The Homeric name Πενθεσίλεια seems to come from πένθος "grief" and λαός "people", presumably meaning something like "grieved by the people". This would be drawing a parallel to Ἀχιλλεύς, if that name really comes from ἄχος and λαός ("pain of the people"), as some ancient authors speculated.

But it's not clear to me how this compound is formed. The first part looks like a dative plural (uncommon but not unheard of in Homeric compounds, like Ναυσι-κάα), but I'm not sure what it would mean for this abstract noun to be plural, or why it would be dative in this instance.

Why is πένθεσι dative plural—or, why does it have this form if it's not dative plural? How is it supposed to be connected to λαός here?

EDIT: Nagy also brings up Πρωτεσι-λαος and Χαιρεσι-λαος, which show the same suffix on their first component, but I remain unclear what exactly that suffix is. The latter suggests it might be a verb ending—TKR in the comments mentions πενθέω—because there's χαιρέω but no *χαίρος that I know of…but I'm not aware of a verb or noun that could supply the first one.

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    There's a verb πενθέω "bewail, lament", so the first part could also be from that.
    – TKR
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 22:30
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    It seems the etymology of basileia/basileus is uncertain. Wikipedia says some suspect a pre-Greek substrate language. But I don't know whether this could be relevant to Penthesileia at all. I do seem to remember that -nth- was sometimes from a pre-Greek substrate, like hyacinthos? Then the 'Greek' etymology could be folk etymology.
    – Cerberus
    Commented May 7, 2023 at 6:34

1 Answer 1


Πενθεσίλεια, unlike Ναυσικάα but like most other compounds where the elements are joined by -σι- (or sometimes -τι-), appears to be a so-called terpsimbrotos compound, which is an inherited IE compound type with parallels in Sanskrit. There are Verb-Noun compounds (probably, though there's also a theory that the first element is an abstract noun of the βάσις type) that have the meaning "one who Verbs the Noun" -- so in this case "she who grieves the people", if the second element is really from λαός. What exactly the morpheme -σι-/-τι- represents in these compounds is a long-debated question.

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