Word Suffixes

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
Post Reply
Posts: 81
Joined: January 17th, 2018, 10:31 am

Word Suffixes

Post by PhillipLebsack »

Van Voorst's Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary and Trenchard's Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament both have a section on the suffixes of the various parts of speech and what they mean. Some of the meanings they assign to the suffixes seem opposite from one another.

Just to give an example, for nominal suffixes:

In Van Voorst, -ος = person/thing; -ια = activity, or abstraction/quality
In Trenchard -ος = object/concept; -ια = quality, or -ιά = object, result of action.

I'm curious if anyone here knows of a more accurate or updated list of the suffixes and what they can mean?
nathaniel j. erickson
Posts: 71
Joined: May 16th, 2016, 9:27 am

Re: Word Suffixes

Post by nathaniel j. erickson »

I've never seen a "master list" anywhere, but a variety of reference grammars or specialized works have sections on word building. These sorts of discussions seem to be much more common in older grammars--either Classical or New Testament--and then again more normal in German ones than English ones (at least based on my experience). One of the largest and most comprehensive discussions of word suffixes I have seen is actually in Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, in Part III: Formation of Words. For one more focused on the New Testament, see Robertson, Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of Historical Research, in Part II Accidence, Chapter V Word-Formation (both these are available for free online in various forms and places, if you don't already have access to them).

Albert Pietersma has some online handouts that are really helpful, though sometimes kind of cryptic, on his faculty site http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~pieters ... _index.htm.

Here are a few of the more helpful works dealing with word-formation which I have found:
-- Palmer, Robert Leonard. A Grammar of the Post-Ptolemaic Papyri. Vol. I, Accidence and Word-Formation. London: Oxford University Press, 1948.
-- Debrunner, Albert. Griechische Wortbildungslehre. Heidelberg: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1917.
-- Meier-Brügger, Michael. Griechische Sprachwissenschaft. Vol. Band II Wortschatz, Formenlehre, Lautlehre, Indizies. Sammlung Göschen 2242. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1992.

Palmer's is really good, but is focused on the papyri, so it is full of words that are not in New Testament Greek (which is not bad, but it makes it harder to use, depending on your level of non-New Testament Greek exposure). The same could be said of most discussions of word-suffixes.
I'm curious if anyone here knows of a more accurate or updated list of the suffixes and what they can mean?
As far as "updated," I doubt you will find much that is more recent than the two works you cite. "Accurate," on the other hand, is a difficult concept to assess. What you will find is that there are not unified agreed upon definitions or descriptions of the meanings of the suffixes. That is largely driven by the nature of the evidence. A suffix that was productive at one phase of Greek tended to cease being productive at other stages and words often change meaning as they get older and keep getting used. What stage of a word's career should the meaning of the suffix be associated with, when the word changes meaning? Beyond that simple fact of language change, building word meanings through these suffixes ranges from really easy and obvious to cases where the connections only makes sense at incredible levels of abstraction. For a word suffix to be useful it usually has to be incredibly abstract. At a high level of abstraction, what is the difference between person/thing and object/concept, after all?

These works I pointed to are not for the faint of heart! Though, having made some progress in the direction you are pursuing, I can say that it is incredibly useful body of knowledge to have a decent grasp on.
Nathaniel J. Erickson
NT PhD candidate, ABD
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
ὅπου πλείων κόπος, πολὺ κέρδος
Tony Pope
Posts: 126
Joined: July 14th, 2011, 6:20 pm

Re: Word Suffixes

Post by Tony Pope »

Another option in English for Word-Formation is Vol. 2 of Moulton's A Grammar of New Testament Greek, available online at https://archive.org/details/grammarofne ... 3/mode/2up
Also not for the faint-hearted, but it does have a useful Index of Words and Forms.
Daniel Semler
Posts: 243
Joined: February 18th, 2019, 7:45 pm

Re: Word Suffixes

Post by Daniel Semler »

The Cambridge Grammar of Classical Greek has a chapter on word formation with many examples.

Another thought would be to grab a decent NT search engine - Accordance, Logos, etc. etc. whatever you like to use, and search for words of the particular part of speech with the stated endings and see what you think.

Post Reply

Return to “Word Meanings”