views updated May 23 2018

seven the number seven is often used symbolically, denoting completion or perfection, especially in echoes of biblical phraseology.
Seven against Thebes in Greek legend, the name given to the expedition against Thebes led by Polynices, son of Oedipus, against his brother Eteocles. When both young men were killed, their uncle Creon decreed that Polynices was not to be buried because he had attacked his own city; his niece Antigone defied the order.
Seven Churches of Asia the seven churches addressed by John in Revelation, the Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
seven corporal works of mercy, as enumerated in medieval theology, are taken from Matthew 25:35–37 and Tobit 12:12; they are feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty to drink, sheltering the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting the prisoner, and (from Tobit) burying the dead.
seven deadly sins in Christian tradition, the sins of pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. They are listed (with minor variation) by the monk John Cassian (d.435), St Gregory the Great, and St Thomas Aquinas.
Seven Dwarfs in the story of Snow White, the seven dwarfs living in a hut in the forest who shelter the fugitive princess from her stepmother; in the Walt Disney cartoon film (1937), they are named Happy, Sleepy, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, and Dopey.
seven gifts of the Holy Spirit wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The list is taken from Isaiah 11:2; six as in the AV ‘And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord,’ with piety (pietas) added from the Vulgate text.
seven heavens recognized in later Jewish and in Muslim belief; the highest is the abode of God and the most exalted angels. The division may have been of Babylonian origin, and founded on astronomical theories.
Seven Hills of Rome the seven hills on which the ancient city of Rome was built: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Quirinal, Viminal, and Palatine. Rome is informally known as the City of the Seven Hills.
Seven Joys of Mary special occasions for joy on the part of the Virgin Mary, as traditionally enumerated; the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Epiphany, Finding in the Temple, Resurrection, and Ascension. The medieval church reckoned five (although lists differ); an early 14th century poem gives the Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection, and the Assumption of the Virgin, with later Roman Catholic writers adding the Visitation and the Finding as the second and fifth respectively, and making the seventh the Ascension.
Seven Last Words the last seven utterances of Christ on the Cross: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34); ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ (John 19:26); ‘Behold thy mother!’ (John 19:27); ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? [My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?]’ (Matthew 27:46); ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28); ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30); ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46, a quotation from Psalm 31:5). Also known as the Seven Words.
seven-league boots the boots which in the fairy story of Hop o' my Thumb enabled their wearer to cover seven leagues at each step.
seven liberal arts in the Middle Ages, the quadrivium and the trivium, a course of seven subjects of study introduced in the 6th century and regarded as essential grounding for more advanced studies: they are arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Also known as the seven sciences.
seven sacraments the sacraments as enumerated in Christian belief, a list thought to have been formulated first by Peter Lombard in the 12th century: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Since the Reformation, Protestant usage has generally recognized two sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist or Lord's Supper.
Seven Sages seven wise Greeks of the 6th century bc, to each of whom a moral saying is attributed. The seven, named in a traditional list found in Plato, are Bias, Chilon, Cleobulus, Periander, Pittacus, Solon, and Thales.
seven samurai the eponymous heroes of a Japanese film (1954), depicting a group of warriors who come together to protect a village against marauding bandits (it was remade in 1960 as an American film, The Magnificent Seven). In extended usage, the term may be used for a number of individuals who decide to act together when conventional systems, and protection, have failed.
seven seas all the oceans of the world (conventionally listed as the Arctic, Antarctic, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans).
Seven Sisters the star cluster of the Pleiades, traditionally believed to represent the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid Pleione. In the late 20th century, the seven international oil companies noted for their dominant influence on the production and marketing of petroleum, Exxon, Mobil, Gulf, Standard Oil of California, Texaco, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell, became known as the Seven Sisters.
Seven Sleepers, in early Christian legend, seven noble Christian youths of Ephesus who fell asleep in a cave while fleeing from the Decian persecution and awoke 187 years later. The legend was translated from the Syriac by Gregory of Tours (6th century) and is mentioned in other sources, including the Koran.
Seven Sorrows of Mary seven particular griefs of the Virgin Mary, as enumerated in medieval theology: the prophecy of Simeon; the flight into Egypt; the three-day loss of the child Jesus in Jerusalem; the meeting with Jesus on the way to Calvary; the Crucifixion; the taking down from the Cross; and the entombment of Jesus. The Servite order, founded in the 13th century, was devoted to meditation on the sorrows of the Virgin, and the enumeration developed from this.
seven spiritual works of mercy as enumerated in Christian belief: conversion of the sinner, instruction of the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, patient endurance of wrong, forgiveness of injuries, and prayer for the living and the dead.
seven stars a former name for the Pleiades and the Great Bear.
Seven Wonders of the World the seven most spectacular man-made structures of the ancient world. Traditionally they comprise (1) the pyramids of Egypt, especially those at Giza; (2) the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; (3) the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus; (4) the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Asia Minor, rebuilt in 356 bc; (5) the Colossus of Rhodes; (6) the huge ivory and gold statue of Zeus at Olympia in the Peloponnese, made by Phidias c.430 bc; (7) the Pharos of Alexandria (or in some lists, the walls of Babylon). The earliest extant list of these dates from the 2nd century bc.
seven year itch originally (in literal use, recorded from the late 19th century) a condition lasting for or recurring after seven years; now, a supposed tendency to infidelity after seven years of marriage; in modern usage, the term was reinforced by Billy Wilder's film The Seven Year Itch (1955), starring Marilyn Monroe.
Seven Years War a war (1756–63) which ranged Britain, Prussia, and Hanover against Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Spain. Its main issues were the struggle between Britain and France for supremacy overseas, and that between Prussia and Austria for the domination of Germany. The war was ended by the Treaties of Paris and Hubertusburg in 1763, leaving Britain the supreme European naval and colonial power and Prussia in an appreciably stronger position than before in central Europe.

See also keep a thing seven years, you should know a man seven years before you stir his fire, one year's seeding makes seven years' weeding, rain before seven, six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman.


views updated Jun 11 2018

sev·en / ˈsevən/ • cardinal number equivalent to the sum of three and four; one more than six, or three less than ten; 7: two sevens are fourteen | the remaining seven were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. (Roman numeral: vii, VII.) ∎  a group or unit of seven people or things: animals were offered for sacrifice in sevens. ∎  seven years old: my mother died when I was seven. ∎  seven o'clock: the meeting doesn't finish until seven. ∎  a size of garment or other merchandise denoted by seven. ∎  a playing card with seven pips.ORIGIN: Old English seofon, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zeven and German sieben, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin septem and Greek hepta.


views updated May 14 2018

seven OE. seofon = OS. sibun (Du. zeven), OHG. sibun (G. sieben), ON. sjau, Goth. sibun :- Gmc. *sebun :- IE. *septḿ, repr. by Skr. saptá, Gr. heptá, L. septem, OSl. sedmī, Lith. septyní, OIr. secht.
So seventeen OE. seofontīene. seventh XIV. New formation, directly f. SEVEN + -TH2, repl. (i) OE. (Angl.) seofunda, ME. sevende = OS. sivondo, OHG. sibunto (G. siebente), ON. sjaundi :- Gmc. *sebundan-, (ii) OE. seofoða, ME. seveþe, repl. in ME. by sevenρe = OS. sivoðo :- Gmc. *sebunþo-. seventy OE. (hund)seofontiġ = OS. sivuntig, OHG. sibunzug, ON. sjautigr; see -TY1.