noun: a powerful, hostile guard
From Latin, from Greek Kerberos. Earliest documented use: 1386
Notes (from Wordsmith)
Cerberus (also Kerberos) was the three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Hades, the infernal region in classical mythology. Ancient Greeks and Romans used to put a slice of cake in the hands of their dead to help pacify Cerberus on the way. This custom gave rise to the idiom “to give a sop to Cerberus” meaning to give a bribe to quiet a troublesome person.
Cancerbero (from Spanish can: dog) is one of the Spanish terms for a goalkeeper in fútbol (football). Kerberos is the name given to an authentication protocol for computer networks.
Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Some of the composer’s oldest friends grumbled among themselves that they no longer had direct access to him but were constantly running up against this young Cerberus, who answered the phone, read all Stravinsky’s letters, and organized his diary.”
Stephen Walsh; Stravinsky: The Second Exile; Knopf; 2010.