Do you know the etymology of Ponos and Poena
April 28, 2009 7:59 AM   Subscribe

My boss has asked me to sort out the etymology of the words "Ponos" (Greek for Labor ?) and "Poena" (Latin for Sorrow?). The question is which came first, and are they related as it seems? Also, would those rough definitions be close to accurate?
posted by willnot to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
You definition for ponos is fine, but poena means 'penalty' or 'punishment' in Latin, and comes from Greek poine.

Ponos and poine come form different proto-Indo-European roots, so there's no connection, and there definitely isn't a way of saying which came 'first'. The root for the former means something like 'stretch' and the latter 'to pay'.
posted by Sova at 8:20 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Latin and Greek are both children of Proto-Indo-European, so usually the answer to "which came first" is, "well, neither, because they're languages that developed separately and simultaneously." Latin didn't come from Greek or vice-versa. When Greek and Latin words are related, it's usually because they're "cognate" (from the Latin word cognatus, meaning "born together"), that is, come from the same Proto-Indo-European word, not because Latin got it from Greek or vice versa. (For instance, Latin animus, "soul", and Greek anemos, "wind". No borrowing, just common descent.) That said, many specialized (technical, etc.) terms in Latin were borrowed from Greek. Much less the other way around.

Okay, so, are ponos and poena related? No. Poena actually was borrowed into Latin from a Greek word, but the Greek word is poine, which is not in any way related to ponos. Poine means, literally, "quit-money for blood spilt."

Also, "sorrow" as a meaning of poena is odd, rare, and usually poetic (and then really only in the sense of suffering, not sadness). The normal textbook translation of poena is "punishment" or "penalty".

Here's the definition of poena from the standard Latin dictionary.

Here's the definition of poine from the standard Greek dictionary.

Here's the definition of ponos from the standard Greek dictionary.
posted by rustcellar at 8:27 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Which is to say, what Sova said.
posted by rustcellar at 8:29 AM on April 28, 2009

What they said; I'll add a link to the AHD page for the PIE root kwei- (poena). Unfortunately, the further connections of Greek pónos are unknown.

What kind of job do you have where your boss asks questions like that, and can I get hired there?
posted by languagehat at 10:19 AM on April 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding wanting to know about this apparently casually philological job.
posted by adoarns at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2009

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