Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The two words auspicious and auspices seem so similar yet have almost opposite meaning. Is auspicious a good time or a lucky connotation while auspices is said to be an omen? If I said the weather was auspicious, is this saying the weather (maybe a storm is foreboding) at the moment looks promising?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Jasper, Matt Эллен, Marthaª, aedia λ, simchona Sep 23 '11 at 22:44

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1  
Hi Lucas. What did you find when you checked a dictionary for these two words? What is it about what you have found that has caused you to ask your question? –  Matt Эллен Sep 23 '11 at 22:03
add comment

3 Answers 3

‘Auspicious’ is an adjective, ‘auspices’ a noun. They both derive from the Latin for one who observes the flight of birds for guidance on how to act.

‘Auspices’ can sign be any about the future, but usually one that things are going to go well. (It can also mean ‘patronage’, as in ‘under the auspices of’). The derived adjective ‘auspicious’ generally carries a similarly favourable and positive sense, so there is no contradiction between the two. If the weather looks auspicious, then it looks promising. The opposite is ‘ominous’.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Auspices is plural of auspice, a particular type of omen relating to how birds fly. An omen can be good or bad, so "auspices" isn't necessarily a bad thing. An auspice can be auspicious (good) or inauspicious (bad). So yes, if you said the weather was auspicious, you'd be saying the weather looks promising.

This Wikipedia article gives an interesting history of auspices.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As OP already recognises, auspicious invariably means likely to have a favourable outcome.

As @Waggers says, auspices ultimately derives from prediction based on how birds fly. As used today, the auspices for [some future event] carries no particular implication that the outlook is either good or bad, except insofar as the rest of the text makes explicitly clear.

Having said that, auspices isn't normally used in that fashion, partly because we tend to use omens and signs instead. The more common usage for the word today is under the auspices of XXX, where it means with the help or protection of XXX.

Presumably the help/protection meaning arose from the recognition that the birds themselves do not deliberately adjust their flight pattern in order to affect the subject of the prophecy; they mindlessly fly in such a way as to reflect the already-written future.

Once a concious entity XXX is introduced into the metaphor, XXX can choose whether to exhert his/its influence for good or ill. For reasons which are not clear to me, our modern idiomatic usage is based on the assumption that XXX is always well-disposed to whoever's future he controls.

(if anyone knows how to deftly avoid the ungrammatical whoever's there, please enlightened me!)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.