AskDefine | Define augury

Dictionary Definition

augury n : an event that is experienced as indicating important things to come; "he hoped it was an augury"; "it was a sign from God" [syn: sign, foretoken, preindication]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A divination based on the appearance and behaviour of animals.
  2. In the context of "by extension": An omen or prediction; a foreboding.




divination based on the appearance and behaviour of animals
  • French: augure
  • Spanish: augurio
an omen or prediction; a foreboding
  • French: augure
  • Italian: augurio

Related terms

Extensive Definition

The Augur (pl: augurs) was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of the birds (flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are), known as "taking the auspices." The ceremony and function of the augur was central to any major undertaking in Roman society--public or private--including matters of war, commerce, and religion.
Consider the words of the Roman historian Livy, who writes (VI.41): auspiciis hanc urbem conditam esse, auspiciis bello ac pace domi militiaeque omnia geri, quis est qui ignoret? ("Who does not know that this city was founded only after taking the divinations, that everything in war and in peace, at home and abroad, was done only after taking the divinations?")

Etymology and derivatives

The derivation of the word augur is uncertain; ancient authors believed that it contained the words avi and gero --Latin for "directing the birds"--but historical-linguistic evidence points instead to the root aug-, "to increase, to prosper."
'Come then,' Tarquin said angrily, 'Deduce, if your augury can, whether what I have in my mind right now is possible.' And when Navius, expert in augury that he was, immediately said that it would happen, Tarquin replied: 'Well, I thought that you would cut a whetstone with a sharp knife. Here, take this and do what your birds have predicted would be possible.' And Navius, hardly delaying at all, took the whetstone and cut it.'Livy, 1.35.2
The story is illustrative of the role of the augur: he does not predict what course of action should be taken, but through his augury he finds signs on whether or not a course already decided upon meets with divine sanction and should proceed.

Augurs in the Republic

Roman augurs are elected to office and are part of a collegium of priests who share the duties and responsibilities of the position. At the foundation of the Republic in 510 BC, the patricians held sole claim to this office; by 300 BC, the office was open to plebeian occupation as well.
In the Regal period tradition holds that there were three augurs at a time; by the time of Sulla, they had reached fifteen in number.


  • Beard, Mary, John North, Simon Price, Religions of Rome: A History (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  • Hornblower, Simon and Anthony Spawforth, The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Third Edition) (Oxford: OUP, 1996), s.v. augures
augury in Bulgarian: Авгур
augury in Czech: Augur
augury in Welsh: Augur
augury in Danish: Augur
augury in German: Augur
augury in Spanish: Augur
augury in French: Augure
augury in Icelandic: Fuglaspámaður
augury in Italian: Augure
augury in Hebrew: אוגור
augury in Georgian: ავგურები
augury in Latin: Augur
augury in Lithuanian: Augūrai
augury in Hungarian: Augur
augury in Dutch: Augur (ambt)
augury in Polish: Augur
augury in Portuguese: Áugures
augury in Russian: Авгуры
augury in Finnish: Auguuri
augury in Swedish: Augur
augury in Ukrainian: Авгури

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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