Am·a·zon (ămə-zŏn′, -zən)
1. A member of a legendary nation of women warriors reputed to have lived in ancient Scythia.
2. often amazon A tall, aggressive, strong-willed woman.
3. often amazon Any of various predominantly green parrots of the genus Amazona, native to Central and South America and sometimes kept as pets.
[Middle English, from Latin Amāzōn, from Greek Amazōn, probably of Iranian origin.]
Word History: In classical legend, the Amazons were a tribe of warrior women. Contrary to a popularly held belief, their name is not derived from Greek a-mazos, “without a breast.” (According to the legend, they cut off their right breasts so as to be better able to shoot with a bow and arrow.) While this folk etymology, like most folk etymologies, is incorrect, the Amazons of legend are not so completely different from the historical Amazons, who were also warriors. The historical Amazons were Scythians, an Iranian people renowned for their cavalry. The first Greeks to come into contact with the Iranians were the Ionians, who lived on the coast of Asia Minor and were constantly threatened by the Persians, the most important of the Iranian peoples. Amazōn is the Ionian Greek form of the Iranian word ha-mazan, “fighting together.” The regular Greek form would be hamazōn, but because the Ionians dropped their aitches like Cockneys, hamazōn became amazōn, the form taken into the other Greek dialects.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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