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John D. Meade
Fall 2007
THE DERIVATIONAL AFFIXES -το- AND -τε- IN GREEK
The derivational affix -to- is attested in Indo-European (IE) and appears in Greek as
-το-, and it primarily marks verbal adjectives derived from both verbs and nouns. Basically,
these words consist of a root, a derivational affix, and an inflectional affix (e.g. δο-τό-ς,
―granted‖). Remarkably, the same morpheme marks a small number of nouns, some of which
have no primary verbal correspondent and are thus etymologically uncertain (e.g. κρότος
―sound‖), and it forms nouns from verbs.1 This study will first seek to present the etymological
data for -το- and the less employed -τε-. Next, this study will omit further analysis on -το- nouns
and present the patterns of accentuation, morphological data, and the meanings for the verbal
adjectives in -το- and -τε-. This study analyzes the occurrences in the LXX.2
Etymology
IE -to- and Greek -to- formed both nouns and adjectives. Scholars believe that the
affix was productive early in the history of IE since several IE languages employed the affix and
formed several words of IE age.3 A few substantives, whose primary affix is -το-, appear
throughout the history of the Greek language and may demonstrate the antiquity of the affix.
1
For adjectives see A. N. Jannaris, An Historical Greek Grammar, (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited,
1897), § 1050. For nouns see Pierre Chantraine, La formation des noms en Grec ancient, (Collection linguistique
publieé par la Société de linguistique de Paris, 38. Paris: C. Kincksieck, 1933), § 237.
2
I used the exhaustive concordance by Hatch and Redpath: Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A
Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greel Versions of the Old Testament (Including the Apocryphal
Books), 2 vols. (Oxford, 1897-1906; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005). The -το- words found exclusively in the
Hexaplaric materials were passed over in an attempt to abbreviate the corpus. The LXX and Apocryphal books
alone yielded 343 verbal adjectives, about 50 -το- nouns, and 44 ordinal and superlative formations, which employ
the same affix. The study also yielded 10 -τε- words.
3
See the demonstration of hypothetical IE words, which were actualized in the IE family in C.D. Buck and
W. Peterson, A Reverse Index of Greek Nouns and Adjectives, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945), § 469.
1
2
According to Chantraine, in certain -το- nouns the affix attached directly to the o or e grade of
the root (e.g. χόρτος ―enclosure‖, then ―fodder‖; ἀήτη ―blast, gail‖) or to specific disyllabic roots
(e.g. θάνατος ―death‖ as opposed to θνητός ―mortal‖) and became the primary suffix of these
nouns.4 This usage of the affix was fairly unproductive. Difficulties arise, when -το- is attached
to the zero grade of the root to form substantives (e.g. στρατός [Aeolian στροτος, Dorian
σταρτος], ―army‖ < στόρνυμι), since this formation primarily occurs in verbal adjectives.
Chantraine supposes that these types of substantives were former verbal adjectives.5
Moving to the derivation of verbal adjectives, Smyth suggests, ―Most of the verbals in
–τός and –τέος are formed by adding these suffixes to the verbal stem of the aorist passive (first
or second). Some are derived from other stem forms (pres. and fut.).‖6 Smyth lists φιλητός (ἐφιλή-θην) along with other examples of a derivative from the aor. pass. stem. Other examples of
this derivation from a. m/p stems include ἀκατάσχετος, ―not to be checked‖ – κατεσχέθην and
ἀδιάτρεπτος, ―not to be turned aside‖ -ἐτρεφθην, -τέτραμμαι. Smyth rightly analyzes δυνατός
from the pre. δύναμαι.7 The corpus did not contain any clear examples of verbal adjectives in
-το- based on a future stem (cf. -τε- below).
There are a high number of compound verbal adjectives. Buck and Peterson note that
these formations arose because of limitations of the Greek verbal system. The alpha privative
affixed to many verbal adjectives arose because this affix does not attach to verbal forms
including participles. Furthermore, compound verbal adjectives were necessary when there was
no compound verb from which to form a participle.8
4
Chantraine, La formation des noms en Grec ancien, § 238.
