A number of New World warblers seem to have genus names that end in the element -thlypis. It's been hard for me to find information about the etymology of this element; I found a few sources on the web that say that it comes from a Greek word θλυπις that referred to some kind of bird, but I can't find any detailed description of this word, only brief mentions of it. The Wikipedia article on the "Common yellowthroat" says

The genus name Geothlypis is from Ancient Greek geo, "ground", and thlupis, an unidentified small bird; thlypis is often used in the scientific names of New World warblers.

The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names, by James A. Jobling, seems to corroborate this statement:

Euthlypis Gr eu fine, good; thlupis unknown small bird, perhaps some sort of finch or warbler. In ornithology thlypis signifies either a parulid warbler or a thin-billed tanager.

I'd like to know where exactly θλυπις occurs in Greek texts, and whether we know anything more about the word than its spelling and the vague idea of its meaning that is described in these quotations. For example, do we know how it is declined, or the length of either of the vowels? I couldn't find this word in any online dictionaries of Greek.

  • 1
    It only occurs once (in the Ancient Greek texts). Can we really say anything of significance about a hapax legomenon?
    – Alex B.
    Nov 15, 2018 at 16:08
  • @AlexB.: In which text does it occur? I read Expedito Bipes's answer with interest, but the Aristotle example given there seems to be for the variant form θραυπίς. I would like to know where the form θλυπίς is found.
    – Asteroides
    Nov 15, 2018 at 20:10
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    @sumelic. It is a variant reading in a manuscript of the book by Aristotle. Otherwise nowhere.
    – fdb
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:20
  • @fdb: Oh, I see. I didn't understand the LSJ entry when I first read it. As I'm not familiar with the conventional ways to refer to ancient manuscripts, can you give any advice on how to find more information about the provenance of the specific documents where this spelling variant occurred? Would it be possible to give any approximate dates for them, or to associate them with any particular regions?
    – Asteroides
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:23
  • 2
    @sumelic. It would be noted in a critical edition of the H.A.
    – fdb
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:25

2 Answers 2


According to LSJ, θλυπίς is a variation of θραυπίς, which occurred in Aristotle's Historia Animalium, Book viii, ch. 3:

Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα τὰ μὲν ὅλως, τὰ δ´ ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ σκωληκοφάγα, τὰ δὲ τοιάδε ἀκανθοφάγα, ἀκανθίς, θραυπίς, ἔτι ἡ καλουμένη χρυσομῆτρις. Ταῦτα γὰρ πάντα ἐπὶ τῶν ἀκανθῶν νέμεται, σκωλήκα δ´ οὐδὲν οὐδ´ ἔμψυχον οὐδέν· ἐν ταὐτῷ δὲ καθεύδει καὶ νέμεται ταῦτα.


The above-enumerated birds and the like of them feed either wholly or for the most part on grubs, but the following and the like feed on thistles; to wit, the linnet, the thraupis, and the goldfinch. All these birds feed on thistles, but never on grubs or any living thing whatever; they live and roost also on the plants from which they derive their food.

Other than that, θλυπίς and θραυπίς appear in a number of reference works, such as Griechisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch:

θραυπὶς, ἡ, ein Vogel wie der Distelfink, carduelis; auch θλυπὶς, θλιπὶς, γράπις, geschrieben

Martini Rulandi Medici Synonyma:

Carduelis - Θραπὶς. θραυπὶς. ποικιλῖς. Ἀκανθὶς

A New and Complete Greek Gradus:

Ακανθις, ίδος. ἡ. carduelis. goldfinch, or linnet, αειδον κορυδοι και ακανθίδες, εστενε τρυγών. Theoc. 7. 141. SYN. Θραυπις, ποικιλις.

Nichtlateinische Schriftzeichen:

Κάρδερίνα, π. - Ποικιλὶς, θραυπὶς (ἴδε Φλυτζοῦνι εἰς τὸ Παράρτ.), ἀκανθῖς καὶ ἀκανθυλλὶς (ἠ ποιλίκη), ἀστραγαλῖνος, χρυσομῖτρης. chardonneret.


Just to expand on Expedito Bipes's answer (and Alex B.'s and fdb's comments) and clarify a bit:

The word θλυπίς (thlypis) is a hapax legomenon ("thing said only once"), that is, a word found only once in the whole canon of Ancient Greek literature. In particular, it's found in a particular manuscript of Aristotle's Historia Animalium (VIII.3).

Most manuscripts have the passage the way Expedito quotes it: namely with the word θραυπίς (thraupis). It's unclear whether θλυπίς is a typo, or whether it's another word for the same type of bird (so a synonym). Judging from Expedito's sources, many lexicographers take the second option, and that's how it ended up in scientific names for birds.

  • Thanks for the expansion. I still haven't had the time to look at "a critical edition of the H.A" as fdb suggests, so if you have access to a source like this, I would appreciate any citations that you can provide that would help identify the specific manuscript(s) that contain the form θλυπίς.
    – Asteroides
    Jan 15, 2019 at 7:06
  • @sumelic I don't have one on hand, but I'll see what I can find!
    – Draconis
    Jan 15, 2019 at 16:06

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