Muse

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Muse can be ambiguous. (See also Mew - mews - Muse.)

  • In its primary meaning as a noun, a muse is a source of inspiration. Muses are usually seen as female: sometimes, 'the Muse' is mentioned at the beginning of a poem to ask for 'her' help, and many writers (and artists generally) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were accustomed to talk of "A person (often a female lover) or thing regarded as the source of an artist's inspiration; the presiding spirit or force behind any person or creative act" (OED 2020, meaning 2. c.), which cites Burns "O thou, my Muse! guid, auld Scotch Drink" ('Scots Drink', ii, (1785)).
    • The Muses, in ancient Greek mythology, were the goddesses who looked after the arts, and supplied inspiration to the artists who prayed to them. They were the daughters of Zeus, the chief god, which shows their importance, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, which shows the importance of education and tradition in the arts. Although the original texts throughout the long period of classical Greece vary about details, the later western tradition settled on there being nine: Clio, Muse of history; Thalia, Muse of comedy; Melpomene, Muse of tragedy; Euterpe, Muse of music; Terpsichore, Muse of dancing; Erato, Muse of the lyre and lyric poetry; Polyhymnia, Muse of mime; Urania, Muse of astronomy; and Calliope, Muse of epic poetry.
    • A Museum (sometimes spelled musaeum, meaning '[thing of] the muses') was originally a Temple to the Muses, and also 'a place dedicated to study', 'a school'. Nowadays it is almost always a building devoted to housing collections of interest to students, sometimes of many subjects, such as the British Museum, and sometimes to a more limited area of interest, such as the Black Museum (of crime) in Scotland Yard. The equivalent term is musée in French, museo in Italian and Spanish, museu in Portuguese and museum in most northern European languages.
  • The verb 'to muse' means 'to be lost in thought over', 'to ponder', 'to consider abstractedly'. This gives rise to the following nouns:
    • particularly in the construction 'to be lost in a muse', meaning 'a spell of abstraction', 'a fit of absent-mindedness caused by deep thought', 'a brown study';
    • (obsolete) 'a room for pondering', 'a study'.
    • Musings (usually plural) are thoughts.
  • In Middle English and later, a muse was a bagpipe (cf French musette and cornemuse and Italian musetta). It was later applied specifically to the chanter of a bagpipe, the tube that is played with the fingers to make the tune.
  • In Early Modern English, a muse could be the fruit of a plantain or banana tree (cf Arabic موز 'mawz', 'banana(s)'),