5
Idem
6
Ibid. § 471. See also Prof. Pietersma‘s class handout. Pietersma only mentions the aorist passive base.
Pietersma, Albert. ―Appendix 5: Verbal Adjectives -τ- and -τέ-.‖ Classroom Lecture Notes, University of Toronto
[on-line]. Accessed 1 October 2007. Available from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~pietersm/handouts_index.htm;
Internet.
7
Herbert W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, (USA: Harvard University Press, 1984), § 471.
8
C.D. Buck, A Reverse Index of Greek Nouns and Adjectives, §469.
3
The affix -τε- is not attested in the Homeric period, and its first occurrence in the
sources may be observed in Hesiod.9 Originally the affix developed independently of -το- and
may be observed in Sanskrit -tavya-, which came in connection with some themes of the
infinitive in -tum.10 The suffix is often derived from the –το- adjective as may be the case with
γνωστέος and κλητέος. Perhaps the most interesting example is the occurrence ἐλευστέον in 2
Macc. 6.17, which is derived from the future form ἐλεύσομαι. Although the affix was productive
in the Attic period (500-300 B.C.), it scarcely survived that period. Jannaris states that the
function of the -τε- derivation was being replaced by the use of analytic formations: δεῖ, πρέπει,
11
άνάγκη (or χρεία) ἐστί, and the like, with the infinitive or its analysis by ἵνα.
Declension and Accent Patterns of -το- and -τεAs with most adjectives generally, verbal adjectives in -το- use the first and second
declension or the a and o thematic conjugations, when they have three terminations (e.g. αἰνετός,
-ή -όν; ἐριστός -ή -όν ―that may be contested‖). They only use the second declension/o
conjugation, when they have two terminations (e.g. ἐπίχαρτος, -ον, ―delightsome‖). Still some
verbal adjectives may have two or three terminations (e.g. ἀμέτρητος, -ον or -η, -ον ―unmeasured,
immeasurable‖).
Verbal adjectives in -τε- use the same declension patterns as -το-. In LXX, only
γνωστέος has three terminations (-ος -α -ον), while the other nine words have two.
Verbal adjectives in the simplex form regularly accent the ultima (e.g. δυνατός,
δεκτός, γνωστός, χριστός, χυτός, etc.).12 In this situation, the accent aids the reader in
distinguishing otherwise identical simplex forms (comp. πεμπτός ―sent‖ [not in LXX] with
9
Chantraine, La formation des noms en Grec ancien, § 246.
10
Idem. See also Andrew L. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1995), § 564.
11
Jannaris, , An Historical Greek Grammar, § 1051
12
Smyth, Greek Grammar, § 425c.
4
πέμπτος ―fifth‖).
Prepositional compounds in -το-, which denote possibility, generally have the accent
on the ultima and have three terminations (e.g. εἰσδεκτός, ―acceptable‖). Compounds, which
have the meaning of the passive participle, generally accent the antepenult and have two
terminations (e.g. ἐπίκτητος, ―acquired‖). All other compounds in –το- generally accent the
antepenult and have two terminations (e.g. ἀβοήθητος, -ον, ―helpless, incurable‖).13
The -τε- derivatives accent the penult in every case (e.g. ἡγητέον ―one must lead,
suppose‖).14
Adjectives in -τοAlthough we lack comprehensive knowledge of the etymologies of –το- adjectives, we
have a better understanding of their derivational morphology and meanings, to which we now
turn.
Morphology of Adjectives in -τοThe morphology of verbal adjectives in -τός may be divided into two groups:
deverbatives and denominatives.
Deverbatives. The morphological changes to the verb stem include the changes,
which occur when a dental (τ) is added to the verb stem. Verbal roots ending in a labial or
palatal stop bring the expected modifications. Dental stops before other dental stops become σ.
Some verbal adjectives are formed from vowel stem verbs, and the contractions are analogous to
verb forms with non-zero tense formants in (-αω, -εω + σ > -ησ; -οω + σ > -ωσ).
