A word for "drawer"?

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

A word for "drawer"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 8th, 2017, 8:11 am

The wooden cabinet from Heraculaneum appears to have a drawer above a cupboard with two doors.
ImageImage
Neither LSJ nor Woodhouse have a word for "drawer".

Modern Greek συρτάρι suggests the form συρτάριον may have once existed.

Does anybody know of a word for "drawer" in Koine (or Classical) Greek?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 1025
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: A word for "drawer"?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » May 8th, 2017, 10:03 am

I don't know offhand, but this looks like an almost modern piece of furniture. Totally cool to know that drawers existed in ancient times. I think I might have the Latin word for the item itself:

armārĭum, ii, n. [arma],
I. a closet, chest, or safe, for food, clothing, money, etc.: armarium promptuarium, Cato, R. R. 11, 3: reclusit armarium, Plaut. Capt. 4, 4, 10; id. Men. 3, 3, 8; id. Ep. 2, 3, 3: cum esset in aedibus armarium, in quo sciret esse nummorum aliquantum et auri, Cic. Clu. 64; so id. Cael. 21, 52; id. Verr. 2, 4, 12: repositus in arcis armariisque, Plin. 29, 5, 32, § 101; Dig. 33, 10, 3: armarium muricibus praefixum,the boxset with sharp spikes in which Regulus was put to death Gell. 6, 4 fin.

Maybe κιβωτός?
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: A word for "drawer"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 8th, 2017, 11:02 am

If anybody is puzzled by the LSJ entry for συρτός "swept"; "trailing", in so far as the meaning "swept" is not close to "a drawer", but it is given as the etymology for συρτάριον. It seems more logical / understandable if "swept" is thought of as "that which has had a broom drawn across it". The (5x) NT word σύρειν "to drag (behind) one" will I'm sure be familiar to readers.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
May 8th, 2017, 10:03 am
this looks like an almost modern piece of furniture. Totally cool to know that drawers existed in ancient times.

...

Maybe κιβωτός?
A carpenter was a skilled tradesman, and Rome was an advanced civilisation.

Herculaneum being the closest town to Vesuvius was destroyed (buried) in 79 AD by 6 waves of 250 degree celsius (a total of 20m deep) dense and fine pyroclastic flows. Organic artifacts are usually lost from the archeological record, but in the case of Herculaneum the wood (and some other organic artifacts such as papyrus scrolls and human remains) was carbonised and preserved in geologically stable and anoxic conditions in ways that were not possible in Pompey.

As a box that could be slid in and out, κιβωτός is logical. Other chests, etc. seemed to have hinged lids and often locks too.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
Posts: 884
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: A word for "drawer"?

Post by RandallButh » May 9th, 2017, 5:00 am

Στέφανε, good question.

How have I managed all these years without a good word for drawer?

While ἡ κιβωτός might make a nice way of talking generically (and a generic go-around is the kind of thing that we do when we do not know the specific best word), I like your suggestion of τὸ συρτάριον better. It is a box that is slipped out of a bigger box. I might even have tried something like ὁ κόλπος τῆς κιβωτοῦ, since κόλπος is quite a widely used word, from 'pocket' to 'bay, inlet (of water)', a ξύλινος κόλπος.

Some possible synonyms would be τὸ ζύγαστρον, γραμματοφυλάκιον ('letter-drawer'?), ξύλινος σορός (?).

However, another reason that I like συρτόν and συρτάριον is that there might be a parallel association in Hebrew. In biblical Hebrew we have a word מגרה megerah which means 'a saw, cutting-instrument'. A saw is pulled back and forth to cut. Today, the same word is used for "drawer". I do not know the official etymological development of the Hebrew word, I only note these two end-points and I do not have resources with me to answer the etymological history.

So, συρτάριον looks pretty good.

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: A word for "drawer"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » May 9th, 2017, 6:53 am

RandallButh wrote:
May 9th, 2017, 5:00 am
How have I managed all these years without a good word for drawer?
In any laguage learning situation were we are accountable for our errors, we continually struggle with self-defeatism - both in ourselves as learners and in our students. One of the symptoms of self-defeatism is the couching of expected failures into blindspots - the avoidance of saying things in a certain way or even saying them at all. Without meaning any criticism of a natural human self-defence mechanism, it seems that many of the reactions and comments I've read about using Koine Greek as a living language are in response to the enormity and unknown nature of the task. Winning the internal (belief that it can be done) is half the struggle in anything where we fight against our own success. In contradistinction to an adult learning experience, it is interesting to see the kid having no concept that Greek might be anything other than a language, as Chinese and English are. She (still) has the postive expectation that Greek means as much as anything else that anybody says around her. Simple things like μὴ ἅπτου τῆς ἀμίδος "Don't touch the potty", Ἀναχώρει! (Ἀναχωρεῖτε!) "Give me some room here!", (Ἔξελθε) ἵνα μὴ ἐξυπνίσῃς τὸν πάππον. "Don't wake up your grandfather. Get out.". or ἡ μάχαιρα οὔκ ἐστιν παίγνιον "Don't play with the knife!", Αἶρε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐδάφους τὰ παίγνιά σου "Get your toys off the floor." produce the desired results, and whatever else is said is expected to hve a meaning too.

Speaking for myself in answer to your question about "drawer", I had believed the well-told story in the history of furniture, that cupboards developed from shelves and that the complex furniture we have today, and (especially) drawers, were a product of the modern world. Seeing the physical evidence from Herculaneum gave me confidence to at least look for a way to express something that I can be confident existed.
RandallButh wrote:
May 9th, 2017, 5:00 am
So, συρτάριον looks pretty good.
What verb could be used for opening and closing it?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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