What does “panoply” mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: panoply.

I’ve known for some years that the noun panoply means an impressive array or collection of things. For example, you might have a panoply of musical instruments. Or a panoply of stamps. Or even a panoply of prom dresses. I think I’ve even used it in the occasional sentence myself. But when I encountered the word recently in the novel The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar, I started wondering about its etymology.

Here’s how Tobar used the term:

Instead, she threw her arm over her face and closed her eyes, embracing the exhausted darkness and the acoustic panoply it contained: a singing bird whose call was three short notes and a fourth long one that sounded like a question mark.

It turns out the the word comes from the Greek panoply meaning “complete suit of armor,” from pan-, which means “all” and hopla which means a “heavily armed soldier.” And, believe it or not, a panoply is another term for a complete set of armour. Thus, the word is also a homonym.

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