Re: MONOGENHS Etymology Question

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Jan 03 1997 - 14:46:34 EST

At 1:06 PM -0600 1/3/97, Albert Collver, III wrote:
> Several people have written that the etymology of MONOGENHS is MONO
>GENOS/OUS "kind" rather than MONO "one, single" and GIGNOMAI "becoming, be
>born." This was new to me.
> I am curious as to the source. LSJ gives the etymology as Gignomai.
>BAGD does
>not give an etymology. TDNT says it is from GENESIS which is still rooted in
>GIGNOMAI. Louw & Nida do not give an etymology but they prefer the
>"unique." This exhausts the lexicons I have in my library. Where can I find a
>source that lists GENOS as the root?

The most recent (1996) LSJ does give GENOS and MONO- for etymology, but as
I noted in my earlier response, the real source is the root with its three
vowel gradations, GEN/GON/GN, all derivatives of which, verbal and nominal,
express either the verbal notion of generation or the nominal conception of
kind/kinship deriving from common generation. Is it really more accurate to
say that MONOGENHS derives from GENOS than that it derives from GIGNOMAI?
Perhaps not ultimately, since they have the common root, BUT--GIGNOMAI
clearly derives from the zero-grade form of the root, GN, while GENOS
derives from the e-grade form of the root, GEN. Moreover, the stem of both
the noun GENOS and and adjectival part of MONOGENHS is GENES- (intervocalic
-S- evanesced and E contracted with the vowel originally following the -S-
to yield GENOUS from GENESOS, GENEI from GENESI, GENH from GENESA, etc. The
nominative and accusative forms of GENOS show the o-grade of the root in a
common IE pattern of -OS nouns; in the adjective the vowel of the stem
element -ES- lengthens in the nominative to form -HS; elsewhere the -S-
evanesced and we have contracted vowels just as in the noun GENOS). So
ultimately, we should say, I guess, that MONOGENHS is "akin" to GIGNOMAI,
but more closely kindred to GENOS--more in the nature of a "nephew" than a
"son" to GIGNOMAI, and hardly an "only-begotten" son, at that.

Frankly, although etymology fascinates me, I don't think this is ultimately
very important for the MEANING of MONOGENHS; far more significant
ultimately than etymology surely is actual attested usage of the word
elsewhere in Greek texts.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:01 EDT