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An idle question about Greek....
October 23, 2006 7:50 PM   Subscribe

(Language filter, idle question): does the name for the Greek goddess "Eos" also mean "dawn"? More to the point, does it have a plural formation....

OK, my Volkswagen dealer keeps referring to their many " Eos' " (sic). As a language/editing nerd, this drives me crazy. I'm sure the best plural is "Eoses". However, I got to thinking, could the word "Eos" be pluralized in Greek at all? Is it strictly a proper noun or can it be translated as "dawn"? Does any know if there is even a plural formation in the literature?

Speculation: might it be along the same lines as "hErOs - hErOes". I.e., EOs - EOes? (big O = omega, big E = eta).
posted by robabroad to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Eos does mean dawn. I kind of suspect there's no plural form in the same sense that there's no plural form of Zeus (there's only one). But since it's not being used as singular name, I'd say Eoses is fine. I'd guess that your VW dealer is following some sort of cental office marketing dictate, though, so don't count on changing his/her mind anytime soon.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:14 PM on October 23, 2006

Paging languagehat!

[My best guess would be 'eoi', but I can't find anything to confirm that.]
posted by trip and a half at 8:18 PM on October 23, 2006

According to my erstwhile classicist girlfriend, "eos" can be translated as "dawn," but it would likely never be pluralized.
posted by The Michael The at 8:37 PM on October 23, 2006

Eoses sounds absolutely horrible.
posted by oxford blue at 8:47 PM on October 23, 2006

Ethoi is the plural of ethos, kudos is singular and now commonly used as a plural, and pathos is used in such a way as to not be changed when several. I would however, go with Eoses since we English speakers are pluralizing it as we do proper names of any origin (i.e. Rosalies, Steves, Jorges or Stavroses).
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:50 PM on October 23, 2006

Sounds better if you pronounce it to rhyme with "neuroses".
posted by flabdablet at 9:12 PM on October 23, 2006

Its etymology is from Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, and so it's slightly peculiar because that spelling indicating "dawn" is pretty much also indicating the goddess. There are other forms indicating versions of what the English word "dawn" means. This form is found, as far as I can tell, mostly in Homeric and not the later Attic Greek.

At any rate, this is an omicrom-declension, and is nominative, feminine, and singular. The nominative plural, then, would seem to be êοἱ, but that looks like another declension so I'm just not sure. I guess you'd be able to tell, though, because of the article (αἱ Êοἱ, I guess).

However, as I think languagehat would advise, and I would agree, when you have foreign words acting natively in a language, I would think especially when they are proper names of a commercial product, then the best thing to do is to use that language's pluralization. Thus, in English, Eoses.

Here is the Liddell-Scott entry on êôs. Here is a useful Wikipedia page on ancient Greek grammer.

I learned quite a bit of Homeric and Attic Greek in college fifteen years ago, but I've lost pretty much all of it from disuse and I'm relying on these reference materials.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:46 PM on October 23, 2006

Just to tag on what I said above, and to jump off of other people: my girlfriend did mention that, while the ancient Greeks would never pluralize eos, the "grammatically correct" pluralization would likely be eoi. If anyone ever used it, which they wouldn't have. But regardless.
posted by The Michael The at 6:47 AM on October 24, 2006

Don't know if anyone is still reading this, but TMT is likely right that "dawn" would never be pluralized in actual usage. And I agree with EB, following languagehat, that it doesn't really matter - the plural should be anglicized in our usage.

However, this is a somewhat irregularly-declined noun, and no one has yet posted the correct form, which, in the Attic dialect, and regardless of case, is ἕως (that is, it loses the initial strong vowel and takes on a rough breathing). Transliterated, it would be heôs. See here for details.
posted by Urban Hermit at 9:51 AM on October 24, 2006

Sorry, that Greek font may not show up for everyone, but the transliterated form should display correctly.
posted by Urban Hermit at 10:21 AM on October 24, 2006

Yeah, the Greeks didn't use it in the plural, but if they had it presumably would have been eoi. The reason it's so peculiar a word is that it used to have an -s- in the middle (*ausōs); the Indo-European intervocalic s became r in Latin (hence aurora) but disappeared in Greek (sometimes leaving aspiration behind, which may be why we have the rough breathing in ἕως).

Fun question! (But remember, folks, analogy is a bad guide to Greek plurals.)
posted by languagehat at 3:38 PM on October 24, 2006 [2 favorites]

For the record, and because I think my first answer might not have been clear: ἠώς (êôs) is indeed one correct form of the nominative singular (in Homeric Greek, for example).

However, as I suggested above, ἕως (heôs) is the correct nominative singular in Attic Greek, and would also theoretically be the correct form of any plural in that dialect (see here), though of course the article would vary with the case.

This is an irregular noun - not, for example, a second declension (-os) noun which would automatically take the nominative plural ending of -oi. Thus the form which some have suggested, ἠοῖ (êoi), is not the plural here, but is in fact an alternate form of the dative singular (in Attic it would be ἕῳ or heôi), which was used in such expressions as ἅμα ἠοῑ (hama êoi): "at dawn" (see here).
posted by Urban Hermit at 7:29 PM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

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