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I have been researching the origin of the word διάβολος. All sources I've found have said that it was a creation of the VII translators who created it from the word διαβάλλειν, which literally means to "throw across". This seems like a strange metaphor for accusing, whether falsely or not. So I looked up the closely related word διαβάλλω in my older N.T. Greek Lexicon which gives the sense "to throw or convey through or over; to thrust through; to defame or inform against". This makes a bit more sense to my English speaking mind, but I wonder if there is a known story associated with the etymology of διαβάλλειν, or alternatively whether it is just one of those words like the English "understand", which has nothing to do with either standing or being under.

Hi Fred,

thank you for dropping by. The explanations are actually up-to-date. The meaning "throw accross" refers to accusations. And it became metaphorical over time. It used to mean "to accuse" also at classical times, but the etymological explanation would be that of "throw across" or possibly "throw through" (dia + ballein). So, διάβολος is someone who accuses you or renders you guilty by "throwing" accusations at you (or possibly lies).

Not always is it obvious how meanings have changed over time, because the perspective of understanding and the linguistic-cultural moments differ. "Understand" might indeed have arisen from "standing under", in the sense of "being at the point of a matter", thus "under the matter" in a way. Since meanings are established quite arbitrarily today during our learning, historical semantics and etymological associations mean little in our daily life. You might want to have a look at the phenomenon of "metonymic shift".

For the time being, there is no other story behind διάβολος, that I am aware of.
Have a wonderful day and do not hesitate to ask whatever.



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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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