In Ptolemy's Geography, two people are mentioned by the name of Thamyditai (6.7.4, pg 402 of this book) and Oaditae (6.7.21, pg 406 of this book)

Here's the scanned mention of Thamyditaienter image description here

Here's the scanned mention of Oaditaeenter image description here

My question is, since -tai seems to be common to both, what does it signify?

Edit: The original names of these two people in their native tongues are Thamud and 'Aad


Ptolemy’s Thamyditai are almost certainly the Thamūd mentioned in the Qur’an and also in epigraphic material. It is a Greek derivative with the suffix -ītēs, plural -ītai. Whether his Oaditai are the Qur’anic ʻĀd is however debatable. The latter are mentioned only in the Muslim scripture and are not attested in historic or epigraphic sources. If they are the same name the initial O of the Greek form will require explanation.

  • In fairness—and this is not particularly convincing evidence, I admit—the Greeks must have seen some resemblance between /o/ and ayin, since they used the latter's letter to represent the former in their alphabet. – Draconis Aug 14 '18 at 19:58
  • (Regardless, I agree, Aditai seems more likely.) – Draconis Aug 14 '18 at 19:59
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    @Draconis. We are talking about events from very different periods (the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet in hoary antiquity and the transcription of foreign place names in the Hellenistic period). I cannot think of any instances of the representation of 'ayin by O. – fdb Aug 14 '18 at 20:57
  • True, that's why it's not particularly convincing – Draconis Aug 14 '18 at 21:17

It seems like those ethnicons belong to Semitic people and the Greek plural -ai has been added to them. So if the native name of a single person was Thamidit, the Hellenized plural in Greek would be Thamiditai. Alternatevely, a -it- suffix has been added to a native name Thamid-, which is sometimes used as an agent suffix, origin, ethnicons etc.

There are Greek ethnicons which have similar ending. For example Πενταπολῖται (Pentapolitai) which is a composite word from pente 'five' and polis 'city'. The word for citizen in Greek is πολίτης where the suffix is actually -itēs and the plural is πολίται with a suffix -ιται.

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    Actually, the names are Thamud and Aad in their native Arabic. That would perhaps make -itai, a suffix, right? – Daud Aug 11 '18 at 7:23
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    @Daud Yes! -it- to be precise and then depending whether it is singular or plural it is going to be -ίτης or -ίται respectively. – Midas Aug 11 '18 at 7:48
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    And @Daud that Greek -it- suffix, indicating that someone is from a town or place, has some usage in English; e.g. suburbanite. – Nick Nicholas Aug 11 '18 at 10:03
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    In short: the Greek suffix is not -tai, but -ītēs, plural -ītai. – fdb Aug 14 '18 at 9:53

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