νη- + φάος

Validation

Yes

Word-form

νέφος

Transliteration (Word)

nephos

English translation (word)

cloud

Transliteration (Etymon)

nē- + phaos

English translation (etymon)

not + light

Author

Chrysippus

Century

3 BC

Reference

fr. 430

Edition

J. von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol. 2, Leipzig, 1903

Source

Plutarchus

Ref.

De Primo frigido, Mor. 948e11

Ed.

C. Hubert, Plutarchi moralia, vol. 5.3, 2nd ed., Leipzig: Teubner, 1960: 90-114

Comment

This descriptive etymology parses the word as a compound of the privative prefix νη- (found in Hom. νηκερδής, νηπενθής) and φάος "light". It is semantically straightforward and formally too, as the only manipulation required is the change of νη- to νε-. The privative prefix is not explicitly mentioned, it is referred to through "negation of" (apophasis). For the end of the word, Greek philosophers were operating with the pronunciation of their time, hence φῶς [phōs], not with the older form φάος (the Homeric form), so that transforming [phōs] into [phos] was natural. However, Eustathius, Comm. Il. 4, 917 (see Parallels) derives νἐφος also from the uncontracted form. The same etymology is given for νεφέλη in a scholion to Aristophanes (see νεφέλη / νη- + φάος)

Parallels

Orion, Etymologicum, nu, p. 108 (νέφος. οἷον νεφάος, τὸ ἐστερημένον φωτός. ἢ παρὰ τὸ νήφειν. οὕτω Φιλόξενος); ibid. (excerpta e cod. Darmstadino 2773), nu, p. 615 (νέφος, τὸ ἐστερημένον φωτός); Photius, Bibliotheca 530b (Ὅτι τὸ κνέφας οἱ μέν φασιν ἀπὸ τοῦ κενέφας γενέσθαι (κενὸν γάρ ἐστι φάους), οἱ δὲ κατὰ πλεονασμὸν τοῦ κ· νέφος γὰρ εἶναι καὶ νέφας τὸ αὐτοτελές, διὰ τοῦ νε στερητικοῦ τὸ ἐστερημένον τοῦ φωτὸς ὑποσημαῖνον); Suda, nu 278 (Νέφος: οἱονεὶ νέφαος, τὸ ἐστερημένον φωτός. οὕτω καὶ κνέφας, τὸ κενὸν φάους); Etym. Gudianum, nu, p. 406 (Νέφος, παρὰ τὸ νε στερητικὸν, ὃ ἔστι κενὸν φάους, οἱονεὶ νεόφαον, τὸ ἐστερημένον τοῦ φωτός); Eustathius, Comm. Il. 4, 917 (Ἰστέον δὲ ὅτι τοῦ «κνέφας» γενικὴ [πρὸς ἀναλογίαν οὐχ’ εὕρηται, κνέφους δὲ κεῖται παρὰ Ἀριστοφάνει ἐν Ἐκκλησιαζούσαις ὡς ἀπὸ τοῦ κνέφος πρὸς ἀναλογίαν τοῦ γῆρος γήρους, οὗ κοινότερον τὸ γῆρας γήραος, καὶ ὅτι τοῦ φάος τὸ μὲν ἄλφα φυλάσσεται ἐν τῷ κνέφας, ὅπερ ἐστὶ κενότης φάους, τὸ δὲ ο τηρεῖται ἐν τῷ νέφος, ὃ στέρησις φάους ἐστί.]); Etym. Magnum, Kaliierges p. 601 (<Νέφος>: Οἷον νέφας, τὸ ἐστερημένον φάους, ὅ ἐστι φωτός); Ps.-Zonaras, Lexicon, nu, p. 1393-1394 (Νέφος. τὸ πλῆθος. νέφος μαρτύρων. ἢ καὶ τὸ τῶν ὑετῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἀνηνεχθείσης ἀναθυμιάσεως εἰς ὕδωρ. οἱονεὶ τὸ ἐστερημένον φάους, νέφαος, νέφος. ἢ παρὰ τὸ νείφω, τὸ βρέχω. οὕτω Φίλων)

Modern etymology

Old inherited name of the cloud, matching Vedic nábhas-, Lat. nebula, Germ. Nebel, and with a semantic evolution Slavic nebo "sky" (Beekes, EDG)

Persistence in Modern Greek

Νέφος survives in Modern Greek to designate: 1. "cloud", 2. "cloud of pollution" in particular, 3. (metaph. in plural) the signs of something bad to happen. There also is the adjective νεφοσκεπής meaning "covered with clouds".

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