English translation (word)
English translation (etymon)
Etymologicum, gamma p. 613
F.W. Sturz, Orionis Thebani etymologicon, Leipzig, 1820
γλῶσσα, οἷον γνῶσσα· διαγνωθικὴ οὖσα τῶν κρυπτῶν ἰδιωμάτων· ἢ κλῶσσά τίς ἐστι· κλωθομένη γὰρ τὴν ἔναρθρον φωνὴν ἀποδίδωσι
Tongue" (glōssa), as a kind of *gnōssa, because it is the one which recognizes (diagnōstikē) the hidden characteristics; or a *klōssa, as it were, because through spinning (klōthomenē) it renders the articulate voice"
Etym. Magnum, Kallierges p. 235 (Ἢ παρὰ τὸ κλώθω κλώσω, κλῶσα, καὶ γλῶσσα· κλωθομένης γὰρ τῆς γλώσσης ἐξέρχονται οἱ λόγοι)
Γλῶσσα is derived from γλῶχες "beard of corn", and means etymologically "provided with a point". No Indo-European cognate is known (Beekes, EDG)
Persistence in Modern Greek
The word is still used in Modern Greek to designate: 1. the bodily organ, the tongue 2. language, 3. anything looking like the tongue, 4. way of expression
The etymology relies on the phonetic similarity of [glō] and [klō] which differ only by the voiced or voiceless quality of the initial consonant, and on the regular alternation between [ss] or [tt] with [th] resulting from palatalisation (of the type κορύσσω / κόρυς, κόρυθος) – the latter point remains implicit. From the semantic point of view, it is a descriptive etymology, presenting the action of the tongue as spinning sounds and syllables into the thread of discourse.