Monday, August 08, 2022


Helluo Librorum

Oxford English Dictionary, entry for helluo librorum:
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin helluo librorum.

Etymology: < post-classical Latin helluo librorum (in some medieval manuscripts of Cicero) < classical Latin helluō HELLUO n. + librōrum, genitive plural of liber book (see LIBRARY n.1).

In early editions of Cicero De Finibus 3. 7, it is said that Cato 'quasi helluo librorum..videatur' ('appeared like a glutton for books'); the modern reading, restored from manuscript evidence by Jan Gruter in his edition of 1618, is 'quasi helluari libris..videatur' ('appeared as if to devour books').
The OED's quotation from Cicero is faulty. For videatur read videbatur. The variant helluo doesn't even appear in L.D. Reynolds' OCT edition of De Finibus (1998); here is the text and apparatus from Claudio Moreschini's Teubner edition:
Quo magis tum in summo otio maximaque copia quasi helluari libris, si hoc verbo in tam clara re utendum est, videbatur.

helluari NV BE: helluaris R, belluari AM, belluaris Pmg., helluo PLSY     libri R PLSY, corr. P2
Madvig in his critical apparatus records manuscripts LC as reading helluo librorum.

A helluo is "A person who spends immoderately on eating, etc., a squanderer," and helluor is "To spend immoderately on eating and other luxuries" (Oxford Latin Dictionary). There is no satisfactory etymology.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, a helluo librorum if ever there was one.


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