Chapter 16: The Greek Noun (Declensions 1 and 2)

§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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§106. Greek Nouns of the Second Declension by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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