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Origin of the word Panic - Little Surprise
3675    Dibyendu Banerjee    17/08/2017

Origin of the Word Panic

Panic is a sudden overwhelming feeling of terror, unforeseen pangs of uncertainty, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reasoning and logical thinking. The word ‘panic’ is derived from the Greek word ’panikon’, literally means, ’pertaining to Pan’. Therefore, it is logically considered that the word is derived from the name of the ancient Greek God Pan.


The parentage of Pan is not very clear. However, some accounts described him as the son of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and a wood nymph, named Dryope. Pan was ugly, born with two horns coming out of his forehead, crooked nose and pointed ears. In his lower limb, he had the cloven hooves, a tail and the horizontal eyes of a goat. His mother was so frightened and distressed by his appearance that she left the child and ran away. However, Hermes wrapped him in the pelt of a hare and carried him off to Mount Olympus. 


With time, he grew up and for years roamed the mountains of Arcadia, running and jumping with the ease of a goat. He was loved by the other gods, who gave him the name Pan, which meant “all”, the uncrowned god of all. However, after some time, Hermes gave his son the task of watching over the shepherds and the huntsmen of the area.


He was thus regarded by all as the god of the shepherds and the hunters, and of the meadows and forests of the mountain wilds. Apart from his job, Pan liked to torment the travelers by creating unnecessary tension in their hearts to make them scary.He also had the habit of chasing the nymphs intending sex and made them run with pounding hearts. It is said that the word ”panic” was originated from his name, as his appearance and voice created panic among others.

Pan Painted By Mikhail Vrubel In 1900

The word ‘panic’ is first recorded in the English language in 1757. ‘Panic button’ in a figurative sense is first recorded 1955, the literal sense apparently is from parachuting. Panic attack attested by 1970.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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