Domestic pets, and all those things which help to endear home.
The Romans had household gods called pe-na'-tes, who were
supposed to preside over their private dwellings. Of these pe-na'-tes
some were called lares, the special genii or angels of
the family. One was Vest'a, whose office was to preserve domestic
unity. Jupiter and Juno were also among the pe-na'-tes. The modern
use of the term is a playful adaptation.
“Bearing a nation with all its household gods into exile.” Longfellow: Evangeline.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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