Etymology of ἁμαρτάνω according to HELPS Word-studies

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Post Reply
Stephen Nelson
Posts: 78
Joined: April 28th, 2019, 1:51 pm

Etymology of ἁμαρτάνω according to HELPS Word-studies

Post by Stephen Nelson »

The entry for ἁμαρτάνω on Bible Hub states the following:
HELPS Word-studies

Cognate: 264 hamartánō (from 1 /A "not" and 3313 /méros, "a part, share") – properly, having no share in; to sin, which always brings forfeiture – i.e. eternal loss due to missing God's mark. Like 266 /hamartía, 264 (hamartánō) is regularly used in ancient times of an archer missing the target (Homer, Aesch., etc). Every decision (action) done apart from faith (4102 /pístis) is sin (Ro 14:23; cf. Heb 11:6). See 266 (hamartia).

This appears to be from a publication called HELPS Word-studies devotional lexicon. But, I can't seem to find much information on it. Apparently this 'lexicon' comes with some translation called the Discovery Bible: ... d-studies/

Wiktionary says that Beekes reconstructs ἁμαρτάνω in PIE as *h₂mert- (“miss, fail”) -ἁμαρτάνω.

μέρος > μείρομαι has a reconstructed PIE form *(s)mer- (“to assign, allot”) -μείρομαι/Ancient_Greek

HELPS Word-studies is deducing that (etymologically) the ἁ in ἁμαρτάνω (with rough breathing) is an alpha privative (with smooth breathing); and that the rest of the word (*μαρτάνω) comes from μέρος.

I suppose the postulated connection is from *(s)mer- to *h₂mert-. But, I'm not sure how this is valid for etymology within the development of Greek itself, or if the connection is isolated further back in IE or PIE.

I have a (Modern Greek) Lexicon of Ancient Greek Verbs that lists the etymology as follows:
Από ρ. σμαρ- (ή μερ- > μέρος, σε-σμαρ-ται > εἵμαρται, ΠΡΚ. του μείρομαι), με το στερ. α και τα προσφ. -τ- και -αν- > ἀ-σμαρ-τ-άν-ω > ἁμαρτάνω, με τροπή σου σ σε δασεία. [...]
IE. ρ. smer-/mer-
That does posit a transition from (smooth breathing) to (rough breathing), where the alpha privative was added to *σμαρ, or to *(s)mer-

Can anyone shed light on this etymology? How speculative is it? Is the etymology, as described in HELPS valid and/or warranted, with respect to Greek?
Stephen Carlson
Posts: 3094
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Etymology of ἁμαρτάνω according to HELPS Word-studies

Post by Stephen Carlson »

J. A. L. Lee has an article explaining how bad our normal Greek lexica are at etymology. I would not trust anything from Bible Hub. In fact, I would only consider those from Beekes, Frisk, and Chantraine to be of any worth.

Beekes is state of the art, though he is including to see non-Indo-European Pre-Greek under every rock and stone. Beekes says: "The word has no known cognates, but the reconstructed root looks perfectly IE." So if Beekes thinks a word is IE even in the absence of cognates, then it is. He cites a 1972 discussion by Ruijgh for more.

Chantraine states that the etymology is unknown. He does cite F. Sommer for the "most ingenious" idea that it comes from the *smer- of μείρομαι but states that it "presents some grave phonetic difficulties." He also notes the existence of another etymology by Schwyer but without stating what it is.

Frisk says "Formation and derivation unclear," and cites von Froehde, Osthoff, and Sommer.

So, there's no consensus on its etymology. It is probably IE, but no other cognates have survived to confirm.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia
Post Reply

Return to “Greek Language and Linguistics”