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Origin of "sphere"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Treaty, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. Treaty Senior Member

    Australia
    Persian
    Hi,

    "Sphere" is a Greek word that originally meant ball or globe. سپهر is Persian word, rooted from Old Persian "spithra" meaning sky (sky was believed a turning wheel or globe). I wonder if there is a relationship between them, like one is borrowed from the other or both has a mutual root.

    Many thanks
     
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This is a much debated question. The consensus today seems to be that sipihr is an Iranian word, but in its astronomical sense it has been influenced by Greek sphaira. They are not cognates.
     
  3. Treaty Senior Member

    Australia
    Persian
    Many thanks,

    What do you mean exactly by "astronomical sense"? Do you mean sipehr (and spithra) were not originally used for sky?
     
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    *spiϑra- is not actually attested in Old Persian and Avestan, but it has been postulated on the basis of Sanskrit śvitra- “white”, and of the personal name Spithradates, mentioned in Greek sources. Manichaean Middle Persian has both ʻspyr and (once only) ʻspyhr (like New Persian sipihr) for “heaven, celestial sphere”. ʻspyr is evidently borrowed from Greek σφαῖρα. For ʻspyhr there are two views: one is that it is the same word with a different representation of the Greek –ph-; the other view is that it derives from the hypothetical Iranian *spiϑra-, but that its meaning was influenced by that the Greek word. In any case, the concept of heavenly bodies moving each in its own in sphere/cycle around the earth is a Greek idea, adopted in the East with Ptolemaic astronomy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013
  5. sotos Senior Member

    Greek
  6. Treaty Senior Member

    Australia
    Persian
    Many thanks.
     
  7. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Apologies: the Skt. word should be śvitra- “white”. It cannot be cognate with σπινθήρ.
     

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