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
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.
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’.
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 (18.104.22.168-21), 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