English translation (word)
English translation (etymon)
Ἆθλον: Ἐκ τοῦ τλῶ· τὸ τῷ καρτεροῦντι καὶ νικῶντι διδόμενον. Ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐθέλω, ἔθελον· καὶ μετὰ τοῦ ἐπιτατικοῦ α, ἀέθελον, τὸ πάνυ ζητούμενον· καὶ κατὰ κρᾶσιν τοῦ α καὶ ε, ἆθλον· καὶ ἆθλος τὸ ἀρσενικόν· διὸ καὶ περισπῶνται
Prize of contest (athlon) is from "to endure" (tlō), that which is given to the one who holds out and wins. Or from ethelō "to be willing", ethelon, and with the intensive alpha, aethelon, that which is very desirable, and through contraction of a and e āthlon; and āthlos is the masculine; this is why they bear a circumflex accent
The etymology relating ἆθλον to τλάω relies on the contracted form ἆθλον, and on a change of the plain [t] into an aspirate [th] (this remains implicit). From the semantic point of view, it takes into account the process of contest, which implies efforts and pain, and not the goal, whereas the etymology relating the word to ἐθέλω takes only the goal into account. The initial a- is probably understood as the intensive prefix alpha, as in the other etymology, but this remains implicit. In fact this etymology seems to be designed rather for the masculine ἆθλος "contest", in which the idea of enduring is relevant, than for the neuter ἆθλον "prize of contest". The coexistence of two etymologies, one on the uncontracted form (ἄεθλον / α- + ἐθέλω) and one on the contracted form (ἆθλον / α- + τλάω), shows clearly the unhistorical character of Greek etymology since ἆθλον is etymologized without being first referred to the older form ἄεθλον
This etymology is found also in another place in the Etym. Magnum (Kallierges, p. 19), but does not appear anywhere else
On the modern etymology, see G.-J. Pinault, "Compétition poétique et poétique de la compétition" in G.-J. Pinault, D. Petit (eds), La langue poétique indo-européenne, Louvain - Paris, Peeters, 2006, 367-411.