In Plato's Republic, Socrates sets forth the following idea, which he later refutes:

τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν καὶ μὴ πολυπραγμονεῖν δικαιοσύνη ἐστί,

justice is to do one's own business and not to do too much,


What's odd, grammatically speaking, is that the compound verb πολυπραγμονεῖν ("to do a lot") doesn't use the verb stem πράττειν, which appears earlier in the clause.

Why does the compound verb πολυπραγμονεῖν use the noun stem instead of the verb stem? Is this common? I would expect to see πολυπράττειν instead.


1 Answer 1


The verb doesn't actually mean simply 'to do many things' – though that idea could conceivably be rendered by πολυπράττειν, if such a verb existed (it isn't attested in LSJ), or by πολλὰ πράττειν. Instead, it's a denominative verb (a verb formed from the stem of a substantive or adjective). In this case, it's formed from the adjective πολυπράγμων, 'meddlesome,' 'officious,' 'a busybody,' and therefore means something like 'to be a busybody.' (In fact, the LSJ entry for πολυπραγμονέω cites this passage from the Republic as an example of the meaning 'to be a meddlesome, inquisitive busybody.')

The section of Smyth's Greek grammar about denominative verbs (§866-868) lists -εω is one of the principle terminations for denominative verbs (§866.2):

-εω: derived chiefly from ο/ε-stems (384 f), and thence extended to all kinds of stems. Verbs in -εω denote a condition or an activity, and are often intransitive.

The example in Smyth that offers the closest parallel with πολυπραγμονέω (< πολυπράγμων) is σωφρονέω, 'to be temperate' (< σώφρων).

  • 1
    Good answer. What would make it even better is a description of the suffix -μων...
    – Cerberus
    Jun 26, 2018 at 2:52

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