Printable Version
Pronunciation: ki-li-æ-zêm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: (Christianity) The belief that Christ will return triumphant and rule the world in peace for a millennium, millennialism, millennarianism (Revelation 20:1-6).

Notes: Here is a word that is rare because its reference is rare. It does, however, come with a substantial immediate and extended family. It is based on chiliad "a group of 1000", and someone who believes in chiliasm is a chiliast. The adjective is chiliastic(al). In Rome, a chiliarch was a commander of a thousand soldiers and a chiliarchy was what he commanded.

In Play: Chiliasm has had a struggle among believers: "The Gnostics opposed Chiliasm on the basis of their belief in the impossibility of paradise on Earth for redeemed sinners." The improbability of the Millennium that the chiliasm predicts was treated differently in the Eastern and Western Churches: "The Western Church's reaction to chiliasm was to set the time of the Second Advent (the Millennium) in the distant future."

Word History: Today's Good Word is from a Latinized form (KH > CH) of Greek khiliasmos, based on khilia "thousand". That is why the initial CH is pronounced [k]. It was passed down from PIE g'heslo- "thousand", source also of Sanskrit sahasram "thousand", Farsi (Persian) hazar "thousand", borrowed by Armenian for its hazar "thousand", Hindi-Urdu hazaar "thousand", Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, and Nepali hajara "thousand". Serbian hiljada "thousand), Macedonian iljada, and Bulgarian xiljadi "thousand" were borrowed from Greek. This word seems to have found its comfort zone among the eastern Indo-European languages. The western IE languages chose a compound made up of teue- "to swell, enlarge" + k'ent- "hundred", like English thousand, German tausend, Polish tysiąc,and Russian tysyacha.(Now a bow to our old friend [since 2007] Sue Gold, now retired from Westtown School, for spotting today's arcane Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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