The particular sense of medium I have in mind is the one used in

Water is a medium of sound propagation.

But propagation implies a multiplicity of places, or at least two of them, so that if something propagates then it goes from place A to B.

But suppose a thing simply exists in another. For example sound may now exist in a body of water (having already propagated to all places in it). In which case, we might say:

This body of water is a medium of sound's existence.

If medium simply requires some sort of movement, maybe:

This body of water is a substratum of sound's existence.

Ideally I am looking for a word (in Latin and Greek) that means a thing in which another may either propagate or exist.

More examples:

  • A crowd is a medium of hysteria's propagation.
  • A human breast is a medium (or substratum) of love's existence.
  • A (financial) account is a medium of (financial) delinquency's existence.
  • A network of accounts is a medium of delinquency's propagation.

3 Answers 3


The obvious answer is “medium”. In classical Latin it means “middle, intermediary” etc., and in humanistic Latin (since the 15th century) it is also used for the “intervening substance” in its philosophical sense, in effect as a synonym for “substantia”, the Latin equivalent of Aristotle’s ὑποκείμενον. In your sentences I think that “medium” would do very well.

  • I am glad to learn that it is medium. I thought the word's primary meaning might have interfered with a secondary meaning of this sort. (The reason we don't say that water is the middle of sound propagation because middle too strongly suggests a position.)
    – Catomic
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 6:28

That's a very interesting question. I would translate 'medium' as 'reason' or 'cause' with the latin caussa, caussae or causa, causae.


The Greek word for this is «Μέσο».

E.g. water acts as a medium of sound propagation = «το νερό δρα ως μέσο μεταφοράς ήχου».

I would say "medium" here is best described as "means of / by / through", i.e. water is a means by / through which sound can be propagated.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Do you know if there is an older variant (classical, Koine, or some such Greek) of that word used similarly? Although not stated explicitly, the question is about older Greek, since modern Greek questions are actually off topic.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 17:56
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta to my (personal) knowledge, the word is not necessarily a modern one (except for modern greek dropping the final «ν»). Sources to support this: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%BC%CE%AD%CF%83%CE%BF#Greek , foundalis.com/lan/grkn_neu.htm#patt_on Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 18:23
  • The word certainly existed in ancient Greek, but at least according to LSJ it doesn't seem to have been used in the OP's specific sense.
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 19:38
  • @TKR I can neither confirm nor deny :) To my knowledge it's at least "katharevousa" Greek. It's also worth noting that the latin word "medium", or even the translation "the means by which", also derive from words implying 'halfness' or 'averageness', implying it's the right translation and has evolved alongside. But, yes, I cannot confirm that the concept of "medium" was expressed by that word in latin / ancient greek times. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 20:57

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