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2.4: §106. Greek Nouns of the Second Declension

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    8440
  • §106. Greek Nouns of the Second Declension

    When we first met Latin masculine nouns of the 2nd declension, we noticed a good many (like circus, focus, and stimulus) that have come into English without any change in form. There are extremely few unchanged derivatives from the Greek -ος declension, though the English word cosmos (“universe”) is very close to its Greek etymon, κοςμος. This is only because the noun κοςμος was not used as a Latin loan-word. When the Romans borrowed nouns of this type, they consistently adapted the ending to the Latin 2nd declension -us, and made other standard changes in spelling:

    G χορος khoros “dance,” “chorus” > L chorus
    ἰσθμος isthmos “neck of land” isthmus
    Οὐρανος Ouranos “Sky” [a god] Uranus
    ὑμνος humnos “festive song” hymnus
    θρονος thronos “elevated seat” thronus

    In the English derivatives hymn and throne, we can recognize common patterns of Anglicizing Latin words that we first met in Part I, §14.

    Here are some useful 2nd declension Greek nouns in -ος:

    Table 16.2: GREEK SECOND DECLENSION NOUNS IN -ος
    GK. NOUN TRANSLITERATION ENG. MEANING ENG. DERIVATIVE
    ἀνθρωπος anthrōpos man (= human) anthropology
    βιος bios life biology
    γαμος gamos marriage bigamy
    δακτυλος daktylos finger dactyl
    δημος dēmos people demography
    θεος theos god monotheism
    κυκλος kyklos wheel, circle cycle
    λιθος lithos stone lithograph
    νεκρος nekros
    corpse necropolis
    ξενος xenos
    stranger xenophobia
    οἰκος oikos
    house ecology
    ὀφθαλμος ophthalmos
    eye ophthalmologist
    τοπος topos
    place topic
    χρονος chronos time chronicle

    Most of the compound derivatives—words with endings like -logy, -graphy, and -phobia —will be explained in the next chapter. Notice the English adjectives dactylic, cyclic, ophthalmic, topic, and chronic; these are all regular derivatives from Greek forms in -ικος. (English cyclical and topical show the extra Latin suffix.)

    Table 16.3: GREEK SECOND DECLENSION NOUNS IN –ον
    GK. NOUN TRANSLITERATION ENG. MEANING ENG. DERIVATIVE
    ζωον zōon animal zoology
    θεατρον theatron viewing-place theatre
    κεντρον kentron
    sharp point, goad centre
    μετρον metron measure metre, metric
    νευρον neuron sinew, [nerve] neurology
    ὀργανον organon
    tool, instrument organ
    ὀστεον osteon bone osteopath
    πτερον pteron feather, wing pterodactyl
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