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Other than homo osseus, are there any words for skeleton? In the sense of an enemy of in a video game or similar media, I would use larva, or "evil spirit." But, what about a formation of bones: a model skeleton, or human/animal remains? Are there any texts which mention a skeleton (other than "decaying corpse" or "bones") and use a certain word or phrase? Anything from any period is accepted, as I no longer care if my words were used in classical times, because, well, they exist now, so they'll work.

PS: I checked the handy Orbis Sensualium Pictus but didn't find anything. I was sure I might find something in the pages detailing the internals of the human body.

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    I'm no Latin expert by any means, but perhaps it might not hurt to have a look at liturgical Latin? I didn't turn up any direct references to skeletons during a brief biblical word search (else we could reference the corresponding verse in the Vulgate), but I'd be surprised if there weren't some publication from the Vatican that addressed the issue, especially with regard to publications on either anatomical research or the handling of remains. – Kaji Apr 4 '17 at 4:33
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    Interestingly, Cassell's suggested "ossea," a word not in the Latin-English section. I couldn't find anything about it online, other than the feminine singular nominative adjective. – Middle School Historian Apr 4 '17 at 13:03
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Lewis & Short has sceletus (second declension masculine), which must be etymologically related to the English "sceleton". It is described as eviscerata forma diri cadaveris, "a disemboweled form of a dreadful corpse". The corresponding Greek word σκελετός means "dried body" or "mummy".

You can find this word used in Apuleius, Apologia, sections 61 and 63. (Thanks for helping with this, cnread!)

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The word for 'skeleton' in Petronius' Satyricon is indeed larva.

Potantibus ergo nobis et accuratissime lautitias mirantibus larvam argenteam attulit servus sic aptatam, ut articuli eius vertebraeque luxatae in omnem partem flecterentur. Hanc cum super mensam semel iterumque abiecisset, et catenatio mobilis aliquot figuras exprimeret, Trimalchio adiecit:
Eheu nos miseros, quam totus homuncio nil est.
Sic erimus cuncti, postquam nos auferet Orcus.
Ergo vivamus, dum licet esse bene.

As we drank and admired each luxury in detail, a slave brought in a silver skeleton, made so that its limbs and spine could be moved and bent in every direction. He put it down once or twice on the table so that the supple joints showed several attitudes, and Trimalchio said appropriately: "Alas for us poor mortals, all that poor man is is nothing. So we shall all be, after the world below takes us away. Let us live then while it goes well with us." (trans. Heseltine)

Note that the word typically means "ghost" or even "goblin," as Lewis and Short define it:

a ghost, spectre: “larvae stimulant virum,” Plaut. Capt. 3, 4, 66: “amator qui me et uxorem ludificatust larva,” id. Cas. 3, 4, 2; id. Aul. 4, 4, 15: cum mortuis non nisi larvas luctari, Plin. praef. H. N. § 31. — As a term of reproach, hobgoblin, scarecrow: “etiam loquere larŭa?” Plaut. Merc. 5, 4, 20: “nam haec quidem edepol larvarum plenast,” possessed, id. Am. 2, 2, 145.—

However, here it has to mean skeleton, model skeleton even. He's describing a put together skeleton (made of silver) that can move. To mean "evil spirit" here wouldn't make any sense.

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I like ossea very much because it immediately made me think of an ossuary.


Gene Wolfe probably first made me aware of this term. If your intent is literary, you may want to look at Wolfe, who is famous partly for resurrecting old terms, and has a reputation as a "writer's writer".

  • Interesting; why feminine? (Is there a particular noun you're eliding, for example?) – Draconis Aug 31 at 21:58

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