Friday, September 24, 2021


More on the Etymology of Anthropos

Dear Mike,

"I don't know where Durrell came across the etymology."

One possibility might be Benjamin Jowett's translation of Plato's Cratylus 399c (Socrates speaking, Greek transliterated):
I mean to say that the word 'man' implies that other animals never examine, or consider, or look up at what they see, but that man not only sees (opope) but considers and looks up at that which he sees, and hence he alone of all animals is rightly anthropos, meaning anathron a opopen.

ὧδε. σημαίνει τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα ὁ 'ἄνθρωπος' ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἄλλαθηρία ὧν ὁρᾷ οὐδὲν ἐπισκοπεῖ οὐδὲ ἀναλογίζεται οὐδὲ ἀναθρεῖ, ὁ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἅμα ἑώρακεν — τοῦτο δ᾽ ἐστὶ τὸ 'ὄπωπε' — καὶ ἀναθρεῖ καὶ λογίζεται τοῦτο ὃ ὄπωπεν. ἐντεῦθεν δὴ μόνον τῶνθηρίων ὀρθῶς ὁ ἄνθρωπος 'ἄνθρωπος' ὠνομάσθη, ἀναθρῶν ἃ ὄπωπε.
Here's another suggestion for the etymology, whether outlandish or not, from Gregory Nagy (Greek Mythology and Poetics, pp. 151-152, n. 30):
Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]

Cf. also Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 11.1.5 (tr. Stephen A. Barney et al.):
The Greeks called the human being ἄνθρωπος because he has been raised upright from the soil and looks upward in contemplation of his Creator (perhaps cf. ὦψ, "eye, face, countenance"). The poet Ovid describes this when he says (Met. 1.84):
While the rest of the stooping animals look at the ground, he gave the human an uplifted countenance, and ordered him to see the sky, and to raise his upturned face to the stars.
The parenthetical remark about ὦψ is an interpolation of the translators. Here is the original, from W.M. Lindsay's edition:
Graeci autem hominem ἄνθρωπον appellaverunt, eo quod sursum spectet sublevatus ab humo ad contemplationem artificis sui. Quod Ovidius poeta designat, cum dicit (Metam. 1,84):
Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
os homini sublime dedit caelumque videre
iussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.

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