I came across this word in Joyce's Ulysses, but can't remember what it was. I only remember looking up the definition, which was something like "existing in this world as opposed to an imagined one." This makes it somewhat synonymous with "real," "actual," or "factual," but it's not any word that commonly appears in thesauri (or anywhere for that matter), so don't expect to find it in your average thesaurus. I've already looked through several. I believe it was a Latinate word, however. Anybody familiar with Ulysses know which word I'm referring to?

I'm something of a logophile and found this word quite lovely. I'm going crazy trying to remember it.

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    Do you mean the novel Ulysses by James Joyce or the poem Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson? Or maybe a particular translation of the Odyssey?
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 26, 2015 at 18:13
  • Good question. I meant Joyce's Ulysses. I've edited the original post for clarification.
    – Blake
    Apr 26, 2015 at 18:13
  • Perhaps something like sublunary? That at least means the right thing, though I’ve no idea if it’s in Ulysses or not. Apr 26, 2015 at 18:17
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    @Janus That word occurs three times in the novel (I haven't read it, but the text is online).
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 26, 2015 at 18:23
  • Janus, that's it! Sublunary: "belonging to this world as contrasted with a better or more spiritual one." It's the "better or more spiritual" part that gives it nuance in context of the book's metaphysical themes. I'm amazed how quickly that was resolved. Thank you both for your help.
    – Blake
    Apr 26, 2015 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


My first thought was that it could be sublunary, which Oxford Dictionaries Online defines as:

Belonging to this world as contrasted with a better or more spiritual one

That seems to be more or less exactly the meaning you are going for, and searching through the Gutenberg Project online version (with thanks to Andrew Leach’s comment to the question) shows that it appears thrice in Ulysses:

Beneficent Disseminator of blessings to all Thy creatures, how great and universal must be that sweetest of Thy tyrannies which can hold in thrall the free and the bond, the simple swain and the polished coxcomb, the lover in the heyday of reckless passion and the husband of maturer years. But indeed, sir, I wander from the point. How mingled and imperfect are all our sublunary joys.

Mr Bloom thoroughly acquiesced in the general gist of this though the mystical finesse involved was a bit out of his sublunary depth still he felt bound to enter a demurrer on the head of simple, promptly rejoining.

Indubitably in consequence of the reiterated examples of poets in the delirium of the frenzy of attachment or in the abasement of rejection invoking ardent sympathetic constellations or the frigidity of the satellite of their planet. Did he then accept as an article of belief the theory of astrological influences upon sublunary disasters?

The origin of the word is fairly straightforward: it is from Latin sublūnāris, formed from sub ‘under’, lūna ‘moon’, and the suffix -āris denoting adjectives denoting ‘related to X’—so it’s ‘that which is related to what is under the moon’, literally. The spirit world is evidently considered to be, as it were, over the moon.

  • Bravo. The lunar connotation is especially suggestive, given the book's association between femininity (the moon being a traditional symbol of the feminine), fertility, and creativity. Joyce's wordplay never ceases to amaze. Thank you Janus.
    – Blake
    Apr 26, 2015 at 18:49
  • @Damon Glad to help out—going crazy trying to remember a word is the most annoying state of being there is! Without looking into it any further, I would venture that the Latin word reflects some level of connotation between the Moon and femininity/fertility/childbirth, as personified (or perhaps rather deified) in the goddess Juno, who is associated with all four things. Apr 26, 2015 at 18:56
  • Indeed, I see now that the word is more closely related to the meaning of "carnal" or "earthly" than to "factual." It would be interesting to know if sublūnāris has any Latin antonyms.
    – Blake
    Apr 26, 2015 at 19:04
  • A direct antonym would of course be supralūnāris, but I'm not sure if that was ever really used… Apr 26, 2015 at 19:05
  • OED also has all three (or six) of supralunar(y), superlunar(y), and translunar(y) as English words, plus circumlunar, cis-lunar, interlunar, novilunar, semilunar(y), presemilunar(y) all more or less directly from Latin into English. It also has French-derived demilune, interlune, novilune, perilune, plenilune/plenilunar, semi-lune, and clair-de-lune. The verb dislune for uncrazying someone is a nonce-word.
    – tchrist
    Apr 26, 2015 at 19:21

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