Adventures in Etymology: Triumvirate



Triumvirate by ~BlackSeaFoam (DeviantART) used with artist's permission

Triumvirate by ~BlackSeaFoam (DeviantART) used with artist’s permission

Reason for Adventure

Reading the first volume of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (Preludes and Nocturnes) I can across this word because when The Sandman visits hell to find the whereabouts of one of his possessions, he is told by Lucifer that the realm is no longer ruled by himself alone but is a triumvirate consisting of him, Azazel and Beelzebub. Definitions/Origins

trahy-uhm-ver-it, -vuh-reyt
1. Roman History . the office or magistracy of a triumvir.
2. a government of three officers or magistrates functioning jointly.
3. a coalition of three magistrates or rulers for joint administration.
4. any association of three in office or authority.
5. any group or set of three.
1575–85;  < Latin triumvirātus.  See triumvir-ate3

triumvirate. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved May 10, 2013, from website:

Online Etymology Dictionary Information

triumvirate (n.) 1580s, from Latin triumviratus, from triumvir (see triumvir).

triumvir (n.) “one of three men in the same office or of the same authority,” 1570s, from Latin triumvir, from Old Latin phrase trium virum, genitive plural of tres viri “three men,” from tres “three” + viri, plural of vir “man” (see virile).


Harper, D. (2012). Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved May 10, 2013 from

Harper, D. (2012). Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved May 10, 2013 from

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Etymology: Triumvirate

  1. We learn all about this one when teaching Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Power, strength, and charisma. The problem became one was always mistrusting the other two. Not the ideal leadership.


    • No, I can imagine it would have its flaws. On one hand at least there would be a tie breaker for votes, but then again two are bound to gang-up against the other and then what happens when there’s only two? Or do they get a new guy and then gang-up on him? Good idea in principle, not so much in practice.


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