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Mumm, Peter-Arnold and Richter, Susanne (2008): Die Etymologie von griechisch ψυχή. In: International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics and Linguistic Reconstruction, Vol. 5 (200, No. 1: pp. 33-108 [PDF, 396kB]

External fulltext: http://www.peniope.de/ijdl.htm


All scholars agree that homeric ψῡχή is the soul of the departed, the 'free-soul'. Nevertheless there is an irresistable belief that ψῡχή etymologically means 'breath-soul'. But this is not the case. ψῡ́χω does not mean 'breathe', and ψῡχή does not mean 'breath-soul' either. Rather, ψῡ́χω means 'blow, cool' (as vedic -psu- means 'blow'); the most probable solution for the original meaning of ψῡχή is 'cooling down, being cold'. A detailed morphological analysis shows that ψῡ́χω, ψῡχή can be explained as inner greek developments, basing on an indo-european secondary root *psu-. ψῡχή is likely to have been originally a designation of the corpse, then a metonymic (and tabuistic) designation of the departing soul.

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