He’s Quite Adamant

The word adamant (unwilling to change one’s opinion, certain in one’s belief) is a very interesting word. And if you read Greek mythology, fantasy literature, and/or comic books, you might know why…

The word is originally derived from the Greek adamas, meaning unbreakable or unflexible, and used as the name of a hypothetical hardest-possible substance, or in a metaphorical sense to refer to anything unalterable, such as Hades, god of death and king of the underworld.

It’s not hard to see how the word came to be used in its modern form in English. What’s curious though, is that using it in this abstract sense, to refer to beliefs, is actually very recent, dating to the early 20th century.

The word has been around for much longer than that though, entering Middle English around the 13th century via Old French. For those 800 years or so, it was used very much as adamas had been in Greek, often in relation to Greek myths, and at times in a metaphorical sense from which our modern use is clearly derived. John Dryden wrote, in the final book of his translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for example:

There, on perennial design’d,

The various fortunes of your race you’ll find:

You can also find adamant or adamantine in works by authors as varied as Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Jonathan Swift, and J.R.R Tolkein.

Perhaps the most famous fictional use of a word directly derived from adamant is adamantium, a fictional, nigh-indestructible metal featuring in comics published by Marvel. It’s probably best-known as the metal that coats the skeleton of the X-Man Wolverine, though I’m reliably informed that it first appeared in 1966 as the substance from which the outer shell of Ultron, an evil robot, was made.

Which of course raises once more the eternal question: what happens when the adamantine sickel of Cronos meets the adamantium body of Ultron!?

2 thoughts on “He’s Quite Adamant

    • Yeah, looking at it without more context it doesn’t make much sense: here’s a fuller quote, it’s about the destiny of humanity being written in adamant (and iron and brass: I guess Fate believes in doing things in triplicate) in Fate’s abode:
      When Jove—In vain, fair daughter, you assay
      To o’er-rule destiny’s unconquer’d sway:
      Your doubts to banish, enter Fate’s abode;
      A privilege to heav’nly powers allow’d;
      There shall you see the records grav’d, in length,
      On ir’n and solid brass, with mighty strength;
      Which Heav’n’s and Earth’s concussion shall endure,
      Maugre all shocks, eternal, and secure:
      There, on perennial adamant design’d,
      The various fortunes of your race you’ll find:
      Well I have mark’d ’em, and will now relate
      To thee the settled laws of future Fate.

      Liked by 1 person

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