The Hermitic tradition names four powers attributed to the Sphinx: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silence. I am looking for a short word which means "to keep silence" to use in a graphic design along with the short words for the other three powers.

My current design drafts use "know", "dare", "will", and "hold", but "hold" doesn't quite fit the intended meaning; and neither does "hide". Both "hold" and "hide" physically work well within the design, however.

An ideal candidate would be similar in length to the other three, be a single word, and not be outright silly. (I.e., "zip it" would could fit, but it is two words and idiomatic, although it is short enough to fit within the design constraints.)

In context, the phrase "to keep silence" refers to "a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate" in the words of the occultist Eliphas Lévi.

  • 3
    If there were a short word meaning "keep silence", wouldn't the Hermitic tradition be using it and not "keep silence"? Too bad this can't be in French, where Googling shows the powers are "savoir, vouloir, oser, se taire." – Peter Shor Jul 30 '13 at 1:04
  • @PeterShor I do suspect you are on to something there. The four powers are sometimes expressed in Latin with four similar sized single words. Of course, like many quasi-secret occult groups, the Hermetics thrive on round-about ways of expressing themselves. One cost of entry is learning the expected jargon. – RBerteig Jul 30 '13 at 1:12
  • I do kind of like the French expressions of the powers though. Switching languages may actually work for me... this is a graphic arts projects as much as a language project. Perhaps I should widen my scope and search out expressions of the powers in other languages too.... I have Latin, English, and French, there must be Hermetic literature in several more. – RBerteig Jul 30 '13 at 1:16
  • I was also going to say to just say it in French! – jlovegren Jul 30 '13 at 1:54

16 Answers 16


I would just use bide, a fine word if somewhat underused in these latter days.

  • Also a good choice, I agree. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 29 '13 at 23:56
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    It has the added benefit that it's the exact same length as the other words, both in number of syllables and number of letters. – JeffSahol Jul 30 '13 at 0:46
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    Nice word. And so close to bode – Tobias Kienzler Jul 30 '13 at 10:34

I would go with forbear. Although it's more general than the specific sense of keeping silence, I think it captures the idea of restraint implied in the context you've given.

  • To refrain from, resist
  • To desist from, cease
  • To be tolerant or patient in the face of provocation

And as an added bonus, you get the rhyming sequence, "Know, dare, will, forbear" :)


What about hush?

To be or become silent or still

Admittedly it's the beginning of silence instead of its continuation.

Then again, why not use the adjective silent, implying this is permanent? So "to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silence" might become "knowing, daring, willing, silent"


1st choice: "Mum"


2nd choice: "Mute"


My suggestion is steadfast.

At first read, I thought you meant "to keep silent," when in fact you mean something completely different: "a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing [can] intoxicate". Steadfast is a good compromise - it means 'unyielding'; to stay strong; to hold your position.

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    excellent analysis! In that case, serene might be a choice as well. Though both are adjectives... – Tobias Kienzler Jul 30 '13 at 13:34

If you are willing to stretch a little bit, how about considering the motto of William the Silent (so named for his ability to keep his own counsel): I will Maintain, or perhaps just Maintain for short.

I believe that this single phrase, in context, actually captures all four attributes that you are interested in.

  • Interesting, that does have a certain ring to it. Now off to learn more about said William while waiting to see what other gems crop up.... – RBerteig Jul 29 '13 at 23:51
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    As you go to read up on William, I will note that my father grew up on Anna van Buren Straat in Schiedam. You will recognize that name as you read about William. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 29 '13 at 23:54

I personally like your choice of "hold", but I do have some suggestions of my own.

These are in the sense of "enduring" (which seems closer in meaning to the words of the occultist):

  • Bear
  • Stand (as in "stand firm")
  • Stay (as "stay at")

These are in the sense of "concealing the truth" (which is closer to "hide", your own example):

  • Mask
  • Veil


to prevent from doing, exhibiting, or expressing something

But that almost always takes an object


: restrain, control : check, halt




Spelling flexibility and it ends the list with an onomatopoeic sound.



Easy To Remember!!


Be quiet: “Shush! Do you want to wake everyone?”.

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    Also just Shhh /ʃ:/. – John Lawler Jul 30 '13 at 14:12

Much like the good answers bide and abide, you might consider wait

to stay in one place or remain inactive in expectation (of something); hold oneself in readiness (for something)

While the word does not explicitly denote communication or the lack thereof, it suggests a purposive stillness that seems to fit.

  • or "rest", as in "the defense rests" (i.e., defense has nothing more to say, and remains silent.) – Deborah Speece Jul 30 '13 at 19:05

I'd consider honour. I realise it doesn't match at all to the literal meaning but I think it captures much of what the idiomatic meaning is intended to convey, your "a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate".


To keep silence= quiescent (adj) quiescence (n) (But can one move and still be quiescent?)

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    To become quiet or to become quieter is to quiesce. – oosterwal Jul 30 '13 at 23:04


To give care; thought to; to pay attention to; listen to and consider. It also implies, in my view, a reflective stance similar to prudence.

Akhenaton; King of Egypt, 14th century BC

“Hear the words of prudence, give heed unto her counsels, and store them in thine heart; her maxims are universal, and all the virtues lean upon her; she is the guide and the mistress of human life”

  • I like the notion of "to listen" here, as it is an active verb but implies stillness. To better fit the context (heed has more of a connotation of obedience), perhaps hark should be considered. – hardmath Aug 2 '13 at 0:45
  • @hardmath Perhaps it should. It's more commonly understood, for sure. – Mari-Lou A Aug 2 '13 at 6:27

shtum or schtum fits the bill quite well:

Yiddish שטום (shtum, “voiceless”), from Old High German stum.

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    I've never heard of those words before...are they English? Do you have a reference? – Mitch Jul 30 '13 at 2:00
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    It's from German via Yiddish, and is originally an adjective ('mute' or 'silent') rather than a verb. – Kilian Foth Jul 30 '13 at 6:55
  • Sounds like how a German would pronounce the adjective "stumm" which means mute, silent, voiceless - and in fact, shtum – Tobias Kienzler Jul 30 '13 at 12:44

The word Quiet is what you need

  • A good answer provides more information than this. We highly welcome reasons, explanation, and reliable sources which make it easier for the OP and the community to evaluate the correctness of the answer. – MetaEd Jul 30 '13 at 4:43
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    It has now been edited, and I agree this version is much better. But the original word was written as "quite". If Anas Salem would like to edit and expand on his answer i.e provide a link it would be appreciated. – Mari-Lou A Jul 30 '13 at 5:28

protected by RegDwigнt Jul 30 '13 at 15:01

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