Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Word of the Day: auto-da-fé

auto-da-fé: The burning of a heretic under the Inquisition. The plural is autos-da-fé. Thankfully, this is a historic term that is only used metaphorically today — perhaps to describe the roasting of (heretical?) cattle (in the form of steak) at a backyard barbecue. Joan of Arc is perhaps the most well-known historical figure to undergo the auto-da-fé, but according to historian Henry Charles Lea, between 1540 and 1794, the Spanish Inquisition burned at least 1,175 people at the stake.