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[421a] truth (ἀλήθεια), falsehood (ψεῦδος), being (τὸ ὄν), and why name, the subject of our whole discourse, has the name ὄνομα.

Socrates
Does the word μαίσθαι (search) mean anything to you?

Hermogenes
Yes, it means “seek.”

Socrates
The word ὄνομα seems to be a word composed from a sentence signifying “this is a being about which our search is.” You can recognize that more readily in the adjective ὀνομαστόν, for that says clearly that this is [421b] ὄν οὗ μάσμα ἐστίν (being of which the search is). And ἀλήθεια (truth) is like the others; for the divine motion of the universe is, I think, called by this name, ἀλήθεια, because it is a divine wandering θεία ἄλη. But ψεῦδος (falsehood) is the opposite of motion; for once more that which is held back and forced to be quiet is found fault with, and it is compared to slumberers (εὕουσι); but the addition of the psi conceals the meaning of the word. The words τὸ ὄν (being) and οὐσία (existence) agree with ἀληθής with the loss of iota, for they mean “going” (ἰόν). And οὐκ ὄν (not being) means οὐκ ἰόν (not going), [421c] and indeed some people pronounce it so.

Hermogenes
I think you have knocked these words to pieces manfully, Socrates; but if anyone should ask you what propriety or correctness there was in these words that you have employed—ἰόν and ρἕον and δοῦν

Socrates
What answer should I make? Is that your meaning?

Hermogenes
Yes, exactly.

Socrates
We acquired just now one way of making an answer with a semblance of sense in it.

Hermogenes
What way was that?

Socrates
Saying, if there is a word we do not know about, that it is of foreign origin. [421d] Now this may be true of some of them, and also on account of the lapse of time it may be impossible to find out about the earliest words; for since words get twisted in all sorts of ways, it would not be in the least wonderful if the ancient Greek word should be identical with the modern foreign one.

Hermogenes
That is not unlikely.

Socrates
It is indeed quite probable. However, we must play the game1 and investigate these questions vigorously. But let us bear in mind that if a person asks [421e] about the words by means of which names are formed, and again about those by means of which those words were formed, and keeps on doing this indefinitely, he who answers his questions will at last give up; will he not?

Hermogenes
Yes, I think so.


1 A proverbial expression.

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