Arachnid is a noun and defined as a class of arthropods comprised of terrestrial invertebrates, including spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks, and has a segmented body divided into two regions of which the anterior bears four pairs of legs but no antennae.
Arachnid is one of the many words in the English language that has its roots in Greek mythology. In this case, the word arachnid derives from the story of Arachne, a talented and skillful weaver, written by the Roman poet Ovid in his epic poem Metamorphoses.
Arachne, the daughter of a dyer, was known throughout her town as a master weaver and spent her time weaving beautiful tapestries. Arachne was boastful and although mortal, would often compare her skills to the Greek goddess Athena (the gods did not like to be compared to mortals). Upon hearing this comparison, Athena became enraged and disguised herself as an old woman. As an old woman Athena warned Arachne about her boasting: “You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul.” However, Arachne was not deterred and replied to the old woman, “Ha! I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself.” Infuriated by Arachne’s remarks, Athena revealed herself and challenged Arachne to a “weave off”, which Arachne accepted.
Upset with the mistreatment of mortals, Arachne weaved beautiful tapestries showcasing how anytime mortals compared themselves to the gods, the gods would mislead, abuse, and assault the mortals. Athena, knowing that she had lost, became enraged by these beautiful and prolific tapestries, which caused her to destroy them and then beat Arachne with her shuttle. Scared and humiliated by the encounter, Arachne hung herself. However, Athena, whose rage had not subsided, condemned Arachne to weave for eternity: “‘Live on then, and yet hang…at the touch of this dark poison, Arachne’s hair fell out. With it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider, weaves her ancient web.”
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Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “arachnid,”
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