By analogy with my previous question, I'm interested in how to say "notes" in classical Greek. The Latin equivalents that I often use are "notae" and "annotationes". I use these when I want a Latin word to describe a section of notes, e.g. notes about a passage or translation. But what word(s) would you recommend from classical Greek?

1 Answer 1


One way to say it ὑπόμνημα (pl. ὑπομνήματα). The word literally recalls some sort of reminder and can (and often does) mean "reminder, memorial, or record." But as early as Plato it could mean "notes taken on what was said" (*Theaetetus 143a):

ἀλλ᾽ ἐγραψάμην μὲν τότ᾽ εὐθὺς οἴκαδ᾽ ἐλθὼν ὑπομνήματα, ὕστερον δὲ κατὰ σχολὴν ἀναμιμνῃσκόμενος ἔγραφον, καὶ ὁσάκις Ἀθήναζε ἀφικοίμην, ἐπανηρώτων τὸν Σωκράτη ὃ μὴ ἐμεμνήμην, καὶ δεῦρο ἐλθὼν ἐπηνορθούμην: ὥστε μοι σχεδόν τι πᾶς ὁ λόγος γέγραπται.

But I made notes at the time as soon as I reached home, then afterwards at my leisure, as I recalled things, I wrote them down, and whenever I went to Athens I used to ask Socrates about what I could not remember, and then I came here and made corrections; so that I have pretty much the whole talk written down. (transl. H. N. Fowler)

As it developed, it also had come to mean both a treatise on a subject (I'm guessing which developed from the idea of writing down little notes on that topic) to commentaries on literary works. LSJ detailed the relevant passages for that in §5 a & c:

  1. dissertations or treatises written by philosophers, rhetoricians, and artists, Archyt. ap. D.L.8.80 sq., Sotad.Com.1.35, Demetr.Lac.Herc.1014.67, Longin.44.12, D.L.4.4; of historical or geographical works, Plb.1.1.1, 1.35.6, 3.32.4, Ptol.Geog.1.6.2, etc.; of medical works, Gal.6.460,691, al. (the same work is called ὑ. and σύγγραμμα in 15.1).

c. explanatory notes, commentaries, Sch.Ar.Av.1242, etc.; of the Homeric commentaries of Aristarch., Sch.Il.2.420, al.; εἰ γὰρ τὰ συγγράμματα (Aristarchus' independent treatises on Homeric questions) τῶν ὑπομνημάτων προτάττοιμεν . . Did. ap. Sch.Il.2.111; so Gal. distinguishes ὑπομνήματα (clinical notes) from συγγράμματα of Hippocrates, 16.532,543; and the συγγράμματα of Hp. from his own commentaries (ὑπομνήματα) on them, ib.811; commentary, οὕτω Θέων ἐν ὑ. τῷ εἰς Θεόκριτον Et.Gud.d. s.v. γρῖπος.

  • 1
    Thanks! It's nice to learn that word, and it does seem like the proper word to use judging from its root, μνη-. Especially comforting that Plato himself used the word in this sense.
    – ktm5124
    Apr 14, 2017 at 2:30

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