I'm trying to come up with a suffix counterpart to the prefix klepto- (basically meaning "related to theft"), seeing that no such thing exists (and thus what I'm doing is technically neologism). For clarification, what I'm looking for is what the suffix -phagy is to the prefix phago-; both are from the same root, carry the same meaning, but are on opposite ends of the word and tend to have different functions (the prefix usually "X that eats"-type words, while the latter usually creates "X-eating"-type words).

One method that I've thought of to create the new suffix:

  1. I looked for an Ancient Greek word that both derives from the same root as klepto- and is a noun that actually translates to "theft" (result: κλοπή klopḗ)
  2. The way κλοπή sounded for some reason prompted me to look up the suffix -trophy on a hunch; and lo and behold, that one's Ancient Greek root is τροφή (trophḗ).
  3. It thus seems logical to me that the hypothetical suffix counterpart of klepto- would be -klopy.

An alternative method: Following the example of phago-/-phagy, the suffix counterpart of klepto- would logically be -klepty.

Are either of these a sound derivation?

  • The root cleps is found in English "clepsydra" a water clock; and in Greek clepsiphron dissembling, untruthful; and clepsicholos pretending to be lame. But the word for 'thievery' is not *clepsis; instead it is cleptosune so it doesn't form the obvious suffix '-clepsy.'
    – Hugh
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 5:06
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    A suffix used with several dinosaur species is -raptor for "thief" or "taker", which may or may not serve depending on your needs, though not related to klepto-.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:04
  • @Hugh: I cannot find anything about "cleptosune" besides this page.
    – MarqFJA87
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:50
  • @JonHanna: That's Latin, not Greek.
    – MarqFJA87
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:50
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    @MarqFJA87: I believe Hugh is referring to κλεπτοσύνη.
    – Asteroides
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I don't know any Greek. This is an answer based on Internet research (and now some helpful comments from Modern Greek speakers), not an expert answer. I would advise against accepting it or using it as the basis of any serious decision about forming a word.

  • "-klopy"/"-clopy" seems most preferable to me in that there are at least two Greek words in the LSJ dictionary ending in -κλοπία (λογοκλοπία "stealing of another's words" and πυροκλοπία "theft of fire", which could be anglicized as "logoclopy" and "pyroclopy"). Although I can't find any compound words ending in -κλοπή in LSJ, Tasos Papastylianou and terdon have let me know that -κλοπή works as the second element of a compound word in Modern Greek. (The Modern Greek form of λογοκλοπία seems to be λογοκλοπή.) As I don't know Greek, I can't provide any explanation for the presence of the suffix -ία in the two Ancient Greek words mentioned above; I can only say that it seems to show up in some other old compound nouns referring to abstract concepts (e.g. ὑδροϕοβία "hydrophobia", from φόβος "fear"; see Tasos Papastylianou's comments below for a native Greek speaker's perspective about the possible nuances of meaning the suffix -ία might add in this context.)

    In English, using the spelling "-klopy" rather than the less anglicized "-klopia" might allow you to maintain a touch of ambiguity about whether you intend for the word to be understood as derived from Greek -κλοπία or -κλοπή: because modern Greek κλοπή is pronounced as /kloˈpi/, with the vowel /i/, it is typically transcribed as "klopi", and "klopy" could perhaps be interpreted as a non-standard anglicization of this (with word-final letter "i" replaced with the letter "y" in accordance with usual English spelling conventions). There is some minor precedent for going from Greek to English -y in the form of old spelling variants (or depending on your perspective, misspellings) of some words spelled in the current standard with "e", like "apostrophy", "epitomy". I dunno if that is really a convincing reason to choose this spelling, though. Maybe it's better to just make a definite decision (which might still be in favor of the spelling with "y", just not because of any ambiguity).

    (A side note on English pronunciation: it would be most regular to pronounce words ending in -clopy/-klopy/-clope with stress on the third-to-last syllable, following the pattern of compound words like miscroscopy, astronomy, geology or syncope, apocope, apostrophe).

