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There is a Latin word exostra with a Greek cognate ἐξώστρα, that enters mishnaic Hebrew as גזוזטרא, with the meaning balcony/enclosure.

I heard from a friend that Latin exostra derives from ex + sto, and that the Greek cognate ἐξώστρα derives from ἔξω + ἵστημι. This seemed fishy to me, so I looked up in dictionaries (on Perseus) that said that exostra derives from the Greek (the Greek dictionaries on Perseus that I saw gave no etymology). Then the Etymological Hebrew Dictionary by Haim Rabin suggests that ἐξώστρα derives from ἐξ + ὠθέω. Now, this etymology makes semantic sense to me, but I don't understand noun formation enough to identify where the suffix -στρα derives from. Is there such a nominal suffix? Is this the correct etymology?

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    For anyone who can't read Hebrew, that's gzūztrā, possibly with a schwa or two between the consonants. (I'm still not good at figuring out which ones are pronounced and which aren't.)
    – Draconis
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 1:50
  • @Draconis I'd bet on a short u. The vav is probably there only as an aid to reading, not to indicate a long vowel. So, perhaps: gəzuzṭərā.
    – magicker72
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 14:02

1 Answer 1

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Yes, it comes from ἐξ + ὠθέω.

The suffix is -trā, which forms nouns with usually but not always instrumental meanings. (It's related to the more common instrumental suffix -tron, and in fact in addition to ἐξώστρα there is a neuter variant ἔξωστρον.) Of the meanings listed in LSJ, "stage machine" seems clearly instrumental (an instrument for pushing things out on stage), "bridge thrust out" and "balcony" less so; I'm guessing these might be later extensions.

In terms of form ἐξώστρα is the regular result of ἐξ-ωθ-τρα. Greek does not allow clusters like θτρ, and in such cases the first dental regularly turns into σ. There is no way it could come from ἐξίστημι.

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  • This makes sense, thank you. Do you have suggestion of somewhere where I can read about -τρα? I am familiar with -τρον, but not with -τρα.
    – magicker72
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 0:09
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    @magicker72 There's a very short (half page) discussion in Chantraine's Formation des noms en grec ancien. I don't know of anything more detailed, but maybe someone here will.
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 0:51
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    Awesome, thanks. It's §267, for future reference, and it gives my word as an example! Probably worth noting the reference in the body of your answer, and I'll mark it correct.
    – magicker72
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 3:58

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