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?

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    – tchrist
    May 26, 2020 at 10:33
  • Given in Wiktionary. Mar 21, 2021 at 13:33

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 11
    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. May 25, 2020 at 14:22
  • @MichaelSeifert isn't it almost the same?
    – P. Vowk
    May 25, 2020 at 17:42
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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, 2020 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. May 26, 2020 at 12:09
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    This is indeed the correct answer to the question of what plurisecular means in this text, but it should be noted that it is a very awkward word to use as the translation of pluriséculaire. While secular in English does have this meaning, it is a rarely used one, and far down the lists of its meanings that appear in dictionaries; in French, on the other hand, it is the primary meaning of séculaire. An English speaker thus needs to pause and think about what plurisecular means, while a French speaker understands pluriséculaire right away.
    – jsw29
    May 26, 2020 at 16:20

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

  • 2
    Given that this is in a translation from a text in French, this looks plausible.
    – Rosie F
    May 25, 2020 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, 2020 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, 2020 at 22:44
  • ' "Plurisecular" would mean ....' Not does? Compounding is not guaranteeably productive. Have you supporting evidence that plurisecular is in the English lexicon? A single dictionary entry? Mar 20, 2021 at 16:27

This is, in fact, in Wiktionary:

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

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