σύζυγος ο/η

larshgf

Member
Danish
Hello!

Wonder if there is an etymological connection between σύζυγος (= husband, wife) and ζυγός (= yoke). In this case συ could be an abbreviation of the prefix συν (= with).
So my partner is my yoke? (off course totally out of connection with reality...…).
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Absolutely there is such a connexion. Literally (or almost) one could translate it as 'yokefellow' or 'yoke-mate', a metaphor obviously derived from ploughing with a (yoked) pair of oxen; compare the Latin coniunx, which also means 'spouse', of either sex, and is similarly related to the Latin for 'yoke' (iugum), coupled with a prepositional prefix cum-/con- meaning 'together' or 'with', as σύ[ν] means 'with' in Greek. There is also the closely related Latin legal term coniugium which means 'lawful marriage'.
    Σ
    Edited afterthought: in neither Greek nor Latin is the sense of the 'yoke' tied to the notion of a 'burden' or 'oppression': it's simply what joins the pair of beasts together for a productive purpose.
     
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    larshgf

    Member
    Danish
    So the word indicates man and woman carrying the yoke of life together and not the one carrying the yoke of being married with the other?
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    So the word indicates man and woman carrying the yoke of life together and not the one carrying the yoke of being married with the other?
    Neither. It simply means that they are a joined-up pair, a team (in English one can refer to a 'team' of oxen, meaning two yoked together to pull a plough or a wagon). It says nothing about life being a 'yoke' in the sense of something burdensome or tiresome.
    Σ
     
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    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    In my previous posts I might have added that classical Greek has a whole cluster of words with the stem ζευγ-/ ζυγ-, the basic sense of which is simply 'join(ing)', with none of the emotional or rhetorical connotations that English 'yoke' (as in for example '...of slavery') can bring. The same applies, incidentally, to the Latin iung-/ iug-.
    Σ
     
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    Αγγελος

    Senior Member
    Greek
    But in modern Greek, ζυγός is so often used with reference to Ottoman rule that it does have that unpleasant connotation.
    On the other hand, it also means a set of scales (for weighing; more commonly ζυγαριά), as well as the astrological sign of Libra, and no one who uses them thinks of the other meaning (=yoke) of the same word.
    From the same root, we get ζεύγος/ζευγάρι, originally probably meaning a pair of oxen yoked together, but mostly used either for a married couple or for a pair of shoes, socks etc.; ζευγάς/ζευγολάτης, meaning ploughman; ζευγαρώνω, meaning 'to mate'; ζυγίζω, meaning 'to weigh'; and of course the English scientific terms zygote, homozygous, syzygy (cf. German 'Gattung').
    The verb 'join' comes from the same Indo-European root (through Latin jungere).
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    LSJ confirms that the other uses Αγγελος (# 7) mentions (e.g. the (cross-beam of) a balance or scales, the constellation Libra &c.) are already classical. And his remark about the effects of the Ottoman empire on the modern Greek language makes eminent sense. Moreover, there is a handful of instances, though only a handful, of Latin iugum being used with an emotively negative nuance—though certainly not coniunx or coniugium. And I still maintain that (in classical Greek) σύζυγος, in the sense of 'spouse' or 'partner', is likewise neutral in tone.
    Σ
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In modern Greek I think it sounds a little more formal οr respectful than άνδρας/γυναίκα.

    It's just occurred to me: I know a couple who aren't officially married, but live together. They are well into middle age, but only became a couple a few years ago. If I want to ask the woman out of politeness how her partner is, does it sound better if I ask her Τι κάνει ο σύζυγος ; or Τι κάνει ο άνδρας σου ; (I don't always remember his name offhand.)
     

    dmtrs

    Senior Member
    Greek
    a couple who aren't officially married, but live together.

    In this case, when a couple is not officially married, ο/η σύζυγός σου or ο άντρας/η γυναίκα σου, could be even almost insulting to some people.
    Ο/Η σύντροφός σου (your partner) would be the politically correct choice -but to some people that might sound too politically correct.
    O φίλος σου/η φίλη σου would be another choice, where φίλος implies intimacy more than that between simple friends.
    I personally tend to use the third choice for younger couples (or young-ish, anyway), the second one in other cases and serious relationships; I almost never use the first choice for unmarried couples -with the exception of ο άντρας/η γυναίκα σου for people who are really close to me and I know that would accept this in a kind-of-a-joke way.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I almost never use the first choice for unmarried couples -with the exception of ο άντρας/η γυναίκα σου for people who are really close to me and I know that would accept this in a kind-of-a-joke way.
    Yes, or just "τι κάνει η γυναίκα;" (i.e. without "σου").
    About "Τι κάνει ο άντρας;", I'm not sure. :confused:;)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Hmm...it's a bit tricky. Τhe lady in question refers to her partner as her σύντροφoς, but I don't think it sounds right to use it when I'm asking after him. I'm thinking it may be easier to make a really big effort to remember his first name. :D
     
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