Monday, October 27, 2014

What's the Ancient Greek for "wristwatch"?

Sometimes I am systematically working on things that require neo-Koine vocabulary, other times they arise somewhat spontaneously. The other day in class we were doing some Where are your Keys play and a student put their wristwatch on the table and said, τί ἐστι τοῦτο; as I have trained them to do. Of course, I had no word to hand for wristwatch and told them we would cover it next time.

The first thing I do when looking for a word is to consult two English->Greek lexica. The first is Woodhouse, found here, and the second is Edwards, found here. I search first for 'watch' but then for 'clock' as being more likely. Both suggest to use κλεψύδρα for clock. I then consult LSJ and find that it is a water-clock. Now, for some words once I consult LSJ I find that the choice is suitable. In this case, I feel like this is not quite adequate. And of course, some times Woodhouse and Edwards have nothing to offer.

If I find nothing at all, I check with Juan Coderich's list here.

Then, supposing I don't find anything useful in these steps, I retro-engineer. I consult an English-Modern Greek lexicon. Here's one I regularly use, Word Reference. Now I see that ρολόι is a common Modern Greek word for 'watch'. I go back to LSJ and other sources to try and determine the source of ρολόι. Sometimes it is easy to see where a word has derived from. In this case, it's not immediately obvious, so I do an etymological search, and discover that it comes from the Koine ὡρολόγιον. Now we have got somewhere. I can reconsult LSJ which has an entry for ὡρολόγιον under ὡρολογικός in the Supplement. it's a sundial or other device for telling the time. It's meaning is clear, and more adaptable than κλεψύδρα.

The last step here is to make it specifically 'wristwatch'. A simple genitive will do: τὸ ὡρολόγιον τῆς χειρός. voila. This is how we neo-Koinify the world.


Patricius Oenus said...

We use ὡρολογοθήκη. I'm working on an Ancient Greek word list for modern items. Perhaps you would be interested Seamas. I'm also the editor of the following Lexicon:

Seumas Macdonald said...

Hello Patricius,
Yes I'm familiar with the lexicon pages you edit, having found D. Morgan's page very useful for Latin in the past.

I'm working on a few different kinds of lists for Ancient Greek for modern items. Some of which I can share, some I am not so free to disclose at present.