In the Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, one character has a limited form of telekinesis: he can manipulate the movement of knives that he throws.

If I wanted to give this ability a pretentious Greek name, along the lines of pyrokinesis (manipulating fire) and cryokinesis (manipulating ice), what would be a good root to use? LSJ lists several different words for knives, but I'm unclear on the differences, or if the Greeks ever used thrown knives as a weapon.

(If there's no classically-attested word for this, is there an Ancient ancestor of a Modern word for a thrown knife? I know far less about Greek knife usage than I would need to answer this.)

  • Frivolous? Copidokinesis, Sphagidokinesis, Smilokinesis... Perhaps similar to πετροβολεῖν, σφαγιδοβολεῖν ... but stones are so much cheaper than knives... Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 16:18
  • @CosmasZachos what would σφαγιδοβολεῖν be? I assume you're not throwing abattoirs (σφαγεία) around, but that's the only connection that comes to mind as a (modern) Greek speaker.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 16:37
  • @terdon Σφαγιδές are apparently knives used for ritual sacrifices, though I'm not sure they'd be thrown. I associate the word more with blood-sacrifice than with combat.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 16:47
  • Σφαγίς is the sacrificial knife, but your could opt for κοπίς. You must have noted since school how treacherous a guide modern Greek can be to classical Greek... must recall the snickers at unintentionally funny passages... Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 16:48
  • OK, φάσγανον, from the same root, of linear B attestation, might be superior. Φασγανοβόλος sounds as magnificently weird as it should... When it comes to combat, I'm not sure Greeks fought that way... You throw spears, not knives... Think of the suitors' massacre in the Odyssey. Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


μάχαιρα means "knife, dirk, dagger, short sword". It seems more suitable for your purpose than φάσγανον or ξίφος, both of which mean "sword" rather than "knife". (There is ξιφίδιον, a diminutive of the latter word, which does mean "small sword or knife", but using a diminutive in a compound is a bit unwieldy.) So machaerokinesis might fit the bill.

(To be really pedantic, for the second part of the compound it might be more fitting to use a form of εὐθύνω "guide, direct" instead of κινέω "move", since the ability is that of directing a knife which you've already set in motion, rather than simply moving a knife, which most of us ordinary mortals can do. But machaereuthynsis is a mouthful.)

  • I think machaera is the right word, but I don't like "machaerokinesis" for other reasons. Apparently (if Wikipedia doesn't misguide me), Stephen King coined the term "pyrokinesis," but it's a pretty inept combination of "pyro-" and "telekinesis." Everyone has the power to "move a dagger," but few people have the power to do so at a distance.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 2:10

OK, let's fit a spline all the way to the sublimely ridiculous.

The disk-thrower is discobolus, δισκοβόλος, with activity noun δισκοβολία.

In my sense, the best slayer-knife word is φάσγανον, and its expert thrower φασγανοβόλος, so "fasganobolus" indulging in notional "fasganoboly"?

There might be incidental insights at the top level of the Ancient Greek WP project.

See if κοπίς came close.

  • The majority of English words from Greek that have the φ in them transliterate the letter with "ph" and not "f," but otherwise this is a good answer.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 5:21

How about κοπίβολος? But κοπίς is a curved knife, so possibly not very good for throwing. We might also construct ῥιψακινάκης by analogy with ῥίψασπις, one who throws away his shield in flight.

  • I'm not sure I agree about ρίπτω. When Nausicaa plays ball with her handmaidens in Odyssey 6 the verb is used for throwing the ball, and there are several other examples of targeted throwing in LSJ, from such writers as Herodotus and Euripides. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 19:14

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