I would like to hear some ideas that can explain Greek *σκέπτομαι, σκοπός "watcher, look-out, spy, mark, goal"

from Proto-Indo-European *skep-ye-, from a metathesis of *speḱ-.

Cognate to Latin speciō (“I see”).

... especially the metathesis.

German schauen "to watch", En. "to show" are PGmc *skawwōną (“to look, see”), IE *(s)kewh₁-(“to heed, look, feel, take note of”). *(s)kewh₁- could conceivably relate to *h2ew- (Def. 2 "to perceive"). Could these have, for example, influenced the metathesis?

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    I just want to say ‘methatesis’ is awesome :-) Jul 14, 2022 at 8:36

1 Answer 1


Quite possibly!

There was definitely a Proto-Greek form *skow-os < *sk-o-wh₁-os meaning something like "watching" or "overseeing"; it didn't survive on its own, but is attested in compounds like thyo-sko(w)ós "haruspex" (+ thy- "sacrifice").

When you have *skow-os "watching" next to *spok-os "watcher", a transformation into skop-os isn't at all implausible. This then spread to other forms of the same root, giving skep-sis, skop-éō, and so on.

  • A switcheroo in PIE is is also possible unless treating the roots as unrelated. Anyway, great insight, thank you.
    – vectory
    Jul 1, 2019 at 2:33
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    Mainstream opinion traces spy/spähen to *SPEK’, but show/schauen to *(S)KOU. The latter also yields ακου(σ)ω & κοεω in Greek and caveo in Latin. Sep 7, 2019 at 13:31

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