periphery (n.)
late 14c., "atmosphere around the earth," from Old French periferie (Modern French périphérie), from Medieval Latin periferia, from Late Latin peripheria, from Greek peripheria "circumference, outer surface, line round a circular body," literally "a carrying around," from peripheres "rounded, moving round, revolving," peripherein "carry or move round," from peri- "round about" (see peri-) + pherein "to carry" (see infer). Meaning "outside boundary of a surface" attested in English from 1570s; general sense of "boundary" is from 1660s.

1. Am I right to guess: the modern definitions of this word (eg in English and French) lost the meaning of pherein "to carry" ? A boundary doesn't carry anything.

2. What did pherein carry? Or am I missing some figurative carriage?

  • It's figurative. Bear in English is cognate, and one can speak of a planet bearing an atmosphere, though it's not common. Bear means 'have; move; carry; be attached to' and can be applied in many situations, where it becomes fixed and "feels normal". (note that there is no bodily "feeling" involved in such a construction -- metaphor again).
    – jlawler
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 15:03
  • Support the creation of a Greek stackexchange (now in the commitment phase) here: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101509/greek-language Commented May 11, 2018 at 2:08
  • @NickNicholas It was closed, but see area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/117994/….
    – user5306
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 2:35
  • Ah yes. More of the curtness that makes Stack Exchange what it is, and then makes them scratch their heads about being regarded as unfriendly. Pfft. Commented May 11, 2018 at 3:04
  • @NickNicholas What can we do?
    – user5306
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 3:29

1 Answer 1


I suspect the meaning stems from wall-building, Herodotus has an example: "kata to teichos periphero" (teichos="wall"). I.e. originally it means "carrying [stones] to place them around something". Later the figurative meaning appeared, something around the walls, on the periphery of the city (and later - periphery in general).

Interestingly, my native Russian uses the exact same word morphologically (ob-nosit = peri-phero).

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