An excursus (from Latin "excurrere", "to run out of") is a short episode or anecdote in a work of literature [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/excursus] . Often excursuses have nothing to do with the matter being discussed by the work, and are used to lighten the atmosphere in a tragic story, similar to the role of satyr plays in Greek theatre. Sometimes they are used to provide backstory to the matter being discussed at hand, as in Pseudo-Apollodorus' "Bibliotheke".

Etymologies as excursuses

Sometimes detailed or fanciful etymologies are used as excursuses. This was used as early as the 5th Century BC by the poet Pindar. The most famous case of etymologies being used as excursuses is in The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, in which the life of each saint is proceeded by an etymology about the origin of the saint's name.

See also

*The Bibliotheke

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  • excursus — ⇒EXCURSUS, subst. masc. PHILOL. Dissertation en forme de digression à l occasion d un mot ou d une pensée d un auteur de l Antiquité. Synon. excursion (v. ce mot A 3), digression.Attesté ds la plupart des dict. du XIXe et du XXe s. sauf Ac.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • excursus — [eks kʉr′səs] n. pl. excursuses or excursus [L, a running forth, digression, pp. of excurrere: see EXCURRENT] 1. a detailed discussion of some point in a work, added as an appendix 2. a lengthy digression, as in a literary work …   English World dictionary

  • Excursus — Ex*cur sus, n. [L., fr. excurrere, excursum. See {Excurrent}.] A dissertation or digression appended to a work, and containing a more extended exposition of some important point or topic. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • excursus — index appendix (supplement), digression, discourse, hornbook, pandect (treatise) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Bur …   Law dictionary

  • excursus — EXCÚRSUS s.n. v. excurs (2) [în DN]. Trimis de LauraGellner, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DN …   Dicționar Român

  • excursus — s.m., lat. [der. di excurrĕre correre fuori, fare una sortita ]. 1. [intervento che devia dal filo principale: fare un breve e. ] ▶◀ (non com.) détour, digressione, divagazione, inciso, parentesi. 2. (estens.) [breve e rapida presentazione: e.… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • excursus — divagation, *digression, episode …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • excursus — ex·cùr·sus s.m.inv., lat. CO digressione, divagazione: riprendiamo l argomento principale dopo questo breve excursus | breve rassegna, panoramica: fare un excursus sulla letteratura del 900 Sinonimi: divagazione | panoramica. {{line}} {{/line}}… …   Dizionario italiano

  • excursus — noun /ɪkˈskɜːsəs/ a) A fuller treatment (in a separate section) of a particular part of the text of a book, especially a classic. Here is what us scholars call an excursus. If you are an honest man the following page or two can be of no possible… …   Wiktionary

  • excursus — n. an excursus into * * * [ek skɜːsəs] an excursus into …   Combinatory dictionary