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Looking up ancient Greek words
November 24, 2008 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What resources are available to investigate the meaning of a philosophical term in ancient Greek? I'm looking for something far more detailed than just a dictionary or a translation of a passage--I'd like to be aware of the shades of meaning and nuances of use, historical baggage, etc. In case some context is helpful, there are a couple of Greek terms that might be useful as metaphors in a dissertation, but I want to make sure that I know all the ways that the terms might be taken when designing the metaphor. The catch is that I don't speak any Greek, either ancient or modern; however, resources in English, French, Spanish, and German are all options.
posted by philosophygeek to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
 
Why don't you tell us the term? I'm sure there are enough ancient Greek freaks (not to mention philosophy buffs!) on Metafilter to point you in the right direction. Specificity is key, though.
posted by coppermoss at 9:46 AM on November 24, 2008


I don't want to give the specific term for two reasons. First, I wonder about the nuances of the meanings of ancient Greek terms frequently enough to make it worthwhile to find the resources so I can do this kind of research on my own in the future. Second, I have concerns about compromising my pseudonymity if I reveal the specific term--in combination with other information that I have posted or might ask questions about in the future, there is a good chance of making it possible to link this username with my dissertation.
posted by philosophygeek at 9:55 AM on November 24, 2008


Search Google (to get academic papers) and Google Books for transliterated versions of the terms. I don't think there's any general resource other than that (other than dictionaries/encyclopedias of philosophy, which I presume you're familiar with).
posted by languagehat at 10:50 AM on November 24, 2008


You're not going to easily find "shades of meaning and nuances of use, historical baggage, etc." online. It sounds like you need a classicist.

Here are your options:

1. Hope a classicist sees your question and emails you.

2. Ask a classicist in your department, which I'm assuming you've already done and found no answer.

3. Look up someone authoritative in the field and email that person.
posted by hpliferaft at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2008


Ask Plato.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:46 PM on November 24, 2008


I realize you said you don't just want a dictionary, but I would think Liddell & Scott would be an excellent place to start. For significant terms, it usually gives several important sources for various usages, which at least will give you a start in tracking how the word is used by various ancient authors. Beyond that, in absence of a classicist/linguist/philologist/philosophical historian who can help, I haven't the foggiest idea how to help. Good luck!
posted by dilettanti at 1:42 PM on November 24, 2008


Whew. That's a tough one. I think you've really got to talk to an ancient specialist in your department, or a classicist -- I get the sense from hanging out with Plato scholars and the like that there are no shortcuts to actually having deep knowledge of the language with ancient Greek. There are, for example, different transcriptions of the Greek texts of this sort of thing floating about, with different accent marks on things, which actually change the meaning.
posted by paultopia at 4:26 PM on November 24, 2008


Seconding the Liddell and Scott. You may be able to find the enormous, giant, huge version of the Liddell and Scott at your local university library, possibly hiding out in a locked room somewhere. You may also be able to look up some basic info on your term at the Perseus Project, although I doubt you'll find the depth you need there.
posted by yomimono at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2008


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