Is Greek ἀρά, prayer, cognate with Latin ara, altar?

Wiktionary had ἀράομαι, with the etymology pointing to a red-linked ἀρά. I created an entry for ἀρά based on LSJ, but I have no source of information on its etymology. Ara is supposed to come from old Latin asa and earlier from PIE h₂eHs-, which is about fire and hearths and is the origin of ἄζω, to dry, and possibly ἄσβολος, soot. Since the original Latin word had an "s" rather than an "r," maybe the phonetic similarity is coincidental -- in which case, is there a known etymology for ἀρά?

1 Answer 1


The etymology of ἀρά is unclear. There is an Arcadian inscriptional form καταρϝος which shows that it had a digamma (which actually confuses things further since if so, the Attic form should regularly be ἀρή). Various IE cognates have been proposed; a connection with Lat. ōrō seems not to be widely accepted, but there is a possible Hittite cognate aruwae- meaning 'to bow'. Anyway the resemblance to āra is accidental: as you say, the Latin word comes from *h₂eHs- (which BTW also yields Eng. ash), and there's no way of getting from that to ἀρ(ϝ)ά.

  • Cool, thanks for clearing that up! which actually confuses things further since if so, the Attic form should regularly be ἀρή The Ionic/Epic form is ἀρή, but I guess that would be irrelevant...?
    – user3597
    May 4, 2021 at 2:41
  • 1
    @BenCrowell Ionic ἀρή is regular since in Ionic, long α > η always. In Attic, this was blocked (or reversed) after ε ι ρ, which means ἀρά would be regular if not for the fact that we know there was a digamma there: ἀρϝά should not show the blocking so should have gone to ἀρϝή and then ἀρή.
    – TKR
    May 4, 2021 at 2:46
  • I added a brief summary of your information to the wiktionary article.
    – user3597
    May 4, 2021 at 3:01

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