A concise inventory of Greek etymologies (CIGE) is an ongoing publication that will be expanded and revised as time goes on. This project’s goal is to provide access to etymologies that are important for the study of Greek culture and that are often not yet referenced in the conventional dictionaries. CIGE represents an understanding of Greek—and especially Homeric—etymology as part of the formulaic system of early Greek poetry. Read more …
A Concise Inventory of Greek Etymologies
“… when the gods gave me this man to tame (: to kill)” (Iliad 22.379)
ἐν δὲ δικαιοσύνῃ συλλήβδην πᾶσ᾿ἀρετή᾿στί
ábhūd u pārám étave
pánthā r̥tásya sādhuyā́
sīṣ̌ā nā̊ aṣ̌ā paϑō vaŋhə̄uš xvaētəṇg manaŋhō
Δάειρα, Δαῖρα (Dáeira, Daîra)
‘For the ancient ones assign to Dáeira the power over moistness’
One may add that Dáeira’s connection to ‘water’ is also reflected by her mythological pedigree. According to Pherecydes (fragment 45 Fowler) she is the sister of River Styx, while Pausanias (1.38.7) identifies her as the daughter of Okeanos. All these data provide support for Nikolaev’s (2019) etymology: Dáeira is a substantivized feminine adjective of the same type as Greek píeira, Sanskrit pī́varī ‘fat’, with a suffix *-u̯er-ih2 entangling a possessive meaning ‘having/possessing X.’ The basis *da- of Dá-(w)eira could be connected with the same root figuring in several names of rivers or mythological/divine figures linked to the element ‘water’, such as OInd. Dānu- (name of the water serpent Vr̥tra), Scythian Tanais, Irish Danu, Welsh Don, Lithuanian Dunōjus, Latvian Duņavas, Germanic Danube, and the Greek god’s name Poseidon (Poseidáōn), which is commonly etymologized as ‘Lord of the Water(s)’ (maybe reflecting an univerbation of a vocative ‘O Lord of the Waters!’).
τατον ἐπιχθονίων. ὃ καὶ
δαιμόνεσσι δίκας ἐπείραινε
who rendered díkai [judgments, justice] even for the gods
πιείρῃ, ἵνα μή τι δίκης ἐπιδευὲς ἔχῃσθα
so that you may have no lack in díkē.
Ἠέλιον πόμπεθεν ἀγακλυμένη Ἐρύθεια
κοιΐλη, Ἡφαίστου χερσὶν ἐληλαμένη,
χρυσοῦ τιμήεντος, ὑπόπτερος, ἄκρον ἐφ’ ὕδωρ
εὕδονθ’ ἁρπαλέως χώρου ἀφ’ Ἑσπερίδων
γαῖαν ἐς Αἰθιόπων
Kālabad ik vakara / Gaisa gali atsārkuši? / Saule savus zīda svārkus / Ik vakara vēdināja
‘Why does the edge of the sky glow red every evening? The Sun airs her silk skirt every evening.’
Latvian Daina 33793
Kālabad šo rītiņu / Tik sarkana Saule lēce? / Vai tā bija rājusies / Ar Dieviņa māmuļīti?
‘Why has Saule woken up so red this morning? Did she quarrel with the Mother of God?’
A further Daina explicitly confirms that Saule turns red during the night:
Saulīt’ bāla noiedama, / Atstāj laivu uz ūdeņa; / Rītā, sārta uzlēkdama, / Pārved laivu maliņā
‘Saule, pale when she goes to bed, leaves her boat on the water. In the morning, when she wakes up in red, she brings the boat ashore.’
Dainas may preserve a further link between the color red and the travel of the Sun-goddess. In one folksong, attested in the Latvian regions of Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Zemgale, Saule’s vehicle on the Daugava is pulled by a red fish :
Saule brauca pār Daugavu / Laša kaula kamaņiņas / Asarītis zirgu dzina / Rauda tura kamaņiņas
‘Saule crossed the Daugava on a little sledge of salmon’s bones. The pole impelled the horse, the rauda (gardon/roach-fish) held the little sledge’
Significantly, the Latvian name of the red-fish, rauda , is an etymological congener of Erútheia, since it reflects a thematic derivative *h1roudh–o– ‘red’, also underlying Vedic lohá– ‘red metal’, Umbrian rofu, rofa, Gothic rauþs, Old Irish rúad ‘red.’
