Posts Tagged ‘senate’


I love it when one (two?) of my guilty pleasures—crosswords and word games—also turns out to be a learning tool.

This time, the word-of-the-week is actually a phrase: sub rosa, Latin for under the rose. Yes, of course we knew that, but did we know why it was used to designate a secret meeting?

Lady with the Rose (Charlotte Louise Burckhardt) by John Singer Sargent*

OK, I’ll share my new knowledge and you can feel free to click your tongue and say you knew it all along.

According to one source (and checked through a wiki-search), the rose as a symbol of secrecy dates back to Greek mythology (doesn’t everything?).

In Roman times, senators would hang a rose from the ceiling of the room where secret meetings were held. The phrase is still used to indicate secrecy, confidentiality, or, as we say more often lately, “a cone of silence.”

Maybe I’ll try this some time when I’m in a confessional mood with my friends. Who will be the first to ask why there’s a rose hanging from my ceiling?

* More on the beautiful painting, Open Access from The Met, Fifth Avenue: 1882, oil on canvas, bequest of Valerie B. Hadden, 1932.