Etymology of Geass

Originally wanted to tweet this, but had more than 140 characters of stuff to say.

I was rewatching the ending of Code Geass – Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 a few days ago a began wondering where did the word “Geass” is derived from or if it was completely made up word for this anime. Neither Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, nor Wiktionary had an entry for it.

I took a glance over Wikipedia’s entry on Code Geass and didn’t see anything that popped out.

I forgot what I did, but some how I ended up on Wiktionary’s page on Geas (probably by randomly removing characters):

1. (Gaelic mythology) A vow or obligation placed upon a person.
2. A curse.

And that had quite a resemblance to what Geass or at least what Lelouch’s Geass could do. Searching the term on Wikipedia resulted in:

In Irish mythology and folklore, a geis is an idiosyncratic taboo, whether of obligation or prohibition, similar to being under a vow or spell.

Read More…

Turns out Geas is another word for Geis which is a curse/spell that forces someone to do something or prohibits someone from doing something, which sounds exactly like Lelouch’s power. However, in the anime, they’ve expanded Geass to represent different types of powers (known as Power of Kings).

Turns out the Wikipedia entry on Code Geass also explained this (guess I wasn’t looking hard enough):

Geass is a mysterious ability which certain people (witches) can bestow upon others; C.C. and V.V. are the immortal and eternally youthful witches who can grant the power of Geass; they are also immune to it. The form the Geass takes is different in each individual. C.C. calls Geass the Power of Kings. It is represented by a bird-shaped symbol which glows red when active.

Every Geass has its own unique set of restrictions, limitations, or idiosyncrasies. These factors allow a Geass to be defeated, or its power limited, by someone who is aware of its characteristics. All Geass abilities that have thus far appeared within the canon of the television series have been related to the mind, influencing such aspects as will, thought, memory, emotion, and perception. Geass abilities in the manga spin-off Knightmare of Nunnally have no such limitations.

Various characters in the series do or did possess the power of Geass. C.C. had the power to make others fall in love with her, but she lost it when she became immortal; Emperor Charles has the power to alter a person’s memories; Mao had the power to read minds; Lelouch has the power to issue commands that are always obeyed (only once per person); and Rolo has the power to freeze the perception of time for living beings near him. Jeremiah is remade into a nearly-immortal cyborg with the ability to cancel the effects of Geass on himself and others.

The power of Geass increases with use, usually starting in one eye. It can eventually spread to both eyes and become uncontrollable with repeated use. When a Geass is at full power, this person can now become a recipient of the “Code,” the power which gave the person Geass in the first place. The person who bestowed the Geass can relinquish his or her “Code” to this person, allowing the recipient to continue the cycle while the giver is allowed to die. In exchange for their original Geass power, a person who takes on the “Code” becomes both immortal and immune to other Geass and gains the ability to him/herself bestow the power of Geass on others. This transfer, however, does not necessarily require the consent of both parties involved; C.C. received her “Code” against her will, and V.V. has his taken against his will. A person with the “Code” bears a physical mark (a sigil resembling that of the Geass) somewhere on his or her body.

According to an English edition of Newtype, the power of Geass has something to do with the very existence of humankind, and it may be used to destroy or transform just about anything. “Geass” may be an intentional corruption of the word geas or geis, a term for a type of magical contract in Irish mythology.


I guess I never really did a review on Code Geass after it completed. So I guess I’ll do an informal review here.

The story was amazing! Graphics were stunning and I really like how devious and strategic Lelouch was. He reminded me of Light from Death Note (which you can watch on Hulu), another series I really enjoyed. The story was thought out well, though there were times I wanted to kill the producers for what they did to us by leaving such a big cliff hanger at the end of season 1.

I wanted to find a trailer to share, but couldn’t find a decent one. Here’s a collage of scenes with some decent music in the background:

The music/soundtrack wasn’t out of the world, but it was still spectacular. My favorite track is Madder Sky (WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS):

Listen to song w/o animation: Code Geass R2 OST – Madder Sky. Current play count according to iTunes: 103

Code Geass is definitely one of my top 10 anime series of all times. I’ve said that for quite a few animes. I wonder what’s still on that list. Off the top of my head in no particular order:

  • Rurouni Kenshin
  • Trigun
  • Monster
  • Hikaru no Go
  • Code Geass
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Death Note
  • 12 Kingdoms (Juuni Kokki)
  • Berserk

That’s 9. If you give me some time, I can probably think of 1 more or maybe even more to push down some of them. There were other series I’ve seen, which I really enjoyed but with favorites, there must be great emotional attachment, which I found in all of the above. Other series I really enjoyed, but not top 10 quality, include Full Metal Panic, Azumanga Daioh, Full Metal Alchemist, Detective Conan, Hellsing, and tons more.

Code Geass (season 2) is actually currently playing on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. Unfortunately, these are dubbed. They’re not bad, but the original Japanese dubs are a lot better in my opinion.

3 thoughts on “Etymology of Geass

  1. RayAlome asked me the other day if my favorite song was performed by my favorite band, and besides the fact I would probably never be able to pick out my favorite song nor favorite band, if I had to chose a favorite song, it would most likely be instrumental. I find instrumental songs to have so much more power and emotional impact than any song that has lyrics.

    That may be because I hardly ever listen to lyrics.

  2. One thing I never figured out when I initially watched the series was how Nunally survived the FLEIA. After rewatching the series (random parts) probably for the 30th time, I see this conversation:

    Sayoko: During the decisive battle of Tokyo, Schneizel used another escape craft as diversion… So…

    Jeremiah: The one that FLEIA destroyed was the fake one, eh?

    Sayoko: To use Lady Nunnally to control Master Lelouch is just…

    Jeremiah: You are Japanese, right? Why do you not follow the Black Knights but rather Master Lelouch?

    Sayoko: …

    Jeremiah: You devote yourself to chivalry, as well?

    Sayoko:That may be.

    It makes a lot more sense now.

  3. Just found out that Damocles is based off Greek folklore: Damocles:

    The Sword of Damocles is frequently used in allusion to this tale, epitomizing the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power. More generally, it is used to denote the sense of foreboding engendered by a precarious situation, especially one in which the onset of tragedy is restrained only by a delicate trigger or chance.

    Though Damocles in Code Geass was more of a tool to keep everyone in fear, not just those in power.

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