εἶπε δὲ χωσαμένα “τίς μοι καλὰ δένδρεα κόπτει;” […]
αὐτίκα οἱ χαλεπόν τε καὶ ἄγριον ἔμβαλε λιμόν
αἴθωνα κρατερόν, μεγάλᾳ δ’ ἐστρεύγετο νούσῳ
- warriors dragging off dead bodies (nekrón, nekroús, see Iliad 5.573+) for plunder or ransom;
- dogs and birds of prey dragging corpses and tearing them apart, e.g. Iliad 11.454 οἰωνοὶ ὠμησταὶ ἐρύουσι ‘but the birds that eat raw flesh will rend (you)’;
- the violent dragging of someone by one of his/her body-parts, indicated in the genitive case, by means of a complement [ἐκ – body-partgen.] or an equivalent adverb, see, for instance, Odyssey 22.187–188 τὼ δ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἐπαΐξανθ᾿ ἑλέτην ἔρυσάν τέ μιν εἴσω || κουρίξ “then the two of them sprung upon and seized him. They dragged him (: Melanthios) in by the hair”;
- the vehement extraction of an object from a surface, e.g. Iliad 16.862–863 δόρυ χάλκεον ἐξ ὠτειλῆς || εἴρυσε λὰξ προσβάς “he drew the spear of bronze out of the wound, planting his heel (on the dead man)”
- the ripping of a plant, e.g. Odyssey 10.302–303 ὣς ἄρα φωνήσας πόρε φάρμακον Ἀργεϊφόντης || ἐκ γαίης ἐρύσας “so saying, Argeïphontes gave me the herb, pulling it out of the ground.”
Remarkably, erusíkhthōn occurs as an epithet of a plowing animal in a fragment by the comic poet Straton (4th–3rd century BCE):
‘βοῦν δ’ εὐρυμέτωπον;’ ‘οὐ θύω βοῦν, ἄθλιε’
tr̥ṣú yád agne vaníno vr̥ṣāyáse ‘ kr̥ṣṇáṃ ta éma rúśadūrme ajara
αὐτοκασιγνήτην, ἥ οἱ τέκε κάλλιμα τέκνα,
Ἠῶ τε ῥοδόπηχυν ἐυπλόκαμόν τε Σελήνην
Ἠέλιόν τ᾽ ἀκάμαντ᾽(α) […]
pratīcī́ cákṣur urviyā́ ví bhāti
jyótir yáchantīr uṣáso vibhātī́ḥ
ájījanan sū́riyaṃ yajñám agním
apācī́naṃ támo agād ájuṣṭam
Ἴθας or Ἴθαξ (Ithas or Ithax)
Κύκνος and κύκνος (Kúknos and kúknos)
αὐτὸν καὶ πατέρα ὅν Ἄρην, ἄατον πολέμοιο,
τεύχεσι λαμπομένους σέλας ὣς πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο,
ἑσταότ᾽ ἐν δίφρῳ· χθόνα δ᾽ ἔκτυπον ὠκέες ἵπποι
νύσσοντες χηλῇσι, κόνις δέ σφ᾽ ἀμφιδεδήει
λάμπεν ὑπὸ δεινοῖο θεοῦ τευχέων τε καὶ αὐτοῦ
πῦρ δ᾽ ὣς ὀφθαλμῶν ἀπελάμπετο.
ἠλίβατος, πληγεῖσα Διὸς ψολόεντι κεραυνῷ·
śúcir vípraḥ śúciḥ kavíḥ
śúcī rocata ā́hutaḥ
ánūnavarcā úd iyarṣi bhānúnā
bŕ̥haspátim anarvā́ṇaṃ huvema
populeas inter frondes umbramque sororum
dum canit et maestum Musa solatur amorem,
canentem molli pluma duxisse senectam,
linquentem terras et sidera voce sequentem.
- the Sabellic adjective cyprum, glossed as bonum ‘good’ by Varro, which lived on in the divine appellative cupra dea (i.e. bona dea ‘Good Goddess’), and in the Italian toponym Cupra Marittima;
- the South Picenian adverb < kuprí > (AQ 2, Capestrano) ‘beautifully’ (as a last reference, see Martzloff 2011:196);
- the Old Irish compound accobor (reflecting *ad-kŭpro-) ‘desire’, related to the verb ad·cobra ‘he wishes, desires’;
- the Lycian verb kupri– ‘to want’ (Serangeli: forthcoming), whose denominative formation matches the structure of the Old Irish verb.
This set of forms speaks for the existence of a ró-adjective, *kupró- ‘desirable’, which was substantivized into *kupri– ‘desire’ through the morpheme –i-. Kúpris is therefore the personification of ‘Desire’.
