Here's a quote from Robert Hurley's translation of Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality arguing for the historical importance of the anonymous author of My Secret Life:

...he was the most direct and in a way the most naïve representative of a plurisecular injunction to talk about sex.

I've been searching for this word on Google, but it's giving me only translations, not an explanation, and I don't know the languages it provides me translations for.

Does anybody know what this word means?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist May 26 at 10:33

In short, it means centuries-old or age-old.

It's formed from the prefix pluri and the word secular.

Both from Merriam-Webster.


: many : having or being more than one : MULTI-
// pluriaxial [having more than one axis]
// plurilocular [divided into chambers]


3 a : occurring once in an age or a century
3 b : existing or continuing through ages or centuries
3 c : of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration
        // secular inflation

Secular has other senses, mostly related to things that are of the material world, or not religious, but in the sense used for this combined word it's this one.

From a translation by Linguee between Spanish and English (emphasis mine):

[...] le competen las tareas y los honores que por antigua tradición y Estatuto se reconocen a esta plurisecular magistratura.

[...] and is vested with the rights and honours to which this centuries-old magistracy is entitled to by tradition and under the Charter.

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    The folks at Larousse (a leading French dictionary publisher) define pluriséculaire to mean "qui s'étend sur plusieurs siècles": "extending over several centuries." Given that Foucault was writing in French, this is almost certainly what he meant. – Michael Seifert May 25 at 14:22
  • @MichaelSeifert isn't it almost the same? – P. Vowk May 25 at 17:42
  • @P.Vowk: Yes; it is — I think MichaelSeifert is mentioning that (highly relevant) point as as confirmation/corroboration of the answer. – PLL May 26 at 7:36
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    "age-old injunction" seems like such a natural translation; I wonder why the translator didn't just use that. – Strawberry May 26 at 8:25
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    @P.Vowk: Yes, I simply meant to point out that an equivalent word exists with the same meaning in the quote's original language. – Michael Seifert May 26 at 12:09

The prefix "pluri-" means "many", and "secular" comes from Latin and means "century". Therefore, "plurisecular" would mean "extending over several/many centuries".

Definition of "secular":

3a: occurring once in an age or a century

b: existing or continuing through ages or centuries

c: of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration - secular inflation

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    Given that this is in a translation from a text in French, this looks plausible. – Rosie F May 25 at 11:33
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  • I'm still not sure which answer is better, actually. I'll look at it once again once I get more time to reflect on the matter. Thank you a lot. – P. Vowk May 25 at 22:39
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    @P.Vowk You're welcome. I'm happy with my score of 9, so thanks anyway. – Gustavson May 25 at 22:44

This is, in fact, in the dictionary:

(rare, academic) Of or related to a span of several centuries, centuries-old.

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