[B-Greek] Etymology of the word kurios

L. Harris ljoharris at ckt.net
Fri Jan 27 15:44:36 EST 2006

(Please no comments on any spelling, my spell checker is not working, so I know I probubly...probably...probley misspelled some words.)
In answer to this posting I have the following opinions.

"Does anyone know the etymology of kurios? I'm also curious on how it was originally used before the LXX appropriated it for the name YHWH. It doesn't
seem to parallel the Latin dominus (from domus, house) nor does it seem to be the original word for "master" such as master of slaves. Anyone have a

It originally comes from the word kuros meaning supreme power or authority.

I delved into this word some time ago when I researched the etymology of the word "church". What brought about this research was when I read the following statement regarding the rules given for the translation of the King James to the translators.

3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz., as the word 'church' not to be translated 'congregation'. (Mombert, The English Versions of the Bible)

Under the word church in Web. New Int. Dic. of the English Language 1942 ed. it states:

church, from
Middle English chirche, 
from Anglo Saxon, circe, 
from Greek kyriakon the Lord's house, 
from kyriakos concerning a master or lord, 
from kyrios master, lord, 
from kyros power, authority; 
akin to Sanskrit sura mighty, bold, 
Old Irish caur, cur, hero, 
confir Kirk.

This is a 1942 dictionary and it seems that there is no standardized transliterated Greek spelling, just as there us to be not standardiezed English spelling in general.
Notice the spelling of the word "chirche" and how we now spell it "church". And again how it's pronouched "church" in Britian and "Kirk" in Scottland.
This was all because spelling was not standardized untill dictionaries were introduced in the mid 1600s, and was not really stabilised until the 1800s, when the  spelling of most words was set.

So was Greek any different? Probably not. Depending on what dialect you spoke and where you were from, would determine how you pronounced a word and that would also determine how you spelled it. So when it comes to the Greek word kurios you have some interesting things going on. For one thing notice in the dictionary above the spelling  as "kyrios" instead of kurios. The same holds true for other variations of the spelling ker, kir, kyr, kur and even hier as in kerka, kerkax, hierax, hierarchy.

For instance trace out the spelling on Perseus and see the similarities.

kuros - supreme power or authority

kurios - of people authoritative, or master

keras - the horn of an animal, horns always represented "power" in the ancient world.

kerka - kerkax and also spelled hierax meaning hawk, often aassociated and symbolized with the gods. Then going over to hierarchy also relating to the gods.

kirka - a kind of hawk, or a kind of wolf, or meaning a circle from which the Latin got circus.

keiris - a fabulous bird, hierax (hawk)

kuros - supreme power or authority

And in mythology

Circe [sir'see] or Kirke, "hawk."
A sorceress-the daughter of Helios and the sister of Aeëtes-she lived on the island of Aeaea. She purified Jason and Medea of the murder of Medea's brother, Apsyrtus (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.559-591, 4.659-752; Apollodorus 1.9.24). Odysseus spent an entire year with Circe on his way back to Ithaca after the Trojan War. She directed him to go to the Underworld for a consultation with Tiresias. Telegonus was the son of Circe and Odysseus; when Telegonus grew up, he killed his father accidentally (Homer, Odyssey 10.133-574). Family Tree 

In the Bible, devils which are angels, which pawned themselves off to men as "gods" are also called "birds of the air" or "unclean and hateful birds". The hawk was an unclean bird, or bird of prey. These angels called devils preyed on mankind. So you can see the relation of the words in some degree as they develped.

I mean you can see why this word developed into the word for power, hence the one who had the power i.e. the master or Lord, the gods were the masters, who had the ultimate power and who like a hawk could see everything you did as it "circled" overhead. And hence were "head-over" you. And as the head of an animal is where the "horns" are and give it power over it's enemies. Thus the power is in the "head", which represents either the "head" power or authority, and also your "head", your brain, which is supposed to be renewed to the Word because the real battle field is in the mind, between your two earballs, and you should "mind", think about and obey the authority. You just want to make sure you are "minding" the right authority since there is more than one master.

Sorry if that's a little off subject, but it is related to the etymology of the word kurios, since it has evolved into the English word "church". Maybe not today but at one time (an probably in the future) that word "church" struck absolute fear into the hearts of men. If you ever heard some one say "Hey the church is looking for you", it had about the same effect as being a jew in Nazi Germany with the SS looking for you, or Russia and the KGB, or a protestant and the jesuits, or an American and the IRS.

Besides kuros you also have words like iskuros, which in the Englishman's Greek Concordance is spelled 'iskuros' but on Perseus is spelled 'ischros', but see how spelling effects things, how you get both that 'k' and 'ch' from 'khi'. So it comes to us as either "church" or "kirk". And thus also becasue of spelling how we would never dream that the English word "church" actually came from a totally different Greek word other than ecclesia (also spelled ekklesia). And the fact that the actual word "ecclesia" is in the English Dictionary is rather strange too. I mean since it made it's way into our language why not just call the "ecclesia" the "ecclesia"????

Web. Dic.
ecclesia. 1. In ancient Greek states a political assembly of the citizens, esp. at Athens....2. A church, either the body of members or building. 3. One of a local organization of the Christadelphians.

So then HOW in the world did the hierarcy of the church come up with the word "church" from a completely different Greek word and "slide" it into our language having all kinds of connotations that play on the emotions and sacred cow beliefs of people, to become this super powerful entity of dread? By the way ever been asked this question; "We didn't see you in CHURCH last Sunday". And ever felt guilty about it?

Here is an interesting form of the word kuros.

Rev. 18:10 Babylon that mighty (iskuros) city....

Now if we took that word and developed it in the manner the word kuros was used to eventually come up with the word "church" we could say it this way. "Babylon that is-Church- city..." 

The question then becomes dose root error apply when we go forward instead of backward? And dose it apply in English going back to Greek? When something dose not as yet exist, when there is no word or concept for it, how do you explain it in words to someone who has no word for it? Maybe you use the closest word possible to what it will become, hoping someone will get a clue. 

Anyway these were just some things I thought were interesting about that word.

Linda Harris

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