You are here:

Ancient Languages/Greek kairo versus kairos


Hi Maria,

I'm studying two Greek words that appear to have the same root. The words are kairo (spelled kappa, alpha, iota, rho, omega) and kairos (spelled kappa, alpha, iota, rho, omicron, final sigma). These both appear to mean season or time. My question to you is this:  Does the spelling of these words change their meaning, even if that change is slight? If so, how?


first of all I have to tell you that the ancient Greek “kairo” must be spelled kappa, alpha, iota, rho, omega with the iota subscript (i.e. written below the line)  and the circumflex  accent on the omega, that is to say καιρῷ transliterated as “kairői”(with the “i” adscript, i.e. written on the line).

So,  καιρῷ /kairői  is the dative singular of the masculine noun καιρός transliterated as “kairós”.

Note that  the masculine noun καιρός, transliterated as “kairós”, belongs to the 2nd declension and has five cases, i.e. nominative (καιρός/kairós), genitive (καιροῦ/kairoũ), dative (καιρῷ/ kairői), accusative (καιρόν/kairόn), vocative (καῖρε/kaĩre), since ancient Greek is an inflected Language with 3 declensions and 5 cases.

That being stated, the nominative καιρός/kairós means “season/time /the right time“ used as the subject of a sentence, while the dative singular καιρῷ/ kairői means “to the season/time” or “in season/time” as well as “at the right time” used as an adverb, according to the context.

For example, in Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, line 1516, we read :πάντα γὰρ καιρῷ καλά (pánta gŕr kairői kalά) meaning “for it is in season that all things are good” where the dative καιρῷ/ kairői means “in season”, while in Pindar, Pythian 4, line 286 we read  ὁ καιρός πρὸς ἀνθρώπων βραχὺ μέτρον έχει (ho kairňs prňs anthrôpon brachů métron échei ) meaning  “the right moment has a brief measure in the eyes of men”, where  the nominative ὁ καιρός/ ho kairňs is the subject and means “the right moment”.

To sum up, though both καιρός/kairós and καιρῷ/ kairői appear to mean “season” or “time”, the spelling of these words change their meaning in a sentence, simply because καιρός/kairós is a nominative used as the subject of a phrase, while καιρῷ/ kairői is a dative used  an indirect object in a sentence.

Lastly I must point out that in ancient Greek there is another word written like καιρός/ kairňs, but with a different accent, i.e. καῖρος /kaĩros with the circumflex accent on the first syllable, instead of the acute/grave accent on the last syllable.

The accent marks a difference so that the masculine noun καῖρος /kaĩros means "warping" with reference to weaving.

As you can see, καιρός/ kairόs (with the acute accent) is different from καῖρος /kaĩros (with the circumflex accent) either in the accent or in the meaning.

Hope this is clear enough. Feel free however to ask me again.

Best regards,


Ancient Languages

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I am an expert in Latin & Ancient Greek Language and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2017 All rights reserved.