This is a question about ancient Greek language. I thought this would be the best place to post the question as there are other Greek questions here and stack-exchange doesn't have a Greek forum. If not, please feel free to direct the post elsewhere.

The words αχρι and μεχρι are both translated interchangably as "until, as far as, up to," etc. in every lexicon I've checked (Liddell-Scott Jones, the new Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, Septuagint lexicons, and BDAG are some of the key ones to name a few).

Then I found this website: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/a/a-ch-r-i.html

...which says the difference is μεχρι "expresses termination of time or place, without emphasizing the process of getting there (as αχρι, achri, does)." But the website doesn't cite any sources, acting as a source of its own.

  1. Is that statement true? And is there a credible source that supports it?
  2. Would someone please explain to me what is the real difference between these two words from a Classical (and if possible, also Koine) perspective, with some credible source reference(s) to back it up?
  3. Do any ancient translations between Greek and Latin shed light on their difference of meaning?

Thank you and any help would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


It is hard to see any semantic differences between μέχρι(ς) and ἄχρι(ς) as prepositions and conjunctions. However we can detect a difference between them as adverbs: ἄχρι means completely; μέχρι means until a specific point and precedes a preposition or adverb. As examples of these meanings we can get

ἀπὸ δ’ ὀστέον ἄχρις ἄραξε Π 324

μέχρι δεῦρο τοῦ λόγου Πλ. Συμπ. 217Ε.

Therefore we can conclude that the website 's statement is doubtful.

Their etymology is also common: they both come from *me-ghs-r-i so that the second is the zero grade of the first.

Finally Latin may not help, because we translate the different meanings of μέχρι and ἄχρι by different latin words (usque, quousque, citra).

  • 2
    In μέχρι δεῦρο τοῦ λόγου I'd say μέχρι is a preposition rather than an adverb (until this point in the speech). Adverbial μέχρι seems to be rare, but LSJ does give an example ἐς γόνυ μέχρι χιτῶνα ζώννυσθαι.
    – TKR
    Jan 16 at 21:57
  • 1
    I think the issue is that adverbs don't generally govern other words, and μέχρι is clearly governing δεῦρο, just like in ἀπὸ τότε. If it were an adverb you'd expect it to be omissible.
    – TKR
    Jan 17 at 17:33
  • 1
    But synchrony isn't diachrony, and the reason Greek prepositions are said to have once been adverbs, rather than to still be adverbs, is precisely the change in syntactic behavior by which they came to take complements. ἀπὸ isn't an adverb in ἀπὸ τότε, unless we call all Greek prepositions adverbs.
    – TKR
    Jan 17 at 21:35
  • 1
    I'd say τότε and δεῦρο are acting substantivally in those phrases, or else that prepositions can take adverbs as complements. It seems arbitrary to me to say that the same word is an adverb if its complement is an adverb but otherwise a preposition; it's clearer to distinguish between prepositional uses and adverbial ones based on presence or absence of a complement. This is obviously a question of terminological preference, but I think the position I'm describing is conventional, see e.g. LSJ s.v. ἀπό which regards it as a preposition in all cases.
    – TKR
    Jan 17 at 22:19
  • 1
    Anyway, whatever definitions one uses, in the context of this question the crux is whether μέχρι and ἄχρι have different meanings when used in the same syntactic environment, i.e. whether μέχρι δεῦρο means something different from ἄχρι δεῦρο. I don't think that's the case, but I could be wrong.
    – TKR
    Jan 17 at 22:35

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