Inspired by this question, I'm interested to know what is the best Attic Greek word for "vocabulary". I thought about θησαυρός, but I'm not sure this is best. I feel like there may also be a word based on γλῶσσα, but there are so many words formed from this root that I wouldn't know where to start. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised to find a word meaning "vocabulary" based on λόγος.

Thus, I pose the question to you: Which Attic Greek word is best suited to mean "vocabulary"?

  • 1
    Vocabulary in what sense? A person's command of language, or a lexicon (which is, of course, Greek)?
    – cmw
    Mar 11, 2017 at 0:15
  • Good question. I would be interested in knowing both senses, but allow me to add a third. In my textbook, there is a "Vocabulary" section in every chapter, and also a "Vocabulary" section beneath every reading. I would be interested in knowing what Attic Greek word best describes this: a list of key vocabulary for a chapter or a reading, or for any subject really. Hope I'm being clear.
    – ktm5124
    Mar 11, 2017 at 0:20

2 Answers 2


Your guesses are very close: Greek terms for "vocabulary" or "glossary" are λέξεις and γλῶσσαι (both nominative plurals).

On λέξις, LSJ says:

Gramm., a word peculiar in form or signification: hence λέξεις is the older term for a glossary, Ῥοδιακαὶ λέξεις a glossary of Rhodian phrases

and on γλῶσσα:

obsolete or foreign word, which needs explanation, Arist. Rh.1410b12, Po.1457b4, Plu.2.406f: hence Γλῶσσαι, title of works by Philemon and others

The lexicon of grammatical terms in Eleanor Dickey's Ancient Greek Scholarship implies something similar, defining γλῶσσα as "dialect, language, obsolete or dialectal word" and λέξις as "word, phrase, speech, diction, style, peculiar word (hence λέξεις 'glossary'), text of an author (as opposed to commentary)". So it seems that of the two, insofar as there was a difference in usage, λέξεις may have been the more general term for "vocabulary", and γλῶσσαι a more specific term for vocabulary consisting of obscure words.

  • Thanks! Sounds like I should probably use λέξεις to mean "vocabulary", and γλῶσσαι to mean "glossary". I'm accepting this answer, but I welcome any other answers that come as well.
    – ktm5124
    Mar 11, 2017 at 8:08

What about "lexicon" as per:

λεξικόν (sc. βιβλίον), = λέξεις (v. λέξις 11.3), AB1094, Phot. tit.

  • I like that option. I'm having just a little trouble parsing the LSJ entry. I'm assuming the sc. means scilicet and the v. means vox. That's fine. But what exactly does the = sign mean? Does it mean they were used interchangeably in a particular text?
    – ktm5124
    Mar 11, 2017 at 19:47
  • 1
    @ktm5124: "v." means "vide" = "see the entry λέξις in this dictionary". The whole thing means that the two mentioned sources (AB = Bekker's Anecdota Graeca and Photius) use λεξικόν to mean λέξεις
    – fdb
    Mar 11, 2017 at 21:12

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