Greek Mythology and Etymology Atlas Essay Example Topics

The etymological meaning of is by no
means clear, nor has the Greek , which in
Latin is rendered by , as yet been satisfactorily
explained. We are told that is a
diminutive from , a small upright rod or post,
especially the gnomon of the sundial, or the shadow
thrown by it; and under , we find the meaning
of a row, a line of poles with hunting nets, and are
informed that the word is the same as , line,
and , aim. How the radical vowel can change
from to and , is not explained.

What is the relation between Latin and Greek

Man could not name a tree, or an animal, or a river,
or any object whatever in which he took an interest,
without discovering first some general quality that
seemed at the time the most characteristic of the
object to be named. In the lowest stage of language,
an imitation of the neighing of the horse would have
been sufficient to name the horse. Savage tribes are
great mimics, and imitate the cries of animals with
wonderful success. But this is not yet language.
There are cockatoos who, when they see cocks and
hens, will begin to cackle as if to inform us of what
they see. This is not the way in which the words of
our languages were formed. There is no trace of
in the Aryan names for . In naming
the , the quality that struck the mind of the
Aryan man as the most prominent was its swiftness.
Hence from the root as , to be sharp or swift (which
we have in Latin , needle, and in the French
diminutive , in , I sharpen, in , quick,
sharp, shrewd, in and even in ), was
derived , the runner, the horse. This ,
appears in Lithuanian as (mare), in Latin
as , i. e. , in Greek as , i. e. ,
in Old Saxon as . Many a name might have
been given to the horse besides the one here mentioned,
but whatever name was given it could only
be formed by laying hold of the horse by means
of some general quality, and by thus arranging the
horse, together with other objects, under some general
category. Many names might have been given to
It might have been called eared, nutritious,
graceful, waving, the incense of the earth, &c. But it
was called simply the , the white colour of its
grain seeming to distinguish it best from those plants
with which otherwise it had the greatest similarity.
For this is one of the secrets of , or name-poetry,
that each name should express, not the most
important or specific quality, but that which strikes
our fancy, and seems most useful for the purpose of
making other people understand what we mean. If
we adopted the language of Locke, we should say that
men were guided by rather than by , in
the formation of names. , he says, lies most in the
assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with
quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance
or congruity, thereby to make up pleasant
pictures, and agreeable visions, in the fancy: judgment,
on the contrary, lies quite on the other side, in
separating carefully, one from another, ideas wherein
can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid
being misled by similitude, and by affinity, to take
one thing for another. While the names given to
things according to Bishop Wilkins' philosophical
method would all be founded on judgment, those
given by the early framers of language repose chiefly
on wit or fancy. Thus wheat was called the white
plant, in Gothic, in A. S. , in Lithuanian
, in English , and all these words point to
the Sanskrit , i.e. white, the Gothic , the A. S.
. In Sanskrit, , white, is not applied to
wheat (which is called , the smoke or incense
of the earth), but it is applied to many other herbs
and weeds, and as a compound (, white-awned),
it entered into the name of barley. In Sanskrit,
silver is counted as white, and called , and
the feminine , was once a name of the dawn, justas
the French , dawn, which was originally .
We arrive at the same result whatever words we examine;
they always express a general quality, supposed
to be peculiar to the object to which they are attached.
In some cases this is quite clear, in others it has to be
brought out by minute etymological research. To
those who approach these etymological researches with
any preconceived opinions, it must be a frequent source
of disappointment, when they have traced a word
through all its stages to its first starting point, to
find in the end, or rather in the beginning, nothing
but roots of the most general powers, meaning to go,
to move, to run, to do. But on closer consideration,
this, instead of being disappointing, should rather
increase our admiration for the wonderful powers
of language, man being able out of these vague and
pale conceptions to produce names expressive of the
minutest shades of thought and feeling. It was
by a poetical fiat that the Greek , which
originally meant no more than things walking forward,
became in time the name of cattle, and particularly
of sheep. In Sanskrit, , meaning , from
, to go, became the name of river; , meaning
the same, what runs or goes, was used for sap, but not
for river. Thus , in Sanskrit, means to run, ,
quick; but is restricted to the sense of a drop,
. The Latin , meaning going, from , to go,
became the name of time, age; and its derivative ,
or , was made to express eternity. Thus
in French, means literally anything that is
moveable, but it became the name of chairs, tables, and
wardrobes. , originally , that on which
one lives, came to mean meat. A table, the Latin
, is originally what stands, or that on which
things can be placed (stood); it now means what
dictionaries define as ‘a horizontal surface raised above
the ground, used for meals and other purposes.’ The
French , picture, again goes back to the Latin
, a thing stood up, exhibited, and at last to the
root of , to stand. A , the Latin ,
comes from the same root, but it was applied to
the standing-place of animals, to stalls or sheds.
That on which a thing stands or rests is called its
, and in Greek meant originally no more
than going, the base being conceived as ground on
which it is safe to walk. What can be more general
than , originally the make or shape of a thing,
then the ? Yet the same expression is repeated
in modern languages, being evidently a mere
corruption of , the make. On the same principle
the moon was called , i. e. or ,
the shining; the lightning, from , the
bright; the stars , i. e. , the Sanskrit
from , to strew, the strewers of light. All these
etymologies may seem very unsatisfactory, vague,
uninteresting, yet, if we reflect for a moment, we shall
see that in no other way but this could the mind, or
the gathering power of man, have comprehended the
endless variety of nature under a limited number of
categories or names. What Bunsen called ‘the first
poesy of mankind,’ the creation of words, is no doubt
very different from the sensation poetry of later days:
yet its very poverty and simplicity render it all the
more valuable in the eyes of historians and philosophers.
For of this first poetry, simple as it is, or of this
first philosophy in all its childishness, man only is capable.
He is capable of it because he can gather the
single under the general; he is capable of it because
he has the faculty of speech; he is capable of it — we
need not fear the tautology — because he is man.


Dec 13, 2010 · 19 March 2011 at 3:53 pm

Wiktionary:Etymology scriptorium

Quite distinct from this is that other theory which,
without the intervention of determinate roots, derives
our words directly from cries and interjections. This
theory would undo all the work that has been done
by Bopp, Humboldt, Grimm, and others, during the
last fifty years; it would with one stroke abolish all
the phonetic laws that have been established with so
much care and industry, and throw etymology back
into a state of chaotic anarchy. According to Grimm's
law, we derive the English , the German ,
the Gothic , from a root which, if it exists at all
in Sanskrit, Latin, Lithuanian, or Celtic, must there
begin with the tenuis . Such is the phonetic law that
holds these languages together, and that cannot be
violated with impunity. If we found in Sanskrit a
word , we should feel certain that it could not be
the same as the English . Following this rule
we find in Sanskrit the root , to hate, to destroy,
the participle of which would correspond exactly
with Gothic . But suppose we derived
and other words of a similar sound, such as ,
, &c., from the interjections , and (
Lith. , Germ, ), all would be mere
scramble and confusion; Grimm's law would be
broken; and roots, kept distinct in Sanskrit, Greek,
Latin, and German, would be mixed up together.
For besides , to hate, there is another root in
Sanskrit, , to decay. From it we have Latin ,
, ; Greek , and ; Lithuanian
, matter; and, in strict accordance with Grimm's
law, Gothic , English . If these words were
derived from then we should have to include all
the descendants of the root , to fear, such as
Lithuanian , I fear; , ugly.