Greek goddess of love and beauty, personification of female grace, 1650s; the ancients derived her name from Greek aphros "foam," from the story of her birth, but the word is perhaps rather from Phoenician Ashtaroth (Assyrian Ishtar). Beekes writes, "As the goddess seems to be of oriental origin ..., the name probably comes from the East too. .... It may have entered Greek via another language." He concludes, "[I]t seems possible that the name came from the one languages [sic] which on historical grounds we should expect to be relevant: Cypriot Phoenician."
Associated by the Romans with their Venus, originally a less-important goddess. In 17c. English, pronounced to rhyme with night, right, etc.
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