Word of the Day - Thursday, February 11th

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Word of the Day


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The Cruciverbalist


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ROC (rawk)

A mythical bird of prey having enormous size and strength

Common clues: Fabled flier; “Arabian Nights” bird; Legendary bird; Sinbad's transport; Mythical bird; Big bird

Crossword puzzle frequency: 2 times a year

Frequency in English language: 35629 / 86800

A roc or rukh is a mythical white bird of enormous size and strength that is reputed to have been able to lift and eat elephants.

Roc destroying Sindbad's ship from The Book of Knowledge, The Grolier Society, 1911

The origin of the myth about the roc is unknown, and it is possible that the myth originated from an actual bird, with references to it being known from early as the 8th century from Middle-Eastern authors. There are reported sightings of this bird as recently as the 16th century by an English traveller who visited the Indian Ocean. There are also the Thunderbirds of Native American legends, which may be related to rocs, and some sightings are still reported to this day.

Another source could be the enormous Aepyornis or elephant bird from Madagascar, an extinct flightless bird like a three-meter ostrich.

The Rook chess piece may originally have been based on a roc, although the dominant hypothesis is a siege tower mounted on an elephant.

The legend of the roc, popularized in the West in the 1001 Nights' tales of Sindbad the Sailor, was widely spread in the East; and in later times the home of the bird was sought in the region of Madagascar, whence gigantic fronds of the raffia palm very like a quill in form appear to have been brought under the name of roc's feathers (see; Yule's Marco Polo, bk. iii. ch. 33, and Academy, 1884, No. 620). Such a feather was brought to the Great Khan, and we read also of a gigantic stump of a roc's quill being brought to Spain by a merchant from the China seas (Abu Hamid of Spain, in Damiri, s.v.).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Roc".