previous next

[427a] Therefore he imitates the nature of ἰέναι (go) and ἵεσθαι (hasten) by means of iota, just as he has imitated all such notions as ψυχρόν (cold, shivering), ζέον (seething), σείεσθαι (shake), and σεισμός (shock) by means of phi, psi, sigma, and zeta, because those letters are pronounced with much breath. Whenever he imitates that which resembles blowing, the giver of names always appears to use for the most part such letters. And again he appears to have thought that the compression and pressure of the tongue in the pronunciation of delta and tau was naturally fitted [427b] to imitate the notion of binding and rest. And perceiving that the tongue has a gliding movement most in the pronunciation of lambda, he made the words λεῖα (level), ὀλισθάναιν (glide) itself, λιπαρόν (sleek), κολλῶδες (glutinous), and the like to conform to it. Where the gliding of the tongue is stopped by the sound of gamma he reproduced the nature of γλισχρόν (glutinous), γλυκύ (sweet), and γλοιῶδες (gluey). [427c] And again, perceiving that nu is an internal sound, he made the words ἔνδον (inside) and ἐντός (within), assimilating the meanings to the letters, and alpha again he assigned to greatness, and eta to length, because the letters are large. He needed the sign Ο for the expression of γόγγυλον (round), and made it the chief element of the word. And in this way the lawgiver appears to apply the other letters, making by letters and syllables a name for each and every thing, and from these names he compounds all the rest by imitation. [427d] This, Hermogenes, appears to me to be the theory of the correctness of names, unless, indeed, Cratylus has some other view.

Truly, Socrates, as I said in the beginning, Cratylus often troubles me a good deal; he declares that there is such a thing as correctness of names, but does not say clearly what it is; and so I cannot tell whether he speaks so obscurely about it on any given occasion intentionally or unintentionally. [427e] So now, Cratylus, tell me, in the presence of Socrates, do you like what Socrates says about names, or have you a better theory to propose? And if you have, tell us about it; then you will either learn from Socrates or instruct both him and me.

But, Hermogenes, do you think it is an easy matter to learn or teach any subject so quickly, especially so important an one as this, which appears to me to be one of the most important?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: