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Lewis and Short indicates that "chorāgus" is from Greek χορηγός (Doric χορᾱγός), which LSJ says is a compound of χορός and ἡγέομαι. The entries for choragus in the Oxford English Dictionary and a number of other English dictionaries say instead that the second element is from ἄγω, which seems to contradict the LSJ entry.

I wondered whether the long vowel that is supposed to be in the Latin word would be consistent with the derivation from ἄγω, since I thought that verb usually had a short vowel. However, when I checked the LSJ entries for ἄγω and the noun ἀγός, they seemed to indicate that the alpha is sometimes found long.

Is there a chance that the Oxford English Dictionary's etymology is correct after all, or is it just a mistake?

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It's more likely to be from ἄγω than ἡγέομαι.

The long vowel is not an issue because it's common in Greek compounds for an initial short vowel in the second element to lengthen. (I've just posted a question about this phenomenon.) In terms of meaning, both verbs seem appropriate, and from a quick TLG search it looks like both are attested taking the noun χορός as object. But there are other compounds in -ηγός that can only be from the root of ἄγω, not ἡγέομαι: for example στρατηγός "general", which if it contained ἡγέομαι would have to be *στραθηγός because of the rough breathing. So assuming χορηγός contains the same second member as στρατηγός, that can only be ἄγω.

(As a side note, LSJ's etymologies haven't been updated in ages and generally can't be relied on.)

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  • I'd like to compare Ger Gericht "court [of law]", *ga-raihti. I don't even know where to start. When you say "... is not an issue" I get nervous, because I don't even know what the problem is, and lacking rigour I end up comparing Korea and Karate, seriously. My initial motivation was that conductor is Dirigent, i.e. director, cp Richter "judge", richten. I'm not even sure that would rule out ago in consequence, because I'm not aware of an Internal derivation for \h3re`g-, though I'd compare ritus, *h2rey- < *h2er- "to fix". Endeffect I expect an anatolian loan. correct? – vectory Jan 4 at 7:05
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    @vectory Sorry, but I don't understand your comment. – TKR Jan 6 at 2:22
  • I was basically saying, let's consider the root might have been *Hre`g-. – vectory Jan 6 at 3:24

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