Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the etymology of the word νίκη

Ἀπολλώνιος δὲ ὁ τοῦ Ἀρχιβίου φησὶν ὃ ἑνὶ εἴκει, τουτέστιν ἑνὶ ὑποχωρεῖ. γέγονε δὲ κατ' ἀφαίρεσιν τοῦ ε καὶ συγκοπῇ τοῦ ει διφθόγγου. ὁ γοῦν Σιμωνίδης παρετυμολογεῖ αὐτό, φησὶ γάρ· ἑνὶ δ' οἴῳ εἴκει θεὰ μέγαν ἐς δίφρον.

This etymology of the word νίκη from the Cyril-lexicon is, of course, nonsense, and it is even doubtful to me whether Simonides had this in mind, but I find ancient etymologies fascinating nonetheless. According to the author, the word νίκη comes from the phrase ὃ ἑνὶ εἴκει, "that which yields to one", with the first epsilon dropped and the syncope of the ει diphthong. He cites Simonides: "for one man only the goddess yields in her great chariot." The goddess Victory is commonly described as bringing the victor in her chariot (ἅρμα or δίφρος).

Incidentally, I think I've only just noticed this word τουτέστιν, which seems to be the equivalent of "i.e." (i.e., id est) or "that is".


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