I'm looking for parallel idioms related by vocabulary and/or meaning.

This is in reference to a question on Mythology regarding the "gray eyed" translation of an epithet of Athena: Why is Athena “gray eyed”? and on English: What is the origin of steely-eyed?

1 Answer 1


Γλαυκῶπις, -ιδος (L. glaucōpis, -idis)

This has already been mentioned in the Mythology question you linked, but I think it's the best idiom for your usage.

This is a Greek word, but one famous enough that educated Romans would recognize it (especially as glaucus is attested in Latin). It's a compound; the second part is pretty clearly ὤψ/ōps, "eye" (as in optics, optometry). But the first part, glauc-, is more interesting.

Γλαυκός/glaucus is a curious word with no known cognates. Its earliest meaning, as found in Homer, is probably "shining" or "gleaming", with no reference to color. Later it shifted to mean "silver" or "gray", and then to something bluer, what we would now call a "steely" color (it was applied to olive leaves and certain other plants, as well as the ocean).

From the meaning of "shining" came the noun γλαῦξ, γλαῦκος/glaux, glaucis, "little owl", because of how their eyes shine at night. Because the owl was a symbol of Athena, γλαῦξ was often used in reference to her: we find idioms like γλαῦκ᾽ Ἀθήναζε "owls to Athens", the equivalent of English "carry coals to Newcastle".

So γλαυκῶπις could mean "with shining eyes", "with steely eyes", or "owl-eyed". When used as an epithet of Athena, all three are fitting.

  • Thank you for this answer. I am quite attracted to the idea that there could be a link between "steely eyed" in the sense of canniness derived from experience and analysis, and the steely eyed, armed and armored goddess of wisdom.
    – DukeZhou
    Jul 19, 2017 at 21:28
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    Btw, the "owls" in γλαῦκ᾽ Ἀθήναζε are Athenian drachmas, which were engraved with the likeness of an owl.
    – TKR
    Jul 19, 2017 at 22:38
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    Can you add specific references to "steely", considered that steely-eyed doesn't have to do with color?
    – cmw
    Jul 20, 2017 at 1:04
  • @cmw I suspect Draconis was referencing that steel, particularly as used in weapons, has a blue-gray color.
    – DukeZhou
    Jul 24, 2017 at 23:26
  • @cmw That is indeed my mistake; I've always thought "steely-eyed" referred to a blue-gray color. I'll look into the origin of the English term more.
    – Draconis
    Jul 25, 2017 at 2:28

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