Does anyone have any leads as to the etymology of the greek words sigao (strongs # 4601) and sige (strongs # sige) which are translated silence and silent respectively in the new testament?

  • 3
    It comes from PIE *swī-g- 'cease, be silent'; it's cognate also with Modern German schweigen, and Old English swīgan, with the same meaning. It refers to not speaking, rather than just not making noise.
    – jlawler
    Jul 14, 2013 at 23:04

3 Answers 3


Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque says the etymology is "obscure" and refers to two hypotheses:

  • that it derives from an "expressive syllable" σι-, which I suppose is analogous to English shh
  • that it derives from a conjectural swīg- which is also ancestral to Ger schweigen, "to be mute", and goes back to PIE su̯ī-, -g-, -k-, -p- (Pokorny 1052), "fade, weaken, etc."

Further references are at the link above. The Pokorny entry is online at Indo-European Etymological Dictionary.

  • 3
    The *sw- etymology, however, is difficult ("très douteux" as Chantraine says) because PIE *sw- regularly gives Greek h-, not s-.
    – TKR
    Sep 23, 2013 at 16:46

IE *sueigh- should become *εἱχ- in Greek. Beekes, Greek Etym. Dictionary, page 1327 suggests that σῖγα is "probably of onomatopoetic origin”.

  • Note also sus, which is commonly used in the region for shhh. It is commonly thought to be from the Turkish verb susmak, but I can't find cognates of it in other Turkic languages, it could be that the verb was the derivation. Jan 7, 2019 at 8:34

To connect the *swig- from old high german swīgān with the greek σιγ- one can suppose the greek interjection (that must be prior to the verb) had a digamma phonem like so *σFιγ- coming from PIE *su̯ī-g- that disappeared in the early sound history of greek.

  • 2
    This is a bad hypothesis. Even if the -w- had got lost (for some unexplained reason), the s- would still have become h-, not s-.
    – fdb
    Feb 19, 2014 at 21:41
  • 1
    As fdb says, would this make a difference? Apparently "sweet" and Greek "hedus" are cognate; the digamma originally present in the later didn't preserve the s. Nov 22, 2016 at 23:02

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