  • "-klepty" seems a bit more iffy to me, as I haven't been able to find any Greek words ending in -κλεπτία. However, terdon said in a comment below that -κλεπτία would work as the second part of a compound word in modern Greek. Whether or not it's sound in Ancient Greek, "-klepty" seems to have been used in modern scientific literature: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karyoklepty.

  • "-klepsy" is another one I'm unsure about, but would advise against using if you're trying to stick to Ancient Greek. κλεψιά does seem to exist in modern Greek (with stress on the last syllable, although the Greek Wiktionary says it would have been κλεψία in Medieval/Byzantine Greek) as some kind of synonym of κλοπή, but I don't know if it would be suitable for the purposes you describe. I didn't find any Greek compound words ending in -κλεψία in LSJ, and terdon said that, although -κλεψιά would work as the second element of a Modern Greek compound, it would be surprising if it existed in Ancient Greek. (Terdon also said that the difference between κλεψιά and κλοπή in modern Greeek is "akin to the difference between theft and robbery with the addition that κλεψιά also tends to be more colloquial.") I found some examples of "χαρτοκλεψιά" used online in modern Greek (the first part of this word is from χάρτης; it seems to be related to χαρτοκλέφτης "card sharp/swindler").

With regard to scientific technical terms, while we can say that most of them are based on Ancient Greek and this is the principle for their derivation in an ideal kind of sense, in practice people derive them from whatever form of Greek they feel like using (or whatever they can find, or even from Latin instead of Greek). E.g. note that the linked Wikipedia article describes "karyoklepty" as being derived from "kleftis", which looks to me like it is a transcription of the Modern Greek pronunciation of the word for "thief" (κλέφτης; the ancient form of the word is κλέπτης, which would be transliterated as "kleptes"). Since scientists in the modern era don't usually study classical languages, it may be easier to check if a compound works in Modern Greek than to make sure it works in Ancient Greek.

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    Are you limiting this to Ancient Greek? The suffixes -κλοπή, -κλεπτία and -κλεψιά are common enough in Modern Greek. Or, at the very least, clearly understandable to any native speaker and would be immediately understood if added to a new word. PS. The difference between κλεψιά and κλοπή are akin to the difference between theft and robbery with the addition that κλεψιά also tends to be more colloquial.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:01
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    @sumelic I'm a native speaker; I just know how to speak the thing, not the whys ;) In other words, yes there is absolutely a rule but I don't know it. As I recall it has something to do with the syllable that carries the stress, but I really can't tell you anything reliable.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:32
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    If you're arguing semantics, the "clepto" in "cleptomaniac" implies "stealing" (i.e. verb form) not "theft" (i.e. noun form). The noun form would have been "clopemaniac" or something like that. Therefore, for an equivalent suffix I would go for the "klepty" (or "klepsy") instead, which is the equivalent 'verb' suffix. As for 'clopy', I would be a bit hesitant. Even if it appears in ancient texts as referenced above, the more typical ending should be 'clope' (κλοπή). I would assume that the 'y' ending refers to the «-ία» Greek ending equivalent. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:42
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    @sumelic I don't have a reference to back this up, and it's a subtle disctinction, but my intuitive feeling as a native speaker is that the ending «-ια» in such cases, denotes "a state of / tendency to", and that this tends to be transliterated as "-y". Hydrophobia is an interesting exception (in that it is not written "hydrophoby") but it is a good example nonetheless in that it denotes "a state of fear (of water)", as opposed to "Water-related fear". Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 16:34
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    @MarqFJA87: while "-trophy" is derived from τροφή, the "-y" in the English word doesn't represent -ή directly: it represents the suffix -ία. E.g. "atrophy" comes from Greek ἀτροϕία.
    – Asteroides
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:37

L/S has: βόο-κλεψ, contr. βοῦκλεψ, ὁ,

A stealer of oxen, S[ophocles].Fr[agment]318.

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