I am a mathematician and I'm wondering how the ancient Greek called a compass and a straightedge and how would you pronounce this in English?

I know that today they are called κανόνας (kanónas) and διαβήτης (diavítis).

  • 3
    "Compass and straightedge" is a modern characterization of the constructive nature of Euclid's Elements. He doesn't actually speak in those terms in the text. For instance, he talks about straight lines (as opposed to "lines" meaning curves), but he doesn't talk about the actual physical, practical tool for drawing them.
    – user3597
    Nov 23, 2021 at 21:58
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    @BenCrowell. The question was not actually about Euclid’s usage (Euclid in any case discusses at a purely abstract level and does not talk about tools). The classical terms for “compass” and “straightedge” are well attested in ancient authors, as any dictionary will confirm.
    – fdb
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:18

1 Answer 1


Straightedge = κανών /kanoːn/

Compass = διαβήτης /diabeːteːs/

These are etymologically the same as English “canon” and “diabetes” (the disease) respectively, so if you want an “English” pronunciation just follow that of the two English words.

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