 βτ, φτ  πτ
o ἄμεμπτος < μέμφομαι, έμέμφθην
 γτ, χτ  κτ
o ἄληκτος < λήγω (―to cease‖)
 τδ (τ, θ)  στ
o ἀνέλπιστος < ἐλπίζω [*ἐλπιδτ > στ]
Some interesting cases still remain for which knowledge of the verb‘s specific
13
Idem
14
Idem
5
morphology is essential:
 πιστός < ἐπίθον 2nd aor. of πείθω via vowel gradation15; dental stop before dental stop
changes to σ16).
 πλωτός ―floating‖ < Ion. πλώω (Att. πλέω)
 προσήλυτος < (*ελσθ. a less attested a.a form ἤλυθον)17
 χυτός < χέω [*χεϝ > ἐχύθην, κέκυμαι]
Denominatives. The language has an interesting group of verbal adjectives which are
denominatives in –ωτός, which follow a pattern similar to English: house > housed. Many of
these words remain outside of the verbal system completely, which leads Chantraine to say, ―In a
few cases, it appears that the existence of an adjective in -τός has served as the point of departure
for the composition of a conjugation.‖18 The LXX contains several examples in which no
primary verbal form exists.19
Meaning of Verbal Adjectives in –τοIn many ways, determining the meaning of a verbal adjective poses the same
challenges as determining the meaning of a verb, since the meaning of the derivative adjective
relies on the meaning of the primary verb or noun. Nevertheless, the –τός morpheme does mark
at least four distinct meanings: passive, active, stative, potential, while the denominative –ωτός
indicates the factitive. Some words have more than one sense, so these categories should not be
considered mutually exclusive.
Deverbatives. Since –τός is a derivational affix,20 it will either signal a shift in
15
Smyth, Grammar, §36b.
16
Smyth, Grammar, §83.
17
LSJ s.v. ἔρχομαι
18
Chantraine, La formation des noms en Grec ancien, § 243. He reconstructs the verbal paradigm as
follows: denominative in –ωτός > aor. pass. and pf. m-p > present factitive in –όω.
Observe the formation from -ίς: κηλίς, -ιδός ―stain, blemish‖ > ἀ-κηλίδωτος ―spotless, unblemished;‖
the simplex of ἀκίς, ιδός ―point‖ > ἀκιδωτός ―pointed;‖ and from -ον: πτερόν ―feather‖ > πτερωτός ―feathered,
made of feathers;‖ κάρυον ―nut‖ > καρυωτός ―nutted,‖ ―adorned with nuts;‖ and from -ος καρπός (B) ―wrist‖ >
καρπωτός ―wristed,‖ ―reaching to the wrist.‖
19
20
See Paul Kroeger‘s helpful criteria for distinguishing inflection from derivation in Paul R. Kroeger,
Analyzing Grammar: An Introduction, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 250-253. This analysis
relies upon Kroeger‘s method.
6
syntactic category with no change in meaning to the primary word, or it will mark a change in
meaning with no change in syntactic category, or finally, the change will occur in both meaning
and syntactic category.
