Pious - pius
Don't confuse the two words pious (a good English word) and pius - a word occasionally seen in English writing, although basically Latin. Sometimes the latter appears as a proper name. The two can be pronounced in the same way ('PIE-ers', IPA: /ˈpaɪ əs/); although purists and pedants sometimes realize Pius as 'PEE-oos', IPA: /ˈpiː əs/.
- Pious means at root 'religious', 'devout', 'doing things in the way deemed appropriate by religion'. It can be used to signal membership of a particular Christian group, as in "he is a pious Catholic", which might be used to signal 'he eats no meat on Fridays', or indeed other religions: "She is a pious Muslim" might signal 'don't offer her pork'. You may come across two other usages:
- Pious wishes (or 'hopes', etc) are those that seem optimistic, with an implication of 'unrealistic', 'unlikely to actually happen'.
- Even less respectable is the meaning of 'hypocritical', or 'pretending to [religious] virtue that is not sincere'; 'using [pretended] religion to persuade others to do what you want'. Sanctimonious may be a less ambiguous way of expressing the idea.
- The abstract noun meaning 'the quality of being pious' is piety, pronounced similarly: 'PIE-et-i', IPA: /ˈpaɪ ət ɪ/.
- The Italian equivalent, pietà ('pee-eh-TA', IPA: /piː e ˈta/; sometimes, wrongly, '
pee-EH-ta' IPA: / piː ˈe ta/, is used in the study of art, where it specifically refers to pictures, statues etc of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of the crucified Christ. She is most often shown kneeling, with the body in her lap.
- The Latin adjective pius (from which pious is derived) was less specifically religious. It meant 'dutiful'; 'doing one's duty [to gods, to parents, to kin or to country, etc]'. It is famously the Stock epithet given by Vergil to the great founding hero of the Romans, Aeneas, who earned it by carrying his aged father Anchises on his back from the ruins of burning Troy. Tum pius Aeneas... is a common group of words in the Aeneid.
- As a proper noun, Pius is used mostly as a regnal name of Popes. (in Italian, it is written Pio (pronounced 'pee-oh', IPA: /piː o/); in English, it is usually the same as pious - although some affect the Latin pronunciation. There have been twelve Pope Piuses up to 2010. (An American schismatic, Lucian Pulvermacher (1918-2009), was briefly known as [anti]pope Pius (XIII) to a very few.) There has also been a Roman Emperor, Antoninus Pius (138-160), and a few other people recorded from ancient Rome, as well as occasional individuals in the modern world.