A genius loci is the protective spirit of a particular place.
In other words, a genius loci is a magical or mythical guardian of a certain area.
More loosely, the genius loci is the particular character or atmosphere of a place.
In other words, the genius loci of some place is its general spirit.
Many ways are correct.
I prefer "JEAN yus LOW sigh."
Part of speech:
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about one genius loci or multiple genii loci.)
The plural, "genii loci," is pronounced "JEAN ee eye LOW sigh."
(In general, you could say "genii" instead of "geniuses," but I don't recommend it, as it sounds pretentious.)
You might look at "genius loci" and guess incorrectly that it means "the location of brilliant people" rather than "the guardian spirit of a location." What's up with that? Well, we usually think of a genius as someone with gifts--gifts that you might believe were bestowed by a god or other magical being. That leads us to another meaning of "genius:" a guardian spirit. (That explains why "genius" looks like "genie." Neat, right?)
How to use it:
Use this term with caution if you're concerned that your listeners won't know it or that your context won't make the meaning clear. (The "loci" part is easy to understand, since listeners will connect it with "local," "locale," etc., but the "genius" part can be misleading.)
You can talk about the genius loci of a specific place ("the genius loci of the deep south," "the genius loci of east Hawaii") or, stated differently, a place's genius loci ("the deep south's genius loci," "east Hawaii's genius loci.")
This genius loci might charm you, reveal itself to you, influence you, inspire you, etc. You might embrace the genius loci, feel its presence, feel drawn to it, and so on. And you might talk about the people, events, traditions, landscapes, landmarks, and so on that create or contribute to the genius loci, or talk about the things that happen in accordance with the genius loci. Or, talk about the paintings, photos, writings, and music that capture or convey the genius loci.
Like the writer Robert Louis Stevenson has done, you could even say that a particular thing or person seems to be the genius loci. Stevenson's example is beautiful, so let's check it out: "...he stands essentially as a genius loci. It is impossible to separate his spare form and old straw hat from the garden in the lap of the hill...The garden and gardener seem part and parcel of each other."
Artists in particular are magnetically drawn to the genius loci of Santa Fe.
Hilo's genius loci seems to radiate from our downtown statue of King Kamehameha.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "genius loci" means when you can explain it without saying "place's mystical protector" or "location's special atmosphere."
Think of a certain place that you feel connected to, or a place you've visited that has a distinctive character, and fill in the blanks: "At/In (place,) you can really soak in the genius loci by _____."
Example: "At Dartmouth College, you can really soak in the genius loci by stepping out of the snow and into a library full of heavy millwork and green velvet."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
This month, we're playing New Word Order! It's a card game that I recently created; it involves figuring out the order in which certain words and phrases entered our language. I'll give you several words and/or phrases, and you'll use your knowledge of history, slang, technology, popular culture, fashion, psychology, etc. to put them into chronological order. I'll post the right answer to each question on the following day. If you like this game, you can download and print it to play with your family and friends. (It's free.)
Note: So far, we've played solo-style, arranging terms into a timeline all at once. You can also play this game with a partner or group, which involves creating your timeline one card at a time as another player assigns new cards to you. For the next bunch of rounds, imagine that you already have a small timeline of cards in front of you with the dates visible, and now you're being given a new card to place on that timeline.
Today, your timeline looks like this:
Carbon date, 1950
Try to decide where this term belongs on your timeline: "Barbie."
(Does "Barbie" come before "carbon date?" Or in between "carbon date" and "cold-call"? Or in between "cold-call" and "stonewashed"? Or after "stonewashed"? You don't need to generate the exact year, but decide where "Barbie" should go in relation to the other terms.)
A Point Well Made:
Aristotle: “The roots of education … are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
1. The closest opposite of GENIUS LOCI is
A. FOREIGN CURRENCY
B. UNIVERSAL PROTECTOR
C. LOCALIZED OUTBREAK
2. _____ is incongruous with the genius loci.
A. A snowstorm in late May
B. Dressing up nicely to go to Wal-Mart
C. A child's science project with a full literature review
Answers are below.
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Make Your Point is crafted with love and brought to you each day for free by Mrs. Liesl Johnson, M.Ed., a word lover, learning enthusiast, and private tutor of reading and writing in the verdant little town of Hilo, Hawaii. For writing tips, online learning, essay guidance, and more, please visit www.HiloTutor.com.
Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Today's term means "the spirit of a place." We've had a look at a few other terms about spirits, both borrowed from other languages. One starts with "j" and means literally "play of spirit," or in other words, a witty little comment or a smart, funny piece of writing. The other is very similar to today's word: rather than the spirit of a particular place, it means the spirit of a particular time, and it starts with "z." Could you recall these?
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