ζέω

Validation

No

Word-form

Ζεύς

Transliteration (Word)

Zeus

English translation (word)

Zeus

Transliteration (Etymon)

zeō

English translation (etymon)

to boil

Author

Empedocles

Century

5 BC

Reference

fr. 33, 7

Edition

H. Diels, W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1, (6th ed.), Berlin, 1951

Source

Stobaeus

Ref.

Anthologium 1, 10, 11b1

Ed.

T. Gaisford, Joannis Stobaei Florilegium, 1823

Quotation

Ἐμπεδοκλῆς Δία μὲν λέγει τὴν ζέσιν ‹καὶ› τὸν αἰθέρα.

Translation (En)

Empedocles gives the name of Zeus to zesis "the boiling" and to ether.

Comment

The etymology relies on the phonetic similarity between Zeus and zein "to burn", and on the philosophical conception of the four elements, fire (ether / Zeus), air (Hera), earth (Hades) and water (Poseidon), each associated with one of the major Olympian gods.

Parallels

Heraclitus, Allegoriae 23, 6 (Εἴη δ’ ἂν οἶμαι τοῦτο Ζεὺς ἐπώνυμος, ἤτοι τὸ ζῆν παρεχόμενος ἀνθρώποις ἢ παρὰ τὴν ἔμπυρον ζέσιν οὕτως ὠνομασμένος); Orion, Etymologicum, zeta, 65, 4 (Ζεύς. παρὰ τὸ ζέσιν); Athenagoras, Legatio sive supplicatio pro Christianis 22, 4 (Ζεὺς ἡ ζέουσα οὐσία κατὰ τοὺς Στωϊκούς, Ἥρα ὁ ἀήρ καὶ […] Ποσειδῶν ἡ πόσις).

Modern etymology

Zeus is the old Indo-European name of the sky, identical with Latin diēs and Sanscrite dyaus.

Persistence in modern Greek

The form "Δίας" has replaced the nominative "Ζεύς" in Modern Greek, to denote both the ancient god and the planet. The ancient genitive singular is still used to call ancient monuments, e.g., "Στήλες Ολυμπίου Διός" (Triandafyllidis Dictionary of MG).