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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"words as grammatical units in a language," 1906, coined by U.S. philosopher Charles S. Pierce (1839-1914), from Greek pheme (see fame (n.)).


In Greek mythology, Pheme ( ; Greek: , Roman equivalent: Fama) was the personification of fame and renown, her favour being notability, her wrath being scandalous rumors. She was a daughter either of Gaia or of Elpis (Hope), was described as "she who initiates and furthers communication" and had an altar at Athens. A tremendous gossip, Pheme was said to have pried into the affairs of mortals and gods, then repeated what she learned, starting off at first with just a dull whisper, but repeating it louder each time, until everyone knew. In art, she was usually depicted with wings and a trumpet.

In Roman mythology, Fama ("rumor") was described as having multiple tongues, eyes, ears and feathers by Virgil (in Aeneid IV line 180 and following) and other authors. Virgil wrote that she "had her feet on the ground, and her head in the clouds, making the small seem great and the great seem greater."

Pheme (project)

Pheme is a 36-month research project into establishing the veracity of claims made on the internet.