oxford, where its editorial offices are. The journal's trademark feather, or quill, which adorns its cover was created by the British artist Mark Alexander.

The journal's name is the Greek word for "virtue", and the journal is prefaced by a quotation from Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture by Werner Jaeger:

The Greeks felt that areté was, above everything else, a power, an ability to do something. Strength and health are the areté of the body; cleverness and insight the areté of the mind.

In April 2013, lapsed subscribers received a letter from Craig Raine which read as follows:

We have reason to believe that you have let your Areté subscription lapse. You should know that under byelaw 2771 of January 2003 (the Impoverished Little Magazines Act), this an offence with inevitable penalties, including: loss of intellectual credibility, increased risk of cerebral atrophy, collateral damage to your funny bone, restriction of your social circle, and spot checks by the Our Bold inspectorate.

In May 2013, Areté published its 40th issue, a 504-page retrospective including pieces by, among others, William Boyd, Ralph Fiennes, Prue Leith and Anne Robinson.

Usage examples of "arete".

The nymphs that make her train are the divine Arete, Time, Phronesis, Thauma, and others of that high sort.

I kiss thy hands, divinest Arete, And vow myself to thee, and Cynthia.

O thou, the very power by which I am, And but for which it were in vain to be, Chief next Diana, virgin heavenly fair, Admired Arete, of them admired Whose souls are not enkindled by the sense, Disdain not my chaste fire, but feed the flame Devoted truly to thy gracious name.

We have already judged him, Arete, Nor are we ignorant how noble minds Suffer too much through those indignities Which times and vicious persons cast on them.

Nor are these all, For we suspect a farther fraud than this: Take off our veil, that shadows many depart, And shapes appear, beloved Arete -- So, Another face of things presents itself, Than did of late.

Queen Arete, to whom Medea had appealed for protection, kept her royal husband awake by complaining, in a general way, of the ill-treatment to which fathers too often subjected their daughters, whether the daughters were guilty of anything or not.

King Alcinous and his queen, Arete, who also lay wakeful in the night.

And at last, when Orpheus had ended, they all went thoughtful out, and the heroes lay down to sleep, beneath the sounding porch outside, where Arete had strewn them rugs and carpets, in the sweet still summer night.

But Arete pleaded hard with her husband for Medeia, for her heart was softened.

Sirens are his most dangerous temptation, but the sea-nymph Ino helps him land on Scheria, where Arete and Nausicaa smooth his path.

So do as Arete says, though on Alcinous here depend all words and action.

And Arete sent her serving-women, one to carry a sea-cloak, washed and fresh, a shirt as well, another assigned to bear the sturdy chest and a third to take the bread and ruddy wine.

He still must be accepted by Alkinoos and Arete, and this happens in the course of the long hospitality scene that spans Books 7 and 8.

Her aid and his own wit will carry Odysseus through, and Alkinoos and Arete will turn out to be consummate hosts.

Odysseus has been taken in and fed and the other guests have departed, he has a conversation with Alkinoos and Arete that, like his encounter with Nausikaa, demands all his finesse to avoid possible pitfalls.