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Does anyone know if this word was ever used to describe an act towards something that wasn't a god? If so, what did the act entail? Could this word be used to describe devotion to an object--for instance, could someone who is obsessed with an object and spends all day absorbed by it be considered to προσκυνέω it? Thanks!

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    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 26, 2021 at 12:08

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Welcome to Latin.SE.

The answer to your question is yes. The etymology of προσκυνέω is simply "to kiss toward," which makes it pretty general. The wiktionary entry shows that it was used to refer to bowing down before a king, and that this usage extended at least from Herodotus up to early Christianity. We also have in the septuagint version of Exodus 32:8,

παρέβησαν ταχὺ ἐκ τῆς ὁδοῦ ἧς ἐνετείλω αὐτοῗς ἐποίησαν ἑαυτοῗς μόσχον καὶ προσκεκυνήκασιν αὐτῷ καὶ τεθύκασιν αὐτῷ καὶ εἶπαν οὗτοι οἱ θεοί σου Ισραηλ οἵτινες ἀνεβίβασάν σε ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου

Here I believe προσκεκυνήκασιν is a form of προσκυνέω, and the description is of people worshiping the golden calf.

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  • But is that the same as being 'obsessed with an object and spend[ing] all day absorbed by it'? As far as I can see, the passage from Exodus refers to an isolated display of devotion as part of a single feast day that Aaron had proclaimed.
    – cnread
    Sep 26, 2021 at 19:42

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