I know this is a long shot, one word being Greek and the other Latin, but is it at all possible for there to be a relation between Bellerophon, the slayer of beasts, and belua "beast"? A cursory glance at Wikipaedia informs us that the etymology of Bellerophon is not quite certain:

One possible etymology that has been suggested is: Βελλεροφόντης from βέλεμνον, βελόνη, βέλος ("projectile, dart, javelin, needle, arrow, bullet") and -φόντης ("slayer") from φονεύω ("to slay"). However, Geoffrey Kirk says that "Βελλεροφόντης means 'slayer of Belleros'".[3] Belleros could have been a Lycian, a local daimon or a Corinthian nobleman—Bellerophon's name "clearly invited all sorts of speculation".[3]

I see a stem βέλ- "projectile" mentioned.

Lewis & Short invite speculation with their etymological comment on belua:

[perh. kindr. with θήρ, fera, as uber with οὖθαρ, and paulus with παῦρος] ... cf.: "bestia" ...

I won't ask about any conexions with beast...


It's possible, though the evidence is lacking.

Nobody really knows where bēlua/bellua comes from. De Vaan suggests that it would have to come from *-lVwa, but cites Pokorny as pointing out that the only real proposal, PIE *dhwes-lo-weh₂, would be expected to give f- instead of b-. (Generally, PIE *dh- gives Latin f-, while PIE *dw- gives Latin b.) Its derivatives in Latin indicate that it was re-analyzed as a u-stem later on.

Wherever it came from, it's possible that the same stem bell- arose in Hellenic. It might then have gained a -ro- and become a standard o-stem noun.

But unfortunately, there's no real evidence either way for this. I don't know of any attestation for a word *belleros in Greek at any point. So while it's entirely possible, there's no way to say for certain.

  • Latin bell- / Greek βελ- – DukeZhou May 24 '18 at 19:32
  • @Asteroides Ah yep, that's a mistake on my part. Not sure where it would have come from, since my usual reference is LSJ and they make it clear it's a short ŭ. – Draconis Oct 16 '20 at 19:26

Immediately makes me think of a combination of βέλ- and φονά / φον-.

My sense is that the idea of names like this referring to lost stories, potentially involving real people subsequently mythologized, comes largely from Frazer, and is a worthwhile speculation, however

My Greek professors emphasized the intentional meaning of names in Greek mythology. Confusion arises when we can't find Greek referents, as in the case of the first part of Cassandra (although I think Graves makes the strongest case for "engangler of men", based on the nature of her curse and the depiction of Agamemnon bound up with nets in the bath.)

The literal meaning of Bellerophon as some form of martial "darter" (per Pegasus) is so apt that it has to seriously undermine alternate hypotheses.

  • I think it's quite possible belua has that form because hunting wild beasts often involved casting spears or shooting arrows, which is less risky that melee with the wild beasts.

But this must be taken as a soft answer, pending etymological connections to back up the semantic analysis.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European roots lists:

‌‌bhel-² "To blow, swell; with derivatives referring to various round objects and to the notion of tumescent masculinity"

That is not inconsistent with Bellerephon's role, in the sense that Pegasus may be understood as anti-chthonic, and on his flying mount he would surely come like the wind, but bhel-² may shed light on the beast connection via "bull". (The ancients didn't have the same detailed taxonomy of species as the moderns, so words for types of animals could be used generically. Thus, the root might have been used for anything "beastlike".)

There is also a relationship of this root, via "blow", with "roaring" [see: "bullroarers"]. This meaning seems to have persisted in words like "bellow":

bellow, verb, (of a person or animal) emit a deep loud roar, typically in pain or anger.
SOURCE: Oxford Living Dictionary

The relationship of wind/breath and roaring is not random, and Bellerephon can certainly be understood to "roar like the wind" when swooping to the attack atop Pegasus.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.