“… having the márgon mouth of Éris”
2 pa-ta, ma-ka ΗORD Ṭ 1̣ V 2 Z 2 a-ko-da-mo V 2
The term has been interpreted as /māi gāi/ ‘for mother earth’ by Ruijgh (1996) and as a dative /magāi/ ‘for the kneading’ by Palaima (2000–2001). Both these interpretations are problematic: /māi gāi/ ‘for mother earth’ is linguistically defendable, but incompatible with the context of the Thebes tablet Fq 254; /magāi/ ‘for the kneading’ is linguistically difficult since it does not match its alleged alphabetical Greek correspondent máza (μάζα, from *magi̯a-).
‘mérgize : eat at once!’
Hesychius μ 1648 L μόργιον· μέτρον γῆς
‘mórgion : measure of land’
Hesychius μ 1649 L μόργος· φραγμός […]
‘mórgos : fencing in’
and she pours forth, changing it around thick and fast, a voice with many resoundings,
Προμηθεύς and Ἐπιμηθεύς (Promētheús and Epimētheús)
ποικίλον αἰολόμητιν, ἀμαρτίνοόν τ᾽ Ἐπιμηθέα
hótāraṃ viśvā́ápsuṃ viśvádevyam
ní yáṃ dadhúr manuṣíyā̀su vikṣú
súvàr ṇá citráṃ vápuṣe vibhā́vam
More specifically, since Greek names in -eús usually pair with names in -o-, just as in the case of hippeús ‘horseman’ and híppos ‘horse’ (Schindler 1976), a name Pro-mētheús might have paired with a form reconstructable as *pro-māthó- a derivative with lengthened a-grade to the root *math2– ‘to rob’ (see Oettinger 2016), underlying the Sanskrit term pramātha– ‘theft’. The very same root may underlie the name of another Old Indic fire-thief. As firstly suggested by Fay (1904:155), in the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa (220.127.116.11-21), Agni is said to have been carried in the mouth of King Māthava, who accidentally let him flash out in pronouncing the word for ‘ghee.’ The name Māthava, who acts as a ‘fire-concealer’ in the Vedic episode, could be a further Old Indic congener of Greek Promētheús (Gotō 2000:110, 2014:241).
σάος, πολὺς εὖτ’ ἂν ἐπιβρίσαις ἕπηται
Nagy argues that in this passage ἐπιβρίσαις / epibrísais, derived from the verb epi-brī́thō ‘weigh heavily’, hints at húbris, since “this verb is semantically parallel to the noun húbris, the etymology of which is recapitulated in these quoted words of Pindar concerning material prosperity, ólbos, described as coming down with its full weight upon its owner.”
ῥηιδίως φερέμεν δύναται, βαρύθει δε ὑπ’ αὐτῆς
can bear it easily, but is weighed down by it.
The sentiment of these Hesiodic lines is nearly equivalent to that expressed in Pindar’s Pythian 3.105–106, discussed by Nagy and quoted at the beginning of this entry (Nagy 1994:280–281). In both cases, the mortal is unable to bear the weight that falls upon him. In Hesiod, this weight is explicitly húbris. In Pindar, the weight is that of excessive prosperity, ólbos, but, as Nagy, suggests, a hint at húbris is contained in the participle ἐπιβρίσαις / epibrísais (derived from epi-brī́thō ‘weigh heavily’), which recapitulates the etymology of húbris (the prefix epi– (ἐπί) corresponds to hu- (ὑ-) and is followed, as in húbris, by the stem bri-).
ἀνθρώποις ὁπόσοις μὴ νόος ἄρτιος ᾖ
ἀνθρώπῳ καὶ ὅτῳ μὴ νόος ἄρτιος ᾖ
φύλαξ, Φύλακος (Phúlaх and Phúlakos)
ἀλλ᾽ ἐγρηγορτὶ σὺν τεύχεσιν εἵατο πάντες.
ὡς δὲ κύνες περὶ μῆλα δυσωρήσωνται ἐν αὐλῇ
θηρὸς ἀκούσαντες κρατερόφρονος, ὅς τε καθ᾽ ὕλην
ἔρχηται δι᾽ ὄρεσφι· πολὺς δ᾽ ὀρυμαγδὸς ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ
ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ κυνῶν , ἀπό τέ σφισιν ὕπνος ὄλωλεν·
ὣς τῶν νήδυμος ὕπνος ἀπὸ βλεφάροιιν ὀλώλει
νύκτα φυλασσομένοισι κακήν · […]
The parallel between barking dogs and sentinels is also found in Plato: In the Republic (375a, 375e), Plato explicitly compares the sentinels of the ideal state, phúlakes, to young dogs (skúlakes, kúnes).