Homer uses both μένω and μίμνω, the latter of which looks to me like a reduplicated form. Wiktionary gives definitions that seem almost identical, and says that μένω supplies all of the tenses of μίμνω except the present and imperfect. Cunliffe also gives almost identical definitions. Why, then, do we have the two different forms? Is there a different shade of meaning? Are they from different dialects? Is one more archaic?

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    Giannakis, Georgios. "Homeric μίμνω, ἴσχω, ἴζω and πίπτω: A Semantic Approach." Glotta 69, no. 1/2 (1991): 48-76. jstor.org/stable/40266877
    – Alex B.
    Sep 12, 2021 at 16:02
  • There is non-paywalled access to Giannakis at sci-hub.se/https://www.jstor.org/stable/40266877 . This may be illegal under some countries' laws. The TL;DR is that he thinks μίμνω does differ somewhat in meaning, and it tends to mean something like "hold fast," "hang tough."
    – user3597
    Sep 12, 2021 at 21:10
  • If I understand Giannakis 1991 and 1997 correctly, he argues that there is a clear aspectual distinction between these two verbs, μένω expressing "the notion of staying or remaining as a general, unspecified, and unrestricted activity" (Giannakis 1997: 127), whereas μίμνω is telic/bounded (?). We need to ask someone who can read his dissertation, perhaps @TKR
    – Alex B.
    Sep 12, 2021 at 22:56
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    @AlexB. It looks like the dissertation is downloadable here: ca1lib.org/book/12118009/04371e?id=12118009&secret=04371e
    – TKR
    Sep 13, 2021 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


You're right that μίμνω is a reduplicated form of μένω. A plurality of attestations seem to come from the epics, and L&S call it a poetic reduplication. μένω was in much wider use, and seems to have been the unmarked form. There's actually a further enlarged form μιμνάζω, which again is mostly limited to the epics. All three verbs mean the same thing, and it's only the register that differs.

(Not sure what Aretaeus' deal was.)

I suspect μίμνω is the oldest form, and was a regular reduplicated present (imperfective) during the Proto-Indo-European stage. The aorist wouldn't have had the reduplication, and as reduplicated presents ceased to be productive over time, the non-reduplicated stem would have spread to the present by analogy. Archaic oral poetry preserved the now-irregular form.

It's actually kind of unhelpful that we think of the present stem as the "basic" verb stem. In many ways it makes more sense to think of the aorist as the unmarked stem, as it's fundamentally from this that the other stems are derived; for the present, this sometimes happens by adding a nasal infix (e.g. λαμβαν- from λαβ-) or the so-called inchoative -σκ- suffix (εὐρισκ- from εὐρ-), sometimes by i-reduplication (γίγν- from γεν-), sometimes by combinations of these things (γιγνωσκ- from γνω-), sometimes by none. (The development of the sigmatic aorist admittedly makes this picture slightly messier.)
If you think of μεν- as one verb that happens to have two possible ways to form the present, as the Greeks themselves would have done, rather than as being two different verbs that happen to share most of their morphology, it looks a lot less unusual.

  • So in summary, are you saying that you think μίμνω is an archaicism, but we can't be sure, and there is no difference in meaning?
    – user3597
    Sep 12, 2021 at 1:23
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    @BenCrowell My answer to your question is my first paragraph (poetic reduplication, no difference in meaning), which is backed by L&S. The rest is just me typing words, but I think they're plausible words.
    – Cairnarvon
    Sep 12, 2021 at 1:28
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    I'm not clear on what "poetic reduplication" actually implies. Does it just mean a reduplicated form that we only see occurring in poetry? Normally if there is a usage that only occurs in poetry, there is some reason for that -- some way in which the sound, rhythm, connotations, symbolism, ... fit the purposes of poetry. E.g., πεδίον is a poetic usage for the sea, and it makes sense because it evokes an interesting image of the sea as a plain. Would, e.g., Sophocles use μίμνω simply because an old word would project an elevated style?
    – user3597
    Sep 12, 2021 at 1:45
  • Good answer. A small addition: I think in γίγν-/γεν- and μίμν-/μέν-, there is probably Ablaut in the root. So of the root μν-, there existed three basic variants (called grades): one with zero vowel (μν-), one with e (μέν-), and usually there is also one with o, though I'm not sure whether an o grade is attested for this root. I'm not sure which of those three grades is best considered the 'Ur'-variant of the root; possibly the zero grade. One tiny thing: wouldn't you say σκ- is a suffix, rather than an infix?
    – Cerberus
    Sep 12, 2021 at 16:34
  • @Cerberus Yes, i-duplication entails putting the root in the zero-grade as a matter of course (γιγνώσκω may be an exception and reflect the e-grade, but Beekes says it isn't, so 🤷). The e-grade is usually taken as the prototypical form of a PIE root, because it's not necessarily clear from the zero-grade where the vowel would go in other ablaut grades (it is for *mn-, but not for e.g. *ǵnh₃-, the zero-grade of *ǵneh₃-, which could also be the zero-grade of ˣǵenh₃-). In Greek the o-grade of *men- survives in the noun μονή 'stay', but not in a verb (Sanskrit has one, though).
    – Cairnarvon
    Sep 13, 2021 at 1:28

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