The Joy of Language Learning

The Augurs and Their Auguries.

As humans, we have always feared uncertainty. The thought of what might happen is considerably more overwhelming than what is happening and has happened. This is the reason we latch onto things that promise even the slightest of glimpse into our future and make me think of astrology and fortune telling as lucrative career options, but I digress.

Now, it should come as no surprise that ancient humans tried their best to equate most things they saw to signs and symbols of the ‘will of gods’. Various customs and rituals were put into place to decipher the cryptic messages that almighty had supposedly placed all around them. A popular instance of this can be found in the Roman society wherein people used to believe that the flight of birds can help understand the signs that god wanted to convey. This is where ‘augurs’ came into the play.

Birds in the Sky
Image Source: Jaeyeon Lim/ Pixabay
Image Source: Joe Difazio/ Pinterest

Augurs, also known as the divine seers, were appointed to study the flight and behavioral patterns of birds. This was done to interpret the divine signals based on the type of bird, direction of its flight and the pitch of its sound among others. It was common to have elaborate ceremonies before undertakings like wars, treaties and assumption of offices where the augurs would present their auguries (singular: augury), or the signs of what might happen in the future. Even today the word augur is used to signify a good or bad outcome. Like it certainly augurs well for my exam if I start studying regularly, which I know I won’t. And then my teacher’s villainous smile and the haphazard scratching of his pen on my answer sheet will be considered an unfavorable augury.

Augur also inspired the word inaugurate. You might have it heard it being used to denote the ceremonious beginning or introduction of a system, policy or period.

Image Source: IAEA Image Bank

Thus, inaugurations refer to ceremonies where the above mentioned acts take place. Such ceremonies are often include inaugural speeches, i.e. a speech that marks the beginning of something.

The word august too has roots similar to inaugurate. Apart from being the name of a month, it can also be used to mean respected and impressive, perhaps derived from sense of being blessed (due to a favorable augury). For instance, here is a beautiful picture of the august Ghats of the Ganges river in Varanasi, India.

Varanasi Ghats
Image Source: Makalu/ Pixabay

A quick look at the keywords again should augur well for the exercises ahead.

Table Summary:

AugurTo be a sign of good or bad outcome; Roman religious officials
Augur-yAn omen or sign
In-Augur-ateBegin or introduce (a system, policy or period)
In-Augur-ationA ceremony where something is introduced.
In- Augur-alSomething that marks the beginning, generally used in the context of institutions, activity or period.
AugustHighly respected or impressive.

Inaugural Quiz

Roman religious officials who searched for signs and omens are known as:

What is the meaning of inaugural here?

Inaugural Speech
Image Source: The Indian Express

The bridge will be _________________ today. (introduced)

He is the owner of an ________________ mansion. (Impressive)

Image Source: David Mark/Pixabay

Click on the image below to be redirected to the Crossword page.



2. Begin or introduce something

3. Highly respected and impressive

4. Ceremony to begin or introduce something


1. Something that marks the beginning of an action, institute, etc.

3. An omen or sign

5. Religious officials in ancient Rome who looked for signs and omens

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