Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.

Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"

Postby leonardjayawardena » June 9th, 2014, 1:21 am

What are the ancient Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"?

Are these words always used in extant classical Greek literature to refer to step-siblings? Or are there instances where adelphos and adelphē are used of a step-brother and step-sister respectively?

It would not be unusual for English speakers, for example, to refer to a step-brother as simply a "brother." Is a similar usage found in ancient Greek?

Leonard Jayawardena
leonardjayawardena
 
Posts: 13
Joined: June 9th, 2014, 12:52 am

οὐκ ὁμοπάτριος / οὐκ ὁμομήτριος

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 9th, 2014, 11:06 am

Hi Leonard, Welcome!
For ancient Greek, things are sort of based on the hetero- / homo- suffixes you are probably familiar with. Woodhouse gives ἀδελφὸς οὐχ ὁμοπάτριος adelphos ouch homopatrios / οὐχ ὁμομήτριος ouch homometrios. There is also ἑτεροθαλὴς ἀδελφὸς heterothales adelphos, where the father is the same, but the mothers are different. τὸ θάλος to thalos is a word for child (cf. θάλλος thallos - sprout / shoot). Foster brothers and sisters are οἱ ὁμογάλακτες hoi homogalaktes.

Step-/half- parents and children all have their words too, as do foster- ones.
Stephen Hughes
"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."
(Attributed to Albert Einstein)
Stephen Hughes
 
Posts: 1092
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am
Location: China

Re: Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"

Postby leonardjayawardena » June 10th, 2014, 6:19 am

Thanks for the reply.

So it appears that there are no single words for "step-brother" and "step-sister" in ancient Greek. Are there cases in classical or later Greek (without Semitic influence) where a step-brother or step-sister is referred to as simply ἀδελφὸς or adelphē, respectively (with οὐχ ὁμοπάτριος or οὐχ ὁμομήτριος omitted)?

My particular interest is the use of ἀδελφὸς in Mark 6:17, where Phillip is called Herod's 'brother," whereas in fact he was the latter's step-brother. I am interested in establishing whether the use of ἀδελφὸς in this verse to refer to a step-brother (assuming "Mark" meant a step-brother) falls within the classical Greek usage/idiom and so no Semitic influence need be seen here.

Leonard Jayawardena
leonardjayawardena
 
Posts: 13
Joined: June 9th, 2014, 12:52 am

ἐξάδελφος / κασίγνητος, Culture - Religion - Law

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 11th, 2014, 1:06 am

leonardjayawardena wrote:So it appears that there are no single words for "step-brother" and "step-sister" in ancient Greek. Are there cases in classical or later Greek (without Semitic influence) where a step-brother or step-sister is referred to as simply ἀδελφὸς or adelphē, respectively (with οὐχ ὁμοπάτριος or οὐχ ὁμομήτριος omitted)?

My particular interest is the use of ἀδελφὸς in Mark 6:17, where Phillip is called Herod's 'brother," whereas in fact he was the latter's step-brother. I am interested in establishing whether the use of ἀδελφὸς in this verse to refer to a step-brother (assuming "Mark" meant a step-brother) falls within the classical Greek usage/idiom and so no Semitic influence need be seen here.

If you are asking about what ἀδελφός / ἀδελφή could mean, that is another question. It really depends on who is using it. ἀδελφός is not a technical word with a single definition (externally defined meaning that is true in all circumstances). You need a different model to understand it, one that is more contextual. Brother is individual for each person, the boy in your household, that you grew up with, not something universally recognisable like Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

Even if the word was used in a particular sense without semitic influence, that wouldn't show that it was the "true" sense of the word. Finding the meaning in classical Greek, is not really going to prove whether or not the meaniing at another time was because of any or no other influence. The meaning it had in that other contexts would be because of the way of thinking at that time, not because of not thinking something at a different time. If you really want to see the breadth of meaning of this word, consider that in Egypt, there is mention of an ἀδελφή in the sense of "wife".

Are you working from a dictionary? You'll probably need to look at a few of them. While you're considering ἀδελφός you might like to look up ἐξάδελφος (a later synonym), and κασίγνητος (an earlier synonym) as well.

I guess there must be some references and studies you could look up. What you are asking seems to be grounded in language, but in fact it goes way beyond that, into considerations of culture, religion and even law.
Stephen Hughes
"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."
(Attributed to Albert Einstein)
Stephen Hughes
 
Posts: 1092
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am
Location: China

Re: Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"

Postby leonardjayawardena » June 12th, 2014, 9:03 am

In classical Greek, ἀδελφός means a "brother," as per Lydell and Scott. ἀδελφοί can mean "brother and sister" (E.El.536). The meanings "kinsman" and "tribesman" are given in this lexicon with the Septuagint as the source.

As I mentioned, my particular interest is the use of ἀδελφός in Mark 6:17, which I will now extend to include all passages containing references to step-brothers and step-sisters in the New Testament. In an article on the subject of whether Jesus had blood siblings or not, a writer who holds that ἀδελφός in the New Testatament may be used in a wider sense than the classical Greek sense of "blood brother" argues that if the writers of the New Testament had wanted to be precise they could have used Greek words such as homopatôr ("half-brother by the father") or homomêtôr ("half-brother by the mother"), but they didn't. For example, James could have been called homomêtôr of Jesus instead of ἀδελφός. My point is that if it can be shown that in classical Greek, too, ἀδελφός and ἀδελφή were used sometimes to refer to step-siblings, then it can be maintained that the writers stay within the classical Greek usage/idiom and it would then not be necessary to see these words as being used in a wider sense as in the Septuagint. I don't think Greek lexicons can help to resolve this issue.
leonardjayawardena
 
Posts: 13
Joined: June 9th, 2014, 12:52 am

Re: Greek words for "step-brother" and "step-sister"

Postby leonardjayawardena » June 25th, 2014, 4:33 am

A correction.

Please amend all references to brother/s, sister/s, siblings in my posts under this thread prefixed with "step" to read with the prefix "half." I meant to write "half'-" throughout. I regret this error.

Leonard Jayawardena
leonardjayawardena
 
Posts: 13
Joined: June 9th, 2014, 12:52 am

One parent in common?

Postby Stephen Hughes » June 25th, 2014, 4:47 am

leonardjayawardena wrote:A correction.

Please amend all references to brother/s, sister/s, siblings in my posts under this thread prefixed with "step" to read with the prefix "half." I meant to write "half'-" throughout. I regret this error.

Leonard Jayawardena

I'm not clear about the difference. Do you mean those having at least one parent in common?
Stephen Hughes
"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."
(Attributed to Albert Einstein)
Stephen Hughes
 
Posts: 1092
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am
Location: China

Re: One parent in common?

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 25th, 2014, 5:15 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:I'm not clear about the difference. Do you mean those having at least one parent in common?

In my understanding, a half-sibling has one and only one biological parent in common, while a step-sibling has no biological parent in common but is the child of the (non-parental) spouse of one's biological parent.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1821
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Uppsala University


Return to Word Meanings

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest