Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].

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Inflected words generally consist of two distinct parts: a stem and an inflectional ending ( cross191):

δῶρο-νgift,stem δωρο-,inflectional ending ν;
λύ_ο-μενwe loose,stem λι_ο-,inflectional ending μεν.

a. The inflectional endings of nouns and verbs, and the formation of verbal stems, have been treated under Inflection. The formation of words, as discussed here, deals primarily with the formation of noun-stems, of verbal stems derived from nouns, and of compound words. Uninflected words (adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and particles) are mostly of pronominal origin and obscure; such adverbs as show case forms are mentioned in 341 ff.


Some stems are identical with roots (root-stems, cross193) to which only an inflectional ending, or no ending at all, has been added.

βοῦ-ς ox, cowμῦ-ς mouseὗ-ς hog, sow
εἷς one (stem ἑν-) ναῦ-ς shipφλόξ flame (φλέγ-ω burn)
θήρ wild beast (gen. θηρ-ός) ὄψ voice (stem ὀπ-) χείρ hand (gen. χειρ-ός)
κλώψ thief (κλέπ-τ-ω steal) πούς foot (stem ποδ-) χθών earth (stem χθον-)


Most stems are derived from roots by the addition of one or more formative suffixes.

δῶ-ρο-νgift,stem δωρο-,root δω (δί-δω-μι give),suffix ρο-.
γραμ-ματ-εύ-ςscribe,stem γραμματευ-,root γραφ,suffixes ματ and ευ.

a. Most words are therefore built up from root, suffix, and inflectional ending by a process of composition analogous to that seen in compounds ( cross869 ff.), in which the union of the various elements yields an idea different from that seen in each of the parts.


A stem is primary if only one suffix is added to the root (δῶ-ρο-ν); secondary, when more than one suffix is added to the root (γραμ-ματ-εύ-ς).


There are two kinds of stems: noun-stems (substantive and adjective) and verb-stems.


Words containing a single stem are called simple words, as λόγο-ς speech; words containing two or more stems are called compound words, as λογο-γράφο-ς speech-writer.

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According to the character of the suffix words are called:

a. Primitive (or Primary): formed by the addition of a suffix either to a root or to a verb-stem to which a vowel, usually ε, has been added ( cross485, cross486).

Root γραφ: γράφ-ω write, γραφ-ή writing, γραφ-εύ-ς writer, γράμ-μα something written, γραμ-μή line.

Verb-stem γεν-ε in γενέ-σθαι become (ἐγενόμην, γί-γν-ομαι): γένε-σι-ς genesis, origin; τερ-ε (τέρω bore): τέρε-τρο-ν gimlet, instrument for boring.

b. Denominative (or Secondary): formed from a noun-stem (substantive or adjective) or adverb.

γραμ-ματ-εύς writer (stem γραμματ-, nom. γράμμα); εὐδαιμον-ία_ happiness (stem εὐδαιμον-, nom. εὐδαίμων); δικαιο-σύνη justice, δίκα-ιο-ς just (δίκη right); φίλ-ιο-ς friendly (φίλο-ς dear); δουλό-ω enslave (δοῦλο-ς slave); παλαι-ό-ς ancient, of old date, from the adverb πάλαι long ago.


Suffixes forming primitive words are called primary suffixes; suffixes forming denominative words are called secondary suffixes.

a. The distinction between primary and secondary suffixes is not original and is often neglected. Thus, in δεινός terrible (δει- fear), νο is a primary suffix; in σκοτεινός dark (σκότος, 858. cross11), it is secondary. So English -able is both primary (readable) and secondary (companionable).

b. It is often difficult to determine whether a suffix is added to a verb-stem or to a noun-stem: ἰσχυ_-ρός strong (ἰσχύ_-ς strength, ἰσχύ_-ω am strong).

c. A primitive word may be formed from a verb-stem which is itself denominative: τοξευ-τής bowman from τοξεύ-ω shoot with the bow, derived from τόξο-ν bow. A primitive may be formed with a suffix derived from a denominative: φλεγ-υρό-ς burning (φλέγ-ω burn) with υρο from λιγυ-ρό-ς (λιγύ-ς) shrill.

d. A denominative often has no corresponding primitive; sometimes the latter has been lost, sometimes it was presumed for the purpose of word-formation by the imitative process always at work in the making of language. Thus, δέμ-ν-ιο-ν bed, from δεμ-νο-ν (δέμ-ω build, construct).


To determine the root all suffixes must be removed from the stem until only that part remains which contains the fundamental idea.

a. Most roots are noun-roots or verb-roots; but originally a root was neither noun or verb ( cross193). Some roots are pronominal, and express direction or position. Greek has many words whose roots cannot be discovered. The form of a root in Greek is not necessarily that which Comparative Grammar shows was common to the cognate languages.

b. Since the origin of many words, even with the help of the cognate languages, is uncertain, we are often at a loss where to make the dividing line between root and suffix. Suffixes are often preceded by a vowel which may be regarded as a part of the suffix or as an expansion of the root (by some scholars regarded as a part of the root itself).


Changes of the root-vowel.—a. The root-vowel is sometimes strong,

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sometimes weak: ει, οι (weak ι); ευ, ου (weak υ); η or ω (weak α or ε). λεῖμ-μα remnant, λοιπ-ό-ς remaining, cp. λείπ-ω, ἔ-λιπ-ον; ζεῦγ-ος team, cp. ζεύγ-νυ_-μι, ζυγ-όν yoke; σπουδ-ή zeal, σπεύδ-ω hasten; λήθ-η forgetfulness, λανθάνω (λαθ-) forget; ἦθ-ος disposition, ἔθ-ος custom, habit; ῥωχ-μός cleft, ῥήγ-νυ_-μι break (ῥαγ-, ῥηγ-, ῥωγ-). Cp. cross36.

b. ε often varies with ο, sometimes with α; η sometimes varies with ω. γόν-ο-ς offspring, γί-γν-ομαι (γεν-); τόν-ο-ς tone, τείνω (τεν-) stretch; τραφ-ερός well-fed, τροφ-ή nourishment, τρέφ-ω nourish; ἀρωγ-ό-ς helping, ἀρήγ-ω help. Cp. cross36.


Root-determinatives.—A consonant standing between root and suffix (or ending), and not modifying the meaning of the root, is called a root-determinative.

βά-θ-ρο-ν pedestal, from βαίνω go (βα-); ἔς-θ-ω (poetical for ἐσθίω) eat, for εδ-θ-ω, cp. Ionic ἔδ-ω; πλή-θ-ω (poet.) am full, πλῆ-θ-ος crowd, πλη-θ-ώρη satiety, cp. πίμ-πλη-μι; στα-θ-μός day's journey, στά-θ-μη a rule, from ἵστημι (στα-); σμή-χ-ω wipe, cp. σμάω wipe.—On the insertion of ς, see cross836.

a. The origin of root-determinatives is obscure. In part they may be relics of roots, in part due to the analogy of words containing the consonants in question.


Suffixes.—A suffix is a formative element added to a root (or to a stem) and standing between the root and the ending. Suffixes limit or particularize the general meaning of the root; but only in a few cases is the distinct meaning of the suffix known to us.

a. The origin of the Greek suffixes is often obscure; of those inherited from the parent language only some were employed to make new words; others were formed by Greek itself (productive suffixes). From the analogy of the modern languages we infer that some suffixes were once independent words, which, on becoming a part of a compound, lost their signification. Thus -hood, -head in childhood, godhead are derived from Old Eng. ‘hād,’ Gothic ‘haidus’ character, nature; -ship in ownership, courtship, comes from a lost word meaning ‘shape’; -ly in friendly from Old Eng. ‘līc’ body. So -ώδης meaning smelling (ὄζω), as in εὐώδης fragrant, acquired a range of meaning originally inappropriate to it by passing into the general idea of ‘full of,’ ‘like,’ as in ποιώδης grassy (ποία_), λοιμώδης pestilential (λοιμός), σφηκώδης wasp-like (σφήξ). This suffix is distinct from -ειδής having the form of, like ( cross898 a).

Conversely, many suffixes, themselves insignificant, acquired a definite meaning by reason of the root with which they were associated.—Irrespective of its meaning, one word may serve as a model for the creation of another word; as starvation, constellation, etc., are modelled on contemplation, etc.

b. Many dissyllabic suffixes, due to a combination of the final letter or letters of the stem and an original monosyllabic suffix, adapt themselves to independent use. Cp. ego-tism for ego-ism because of patriot-ism, -able in laughable and probable (from proba-bilis). Thus, patronymics in -άδης, -ιάδης 845. 2, 3; words in -αινα 843 b, 5; -αῖος 858. 2 a; -εῖον 851. 1; -έστερος 316; -έτης 843 a, N.; -ήεις 858. 3; -ήϊος 858. 2 b; -εῖος 858. 2 a; -όεις 858. 3; -ίδιον 852. 2; -ί_της 843 a, N., 844. 2 a; -σιμος 858. 9; -ώτης 843 a, N., 844. 2 a; and many others.

c. Simple suffixes are often added to case forms or adverbs, thus producing,

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by contamination, dissyllabic suffixes; as ἀρχαῖ-ο-ς ancient 858. 2 a; παλαι-ό-ς of old date 828 b, ἐαρι-νό-ς vernal 858. 12; φυσι-κό-ς natural 858. 6 b; cp. ἐν-άλι-ο-ς marine (ἅλς).

d. Many compound suffixes are formed by the union of two suffixes, new stems being created by the addition of a suffix to a stem, as: τηρ-ιο 851. 2, ισκ-ιο 852. 6, ισκ-ιδιο 854. See cross854.

e. Suffixes often show gradations: τηρ, τωρ, τερ, τρ ( cross36 N. 1) as in δο-τήρ, δώ-τωρ, δότειρα (out of δοτερ-ῖα) giver; ψάλ-τρ-ια harp-player; μην μν: λι-μήν harbour, λί-μν-η lake; μωρ μαρ: τέκ-μωρ, τέκ-μαρ goal; ωρ ρ: ὕδ-ωρ water, ὕδ-ρα_ hydra; ων αν: τέκτ-ων carpenter, fem. τέκταινα, from τεκταν-ῖα; and in λέων lion, fem. λέαινα ( cross843 b. 5).


Changes in stems.—Various changes occur when a suffix is added to a stem.

a. The final vowel of a stem is contracted with the initial vowel of a suffix: ὀφί_διον small snake (ὄφι- ιδιον from ὄφι-ς). So when a consonant is dropped at the end of a stem: αἰδο-ῖο-ς venerable (αἰδώς reverence, stem αἰδος-), βασιλε-ία_ kingdom (βασιλεύ-ς king, stem βασιλεϝ- for βασιλεῦ-. cross43), ἀστε-ῖο-ς refined (ἄστυ city, stem ἀστεϝ- for ἀστεῦ-, cross43). Cp. cross858. 2.

b. A long final vowel of a stem may be shortened before the initial vowel of a suffix: δίκα-ιο-ς just, δίκη right, stem δικα_-. (Properly δίκαι is an old case form, 833 c, to which -ο-ς is added.)

c. A final vowel or diphthong may be dropped before the initial vowel of a suffix: σοφ-ία_ wisdom (σοφό-ς wise), τί_μ-ιο-ς honoured, costly (τι_μή honour, stem τι_μα_-), βασιλ-ικό-ς royal (βασιλεύ-ς king), πολι_τ-ικό-ς civic (πολί_της citizen, stem πολι_τα_-).

d. The final letter or letters of a consonant stem may be dropped: σωφρο-σύνη temperance, moderation (σώφρων temperate, stem σωφρον-), μελ-ύδριον little song (μέλ-ος song, μελες-), ἀληθ-ινό-ς genuine (ἀληθής -ές true). So apparently in the case of a vowel stem in δεσπό-συνος belonging to the master (δεσπότης).

e. The final consonant of a stem undergoes regular euphonic change before the initial consonant of a suffix: βλέμ-μα glance (βλέπ-ω look), δικας-τής a judge (δικαδ-της, from δικάζω judge, stem δικαδ-), πίς-τι-ς faith ( = πιθ-τι-ς, from πείθ-ω persuade, stem πιθ-), λέξις style ( = λεγ-σι-ς, from λέγ-ω speak).

f. Stems in ο have an alternative in ε (cp. ἵππο-ς, voc. ἵππε; 229 b). This ε often appears in denominatives: οἰκέ-ω dwell, οἰκέ-της house-servant, οἰκε-ῖο-ς domestic (οἶκο-ς house).

g. Derivatives of α_ stems may apparently show ω in place of α_; as στρατιώ-της soldier (στρατιά_ army), Ἰ_ταλιώ-της an Italiote, Greek inhabitant of Italy (Ἰ_ταλία_ Italy). See cross843 a, N. Stems in α_ have η in τι_μή-εις honoured (τι_μή, stem τι_μα_-).

h. Vowel stems, especially those derived from verbs, often lengthen a final short vowel before a suffix beginning with a consonant: ποίη-μα poem, ποίη-σι-ς poetry, ποιη-τή-ς poet, ποιη-τι-κό-ς creative, poetical (ποιέ-ω make); δεσμώ-τη-ς prisoner (δεσμό-ς, δεσμά fetters). Verbs with stems in α, ε, ο usually show in derivatives the stem vowel as found in the tenses other than the present; as δηλό-ω manifest, fut. δηλώ-σω, δήλω-σι-ς manifestation; ἀρόω plough, fut. ἀρό-σω, ἄρο-σι-ς arable land, ἀρο-τήρ ploughman; εὑρ-ίσκ-ω find out, fut. εὑρ-ή-σω, εὕρ-η-μα discovery, but εὕρ-ε-σις discovery, εὑρ-ε-τής discoverer.

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i. Vowel stems sometimes insert a vowel before a suffix beginning with a consonant: πολι-ή-τη-ς, Ionic for πολί_-τη-ς citizen, πτολί-ε-θρο-ν (poetic) city.

j. Consonant stems, and vowel stems not ending in ο, often show ο before a suffix in denominatives; a stem in -ον is thus replaced by one in -ο: σωφροσύνη temperance (σώφρων temperate, σωφρον-); αἱματ-ό-εις bloody (αἷμα, -ατος blood) and σκι-ό-εις shadowy (σκιά_ shadow) by analogy to δολό-εις wily, 858. 3. Cp. cross873-875.


Several substantives are formed by reduplication: ἀγ-ωγ-ή training (ἄγ-ω lead), ἐδ-ωδ-ή food (Ionic ἔδ-ω eat), γί-γα_ς, -αντος giant. Some, by metathesis ( cross128 a): τμῆ-σι-ς cutting (τέμ-ν-ω cut).


Insertion of sigma.—Between root (or stem) and suffix ς is often found, and in some cases it has become attached to the suffix. This parasitic letter spread from the perfect middle, where it is properly in place only in stems in τ, δ, θ, or ς; as in σχι-ς-μό-ς cleaving with ς from ἔ-σχι-ς-μαι by analogy to ἔ-σχις-ται for ἐ-σχιδ-ται (σχίζω cleave). In -ς-της the transference was made easier by words like σχις-τός cloven for σχιδ-τος. This ς appears before many suffixes, and usually where the perfect middle has acquired it ( cross489).

μα· σπά-ς-μα spasm (σπάω rend, ἔσπασμαι), κέλευ-ς-μα command (κελεύ-ω command, κεκέλευσμαι), μία-ς-μα stain (μιαίνω stain, μεμίασμαι).—μο: σπα-ς-μός σπά-ς-μα, κελευ-ς-μός command.—μη: δύ-ς-μη setting (δύ_ω set).—της: κελευς-τής signal-man, ὀρχη-ς-τής dancer (ὀρχ-έ-ομαι dance), δυνά-ς-της lord (δύνα-μαι am able). Also in δρα-ς-τήριος efficacious (δρά-ω do), ὀρχή-ς-τρα_ dancing-place, πλη-ς-μόνη fulness. -ς-μ has displaced δμ, -θ-μ ( cross832) in ὀσμή odour (earlier ὀδμή), ῥυ-ς-μός (and ῥυ-θ-μός) rhythm.


Insertion of tau.—In a few words τ is inserted before the suffixes μο, μα, μη, μην. Thus, ἐφ-ε-τ-μή command (ἐφί_ημι, root ἑ, ἡ), λαῖ-τ-μα depth of the sea, ἀϋ-τ-μή and ἀϋ-τ-μήν breath (ἄημι blow). In ἐρετ-μό-ν oar the τ may be part of the verb-stem (ἐρέσσω, cross515), and have spread thence to the other words.

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Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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