Many -τός derivatives deviate from their primary verbal forms in syntactic category
but not in meaning. Under this category are the verbal meanings of passive and active. The
former is passive in meaning since it is derived from a transitive verb (e.g. βαπτός ―dipped,
dyed‖ < βάπτω ―to dip, dye;‖) while the latter is active in meaning since it is derived from either
a pure intransitive/active verb (e.g. νηκτός ―swimming‖ < νήχω ―to swim‖) or an intransitive/mp form and usage of a verb (e.g. κατάκλιτον ―flowing down‖(of garments) < κατακλίνω in m-p
―to lie at table‖). 21 Some verbal adjectives have both meanings if the primary verb form is
transitive and capable of de-transitivity. The word κατάρρυτος (< ῥεω [> ἐρρύην] ―to flow‖)
may have either passive meaning ―watered, irrigated‖ or active meaning ―flowing.‖ These two
meanings of the –τός derivation may be summarized by the following generic diagrams:

Greek passive deverbative
[X]VERB
 [X — τός ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗x-ed‘

Greek active deverbative
[X]VERB
 [X — τός ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗x-ing‘
A category of meaning closely related to the passive meaning is that of state (πιστός,
―faithful;‖ δσνατός, ―strong‖). This derived meaning may be seen from the following diagram:

Greek stative deverbative
[X]VERB
 [X — τός ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗an x state, state of x‘
Other –τός adjectives deviate from their primary verbal forms in syntactic category
21
For this concept see Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, § 564. Carl Buck has a
similar presentation of the meaning of the verbal adjective here Carl D. Buck, Comparative Grammar of Greek and
Latin, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1933), § 437. Neither Buck nor Sihler view the Greek verbal
adjective in –τός as a derivative of a particular tense, voice, or modality in general, since the –τός derivation
includes multi-valent meaning.
7
and in meaning. The –τός meaning of potentiality in Greek is unique among IE languages.22
The word ὁρατός ―to be seen,‖ along with the word δύνατος ―to be possible‖ may be subsumed
under this category. This derived meaning may be summarized by the following general
diagram:

Greek potential deverbative
[X]VERB
 [X — τός ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗able to be x-ed‘
Denominatives. Denominatives in -ωτός contain a factitive meaning (e.g. κηλίς, -ιδός
―stain, blemish‖ > ἀ-κηλίδωτος ―spotless, unblemished; κροσσός ―tassel‖> κροσωτός ―tasseled,
adorned with tassels‖).23 This meaning may be summarized by the following diagram:

Greek factitive denominative
[X]NOUN
 [X — τός ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗to make x‘
Conclusion
The derivational affix –τός served to form verbal adjectives from both verbs and
nouns, and those adjectives became a significant part of the language. The verbal adjective has
various meanings, which depend on the primary verbal or nominal form. The only way to know
the meaning of a verbal adjective is to have a working knowledge of the verbal form from which
it was derived. In those cases where no verbal form occurs, a primary nominal form may be
possible, or the primary form was lost and only the –τος adjective remains, or still the –τoς word
may be an independent nominal form (e.g. τόρτος), which does not have any relation to the
verbal adjective paradigm.
Adjectives in -τεA much less attested derivational category of adjective is the adjective formed by the
22
Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, § 564.
In some grammars such as Jannaris, this category is translated by ―supplied or furnished with.‖ Either
this meaning is equivocal to the factitive or it could be considered a sub-set of it with some adjectives.
23
8
derivational affix -τε-. The LXX has ten occurrences and the NT contains only one occurrence
of this affix (Lk. 5:38). Its morphology matches that of -το- (see above).
Meaning of -τεThe verbal adjective in -τε- expresses necessity or obligation. All ten occurrences in
the LXX have an active meaning.24 This morpheme may be summarized with the following
diagram:

Greek gerundive deverbative
[X]VERB
 [X — τέος ]ADJECTIVE
meaning: ‗x‘
meaning: ‗y must x‘
Conclusion
Adjectives in -τε- express necessity, but with the increasing productivity of analytic
formations, this derivative was largely replaced; they ceased to be productive in the Hellenistic
period. Even in the LXX, this derivation is limited to the literary Apocryphal books of the
Epistle of Jeremiah (4x) and 2 Maccabees (5x). It appears once in Proverbs (26:23), which
employs a dynamic equivalence translation technique.
ἀναληπτέον, ―one must take up, recover;‖ γνωστέος ―one must know;‖ ἐκδεκτέον, ―one must admit;‖
ἐλευστέον, ―one must come;‖ ἐξεταστέον, ―one must scrutinize;‖ ἡγητέον, ―one must lead;‖ κλητέον, ―one must
call;‖ νομιστέον, ―one must account;‖ φροντιστέον, ―one must take heed;‖ συγχωρητέον, ―it must be allowed.‖
24