I've been curious about the concepts of emptiness and dogs. I have independently been exploring these and there seem to be some theological/philosophical convergence between Joshua and Caleb from the Hebrew Bible's narrative in the desert (caleb being the hebrew word for dog, and Joshua being a name of obedience to God).

I'll restate my question below, but it is basically this: How would we know if the ancient greek word for dog (κύων) is related to the verb for emptiness (κενόω)

I then get the sense that obedient sheep dogs were important tools for shepherds in the ancient farming contexts of a variety of cultures. So the idea of a sheep dog, utterly obedient seems to be one that is present in the Hebrew context. See Caleb/Joshua's descriptions in Numbers 32:12, "none except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have unreservedly followed the Lord."

I was exploring the idea that this sense of an empty dog translates on to the emptiness of Jesus, described in Philippians 2:7 in the verb κενόω. Now, the concept of dogs is typically not positive in the New Testament, but dogs were highly prized in Egyptian and in some Greek/Roman contexts. They were agents of healing in the cult of Asclepius (licking wounds), and many mosaics, for example in pompei, exist indicating domesticated and leashed dogs.

There could even be a connection between the hebrew Caleb and the egyptian dog God Anubis/Inpu. Both of these characters were obedient, Anubis to the scales of truth, and both acted as guardians of the border to the promised land or field of reeds. In general, the dog seems to have some sense of obedience and transparency to their master. This is a similar motif with Jesus where he is seen as obedient and transparent to God.

Then I came across this meme to really put the emptiness and dog concepts together in a modern form. One might say "all dogs goto heaven" for this reason.. they never left.. Fully grounded in the present. This is something that anyone would perceive, even in ancient times.

empty dog

So my question then comes down to this: How would we know if the greek word for dog (κύων) is related to the verb for emptiness (κενόω)? There seem to be only vowel differences between the two words. Are these similar sounding words linked etymologically? This is my first post on the Linguistics SE, so any assistance in crafting this question or clarifying any wrong ideas I have would be helpful.

  • Can you provide any indication as to why there is a down vote? Does that mean that this question is somehow inappropriate for this forum? Is there a simple answer? Any clarification would be helpful.
    – Gus L.
    Oct 26, 2020 at 14:50
  • 3
    Have you looked up the etymology for either word?
    – OmarL
    Oct 26, 2020 at 16:40
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    @GusL.: I'm afraid you are making the common beginner's mistake in etymology, of looking at the current forms of words. The fact that two words (in the same, or different languages) are very similar does not tell you anything, unless you can trace them back through time to their parent language(s), and find they were always similar. In the case of an Indo-European language such as Greek, a great deal of the history has been securely reconstructed, by large-scale comparisons between different languages. So, as OmarL says, we can be pretty confident there is no connection here.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 26, 2020 at 18:46
  • Great! Thanks for your feedback!
    – Gus L.
    Oct 26, 2020 at 22:31
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    None of this makes any sense in the slightest. Where did the concept of an "empty dog" come from???
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 27, 2020 at 0:30

1 Answer 1


The word for empty in Greek appears to be κενό, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ḱen-.

The word for dog, κῠ́ων, is from Proto-Indo-European *ḱwṓ. (This would make it cognate with English hound, Latin canis etc.)

So there doesn't appear to be any common ancestry between κῠ́ων and κενό. It's not surprising given the lack of semantic connection.

  • 1
    The question was about the Ancient Greek verb κενόω, not the Modern Greek adjective κενό (citation form κενός), although one is apparently derived from the other
    – b a
    Oct 26, 2020 at 23:45
  • The stem for the dog is n-stem *ḱwṓn, see hound, don't know why you cite the aorist. Vice versa, the zero-grade of *'ken- would like see the n become a vowel, and there' s no explanation for the coda to begin with. *'ken- is also tentatively reconstructed as "to sing", keno, and appears in names of the cock (cf. Kroonen, EDPG, introduction). Obviously an alarm dog. Whereas "empty" could refer to castration, a common domestic animal name formation theme, whereby the gloss "empty" is of course not strict but begging for interpretation. With "sing", I ignore if the velar is palatalized
    – vectory
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:37
  • Oh, sorry, that is Lat. cano "sing, chant" PIE *keh2n- "sing" without palatal accentuation but with a laryngeal (although, *eh2 would simply be *a in another notation, while the status of the laryngeal is not quite clear, whereas in wiktionary's it's a dubious old European Phoneme or something, cf. alba "white"; now hound is a wanderword indeed, so). Anyhow, in the same sense cp. cunt and analog bitch "fem. dog", tentatively linked to Ger. Petze "teeter totter, tell tail" (name of a hunting alarm dog according to de.wikt, cp. keep at bay). Checks out, if you ignore the accent.
    – vectory
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:53
  • Not to forget the praise for the Eunuch's angelic singing. Yep. Make no mistake by the way, I mean cock "rooster" (German Hahn, etc.). Given the theme of castration, this might be easy to get in the wrong throat. Wonder if the -d in hound is thus explained,although one would hope for the poor animal that it implied clipping the tail of the dog, or the feathers, claws and beak of the bird. But note that the dog word has been compared to far languages like Chinese (hence my assumption of a wanderword, not necessarily IE in origin). That said, this answer appears very low effort
    – vectory
    Oct 29, 2020 at 2:16
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    Please, put your delirium in a separate answer, instead of commentary to mine.
    – OmarL
    Oct 29, 2020 at 6:49

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