I have noticed in both Greek and Latin that sometimes a verb shares the same root as its object or modifier. This construction looks funny to me as an English speaker, as we don't often encounter this occurrence in English. One example that comes to mind from my Greek textbook is ἁμαρτάνω used with ἁμαρτία. I can point to more examples, however, from the Vulgate. Here are some instances I found in the Book of Jonah.

Et timuerunt viri timore magno Dominum: et immolaverunt hostias Domino, et voverunt vota. (Jonah 1:16)

And the men feared Lord with a great fear, and sacrificed victims to the Lord, and made vows.

Surge, et vade in Niniven, civitatem magnam, et prædica in ea prædicationem quam ego loquor ad te. (Jonah 3:2)

Rise, and go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach in it the preaching which I speak to you.

Et afflictus est Jonas afflictione magna, et iratus est: (Jonah 4:1)

And Jonah was afflicted with a great affliction, and was angry.

I wanted to know, is there a name for this? Is it found in Classical Latin as well as the Vulgate? And can you think of any reasons why it's common in Greek and Latin, but not in English?

  • @SimpliciterChristianus Interesting. But what if the noun is derived from the verb? Would the name still apply? If so, would it be misleading? – ktm5124 Jan 18 '17 at 7:23

This sort of figura etymologica is common in classical Latin and classical Greek, but even more so in Semitic languages (such as Hebrew and Arabic), where it has (among other things) the function of intensifying a statement. A good example is in Genesis 2:17 where מֹות תָּמוּת (mōϑ tāmūϑ) is rendered as θανάτῳ ἀποθανεῖσθε and morte morieris, all literally “you shall die a death (or: by a death)”. As you point out, this does not work very well in English. Thus, the KJV paraphrases it as: “thou shalt surely die”, where "surely" brings out the intensifying force of the figura.

  • 1
    Although both answers are correct, I think this captures the underlying issue, which is that the Latin phrases in question are all translated as faithfully as possible from a Semitic source text. – brianpck Jan 18 '17 at 13:36
  • Thanks! Your answer is really helpful. The Wikipedia page on figura etymologica is also quite useful. Quick question. How do you pronounce figura etymologica? Do you pronounce it according to Classical Latin, with hard g's? Is there a macron over the second o? Perhaps a presentation of this phrase with the appropriate macrons (macra?) would help guide me. – ktm5124 Jan 18 '17 at 21:00
  • Also worth mentioning, I may have been wrong in assuming that cognate object construction is rare in English. The Wikipedia page on figura etymologica offers a few examples: "live a good life, sing a long song, die a quiet death". It looks like it also serves the function of intensifying the statement. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figura_etymologica. – ktm5124 Jan 18 '17 at 21:06

When a verb and direct object are involved, the accusative is often referred to as a cognate accusative.

The more general term, which would also cover your afflictus...afflictione example, is figura etymologica.

Both are quite common in classical Latin – for example:

tutiorem vitam vivere (Cic. Verr. 2.118)

cura ut valeas meque ames amore illo tuo singulari (Cic. Fam. 15.20.3)

odissem te odio Vatiniano (Catul. 14.3)

bella res est mori sua morte (Sen. Ep. 69.6)

Update: As for English, there are some very common examples in everyday speech: people often speak about living their life, singing a song, giving a gift, seeing the sights, etc. I'm sure there must be examples in English-language literature too, but I can't think of any right now. The best I can do is this, my favorite example of figura etymologica in English, from an episode of The Simpsons:

Come, family. Sit in the snow with Daddy and let us all bask in television's warm glowing warming glow.

  • I think these examples are slightly misleading as direct parallels of the OP's quote: "amore illo tuo" = "with that love of yours" is a rhetorical flourish much like we would do in English. "odissem te odio" is meant to parallel the previous verse ("oculis amarem"). "Mori sua morte" appears to be a spurious quote: I cannot find it at the location cited or anywhere else that is authoritative. Only the first, as in English, is an established idiom. – brianpck Jan 18 '17 at 13:49
  • 1
    @brianpck Google books has a copy of Seneca's Epistles; the quote is highlighted in the exact location and manner as cnread cited here: books.google.com/… – T.C. Proctor Jan 18 '17 at 15:44
  • @brianpck However, as the editor mentions in the footnote on that page, it may be a reference to the first quote, an established idiom. – T.C. Proctor Jan 18 '17 at 15:50
  • @T.C.Proctor You're right--my mistake! – brianpck Jan 18 '17 at 16:26
  • Ah, your update beats me to it. You make the same point which I commented on in my comment (see what I did there?) to fdb's answer, about figura etymologica not being as rare in English as I had thought. I appreciate your examples. – ktm5124 Jan 18 '17 at 21:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.