Meanings of πέρας listed in wiktionary:

end, goal, extremity

All these fall within the scope of τέλος. I would like to understand the nuances of these three meanings (there is no problem with other uses of τέλος). Subquestions:

  1. I understand that τέλος is "end" mostly chronologically and πέρας mostly spatially. How strong is this distinction? Is it like this (almost) always or just in some 70-80%? What are the nuances of using one in the other's domain?

  2. What are the basic rules for figurative uses of "end"? My guess is that πέρας emphasises "limit" or "border" and is a mathematical term, while "τέλος" is used in most other contexts.

  3. Τέλος is often used as a philosophical term for "purpose" or "goal" (see Aristotle's "final cause"). I don't remember ever seeing πέρας used as "goal". In which contexts is it possible, and what is the difference?

  • 2
    Have you looked at the LSJ definitions? They're quite detailed, esp. for τέλος: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – TKR
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


Before asking the question, I didn't explore the LSJ for πέρας and τέλος linked in TKR's comment in detail. After reading them carefully, I can self-answer.

  1. Πέρας means an "end" spatially; some of its more general meanings may be used for time, but it's too rare. Τέλος is also "a length of time (or space)", but mostly "end" as the moment or point of "achievement" or "finishing" - which is normally temporal, but in some contexts may concern space also. Πέρας is often opposed to ἀρχή (as "beginning"), but it may include it - "a beginning and an end" = "two ends". This makes sense only while talking about space, not time or any other "ordered" measure, like the beginning and the end of a word.

  2. The guess that πέρας implies some limit was right. Τέλος often has a nuance of "finishing" or "maturity".

  3. Πέρας can be an "object" (of prayer, hope etc.) - this is close to "goal". In all other contexts, "goal" is τέλος.

I discovered two important overlaps. First, final decision of the suppreme court: either it's a "perfect", "final" decision (τέλος), or the "extremity of appeal" have already been reached and the process ended (πέρας).
What is more important for me is "perfection" as a philosophical term: in general, that's τέλος, but for abstract ideas like "good" or "pleasure" πέρας can be used as well - they have reached their limit.

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