Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

A Lexicon of Ancient Latin Etymologies

R. Maltby

ARCA 25. ISBN 978-0-905205-74-8. Cloth, xvii+669 pp. Publ. 1991.
(Pb repr. 2006. 978-0-905205-47-2)

Extract   Review

Etymology – the study of words especially with reference to their derivations - was an important element in ancient thought, starting with Plato's Cratylus. In the Roman period it became even more significant, in part because of the impact of Stoicism on the earlier development of Roman law. The De lingua latina of M. Terentius Varro, a contemporary of many of the major classical Latin writers, is a rich store of etymological theory and example.

With the development of historical philology in the nineteenth century, ancient etymological practice came to seem unscientific and thus unworthy of serious attention. Classicists regarded as ridiculous such derivations as the well-known "lucus a non lucendo" (a 'shady grove', from 'not being lit'); obvious etymologies, mainly on proper names, they tended to dismiss as trivial wordplay, feeble punning, or mere ornamentation. But more recent scholarship has shown that etymologies in Latin and Greek poetry and prose range far beyond proper names, and are by no means always obvious. In an intellectual climate friendly to diverse linguistic structures, ancient etymologising is increasingly being used as a tool in the study of ancient literature, and the intellectual substructure of ancient etymological theory is once again being taken seriously. But the ancient sources for known etymologies are scattered and sometimes hard to consult, and the limits of the possible are not always respected by literary scholars.

In A Lexicon of Ancient Latin Etymologies Robert Maltby provided an indispensable resource for this field of enquiry. He has assembled all the explicitly attested etymologies of Latin antiquity, from the predecessors of Varro to Isidore of Seville, covering glossaries and scholia as well as standard ancient etymological source-works. His policy of quoting extensively, rather than summarising, reveals the relationships between ancient authorities, and the reasoning behind many of their etymologies. The result is a major work of reference which will ease informed access to this area of ancient science.

Classical scholars will find A Lexicon of Ancient Latin Etymologies an essential research tool. It will be invaluable for those working on the Latin language and on ancient grammarians, and also for specialists in Latin literature, especially poetry, saturated as it is with etymological allusions and conjectures.

ROBERT MALTBY, Professor Emeritus in the School of Classics, University of Leeds, England, has collaborated with the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae at Munich as an editor and subsequently as Von Humboldt Fellow, and has published widely on Latin elegy and comedy. His major commentary on Tibullus (2002) appeared as number 41 in the series ARCA.



lucus -i m.(a) a non lucendo, per antiphrasin: QUINT. inst. 1,6,34 etiamne a contrariis aliqua sinemus trahi, ut lucus, quia umbra opacus parum luceat? DON. gramm. IV 402,4 antiphrasis est unius verbi ironia, ut ... lucus eo quod non luceat. CHAR. gramm. p.364,9 B. antiphrasis ... diversitatem rei nominat, ut ... lucus, quod minime luceat. sim. DIOM. gramm. I 1462,15. SERV. Aen. 1,22. 1,441 (=SCHOL. Stat. Ach. 1,593). 3,63. HIER. epist. 40,2. AUG. dialect. 6,10. doct. christ. 3,29,41. MART. Cap. 4.360. POMP. gramm. V 228,21. 260,1. 311,3. CASSIOD. in psalm. 55,21. 55 A. LYD. mens. 1,7 p.2,1 W. ISID. orig. 1,29,3. 1,37,24. 14,8,30. 17,6,7. in num. 33.1. (b) a lucendo: SERV. Aen. 1,441 (=SCHOL. Stat. Ach. 1.593) lucus ... dicitur quod non luceat, non quod sint ibi lumina causa religionis, ut quidam volunt. PRISC. gramm. II 136,17 luceo lucus. ISID. orig. 14,8,30 potest et a conlucendo crebris luminibus dici, quae ibi propter religionem ... fiebant. 17,6,7 sive a luce, quod in eo lucebant funalia vel cerei propter nemorum tenebras. thes. gloss. vide Lucani, Lucania, lucar, lucaria, lucaris, Luceres, Lucina, oblucuviasse.


Latomus 54 (1995) 156-7 (J.-Cl. Fredouille): "Ce Lexique est l'instrumentum idéal dont pouvaient rêver tous les latinistes."