AskDefine | Define augur

Dictionary Definition

augur n : (ancient Rome) a religious official who interpreted omens to guide public policy [syn: auspex]


1 indicate by signs; "These signs bode bad news" [syn: bode, portend, auspicate, prognosticate, omen, presage, betoken, foreshadow, foretell, prefigure, forecast, predict]
2 predict from an omen

User Contributed Dictionary

see auger




  1. A diviner who foretells events by the behaviour of birds or other animals, or by signs derived from celestial phenomena, or unusual occurrences.


diviner who foretells events by unusual occurrences
  • Finnish: ennustaja, auguuri


  1. To foretell events; to exhibit signs of future events.


to foretell events; to exhibit signs of future events
  • Finnish: ennustaa
  • Spanish: augurar

Derived 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
augur in Bulgarian: Авгур
augur in Czech: Augur
augur in Welsh: Augur
augur in Danish: Augur
augur in German: Augur
augur in Spanish: Augur
augur in French: Augure
augur in Icelandic: Fuglaspámaður
augur in Italian: Augure
augur in Hebrew: אוגור
augur in Georgian: ავგურები
augur in Latin: Augur
augur in Lithuanian: Augūrai
augur in Hungarian: Augur
augur in Dutch: Augur (ambt)
augur in Polish: Augur
augur in Portuguese: Áugures
augur in Russian: Авгуры
augur in Finnish: Auguuri
augur in Swedish: Augur
augur in Ukrainian: Авгури

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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