I'm working on ancient Greek (Homeric) vocabulary, and sometimes it's helpful to write down, e.g., on a flashcard, some grammatical information. For example I might want to record that ἕν is neuter (which doesn't seem obvious to me by looking at the word). When doing this, I would like to avoid marking things up with English terms, to avoid getting "out of the groove" of thinking in Greek. I can look up modern Greek grammatical terms, e.g.:

   αρσενικό - masculine
   θηλυκό - feminine 
   ουδέτερο - neuter
   ονομαστική = nominal
   γενική = genitive
   δοτική = dative
   αιτιατική = acc
   κλητική = voc

These are all modern words with dimotiki accents. Is this pretty much the best I can do? Did ancient Greek even have grammatical terms, or were they developed later in history? Is there a standard list of such terms somewhere, and are there standard abbreviations, such as "pl." in English?

  • 1
    More than Ancient Greek having its own terms for grammar, almost all of our current terminology is based on the terminology of Ancient Greek grammarians (usually through their Latin calques, which is also why they sometimes don't make sense). – Cairnarvon Apr 13 at 19:39

You can see the text of Dionesius Thrax' Τέχνη Γραμματική in Wikisource.

Section 14, ΠΕΡΙ ΟΝΟΜΑΤΟΣ says

"Γένη μὲν οὖν εἰσι τρία· ἀρσενικόν, θηλυκόν, οὐδέτερον"


"Πτώσεις ὀνομάτων εἰσὶ πέντε· ὀρθή, γενική, δοτική, αἰτιατική, κλητική."

I don't know if these terms were used in the Classical period, but I believe this is the earliest Grammar of Greek (or any European language) that we have.


Yes indeed! There were definitely pre-modern Greek grammarians who described the grammar of their language in Greek; Dionysius Thrax, quoted by Colin Fine, is one of the more reputable ones. These quotes are all from section 14, Peri Onomatos ("About the Noun"); translations are my own.

Γένη μὲν οὖν εἰσι τρία· ἀρσενικόν, θηλυκόν, οὐδέτερον. ἔνιοι δὲ προστιθέασι τούτοις ἄλλα δύο, κοινόν τε καὶ ἐπίκοινον, κοινὸν μὲν οἷον ἵππος κύων, ἐπίκοινον δὲ οἷον χελιδών ἀετός.

There are in fact three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Two others add onto these, common and epicene: common are words like "horse" and "dog", epicene are words like "swallow" (the bird) and "eagle".

Since these conveniently all start with different letters in Greek, you could abbreviate them Α, Θ, Ο, Κ, Ε without ambiguity! It's also worth noting that these are the source of a decent part of our modern grammatical terminology: "neuter" is a straightforward Latin translation of oudéteron, "common" is a straightforward English translation of koinós, "epicene" is a straight-up borrowing, and so on.

A bit later:

Πτώσεις ὀνομάτων εἰσὶ πέντε· ὀρθή, γενική, δοτική, αἰτιατική, κλητική. λέγεται δὲ ἡ μὲν ὀρθὴ ὀνομαστικὴ καὶ εὐθεῖα, ἡ δὲ γενικὴ κτητική τε καὶ πατρική, ἡ δὲ δοτικὴ ἐπισταλτική, ἡ δὲ αἰτιατικὴ κατ᾽ αἰτιατικήν, ἡ δὲ κλητικὴ προσαγορευτική.

There are five cases: upright, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative. The upright is also called the "nominative" and the "direct", the genitive "possessive" and "fatherly", the dative "epistolary", the accusative because it's accusative (???), and the vocative "locutionary".

These conveniently also all have different first letters, though they overlap a bit with the genders.


The answer is yes.

A good introductory reference is Ancient Greek Scholarship by Eleanor Dickey (OUP, 2007). The relevant section is 4.2: Technical Vocabularies, pp. 123-128. There is also quite a long glossary of Ancient Greek grammatical terms, pp. 219-265.

Some useful terms in addition to those given above:

ὄνομα = substantive (noun or adjective)

ῥῆμα = verb

μετοχή = participle

ἄρθρον = article or relative pronoun

ἀντωνυμία = pronoun

πρόθεσις = preposition

σύνδεσμος = conjunction; sometimes used for adverb or particle

ἔγκλισις = mood of a verb

διάθεσις = voice of a verb

πρόσωπον = person of a verb

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