Meanings of (Ancient Greek) στόχος.

Michael Zwingli

Senior Member
English - American (U.S. - New England)
χαίρετε σεις,

I am wondering something particular about the ancient meanings of the noun στόχος. The meanings given on English Wiktionary are as follow:
  1. Synonym of στοχάς (stokhás, “an erection of stone or wood for fixing net poles”)
  2. butt, target
  3. aim, aiming
  4. guess, conjecture
My question has to do with the 3rd and 4th senses listed on Wiktionary. Is it fair to say that these two, "aim" and "guess", are figurative meanings derived from the meaning in sense 2, "butt", "target"?

Thank you in advance!
 
  • Αγγελος

    Senior Member
    Greek
    It would seem so. "Aim" and "target" are synonyms; as for "guess", it is a shot at the truth.
    In modern Greek, the word still means "aim" and "target" (in the most literal sense, for target-shooting) and "aim, objective" (to be pursued), but has been completely separated semantically from the word στοχάζομαι, which means "to think, reflect, meditate". Στοχαστικός means "pensive", and Greeks who learn the meaning of 'stochastic' as an English scientific term are quite surprised.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    It would seem so. "Aim" and "target" are synonyms; as for "guess", it is a shot at the truth.
    In modern Greek, the word still means "aim" and "target" (in the most literal sense, for target-shooting) and "aim, objective" (to be pursued), but has been completely separated semantically from the word στοχάζομαι, which means "to think, reflect, meditate". Στοχαστικός means "pensive", and Greeks who learn the meaning of 'stochastic' as an English scientific term are quite surprised.
    Thank you very much! The "semantic drift" which seems to have occurred in modern Greek is surpising, indeed. Of course, the English adjective "stochastic" means "random", obviously derived from the Ancient Greek nominal senses "an aim"/"a try"/"a guess". How these senses might proceed to "pensive" is more opaque, until one considers that contemplation would seem natural before an essentially uncertain attempt, such as is exemplified by "an aim" (an attempt at the target) or "a guess" (an attempt, as you note, at the truth). Language is eternally fascinating...
     

    sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I see in L.S. that στόχος is explained as a variant of στοίχος (= a row, a line of things). Could it be semantically unrelated to στοχάζομαι (to think) etc? Possibly. But then we have the N.Gr. στοίχημα (a bet), i.e. a game of possibilities and statistics. If I had to guess how an english-speaker coined the term "stochastic" with the statistical sense, I would imagine the (also statistical) concept of a "row" of random events which, -if are more than about 20 - follow a particular "distribution" (usually the "normal distribution" with the "bell curve"). This bell curve you get if you aim at a target (say with a bow) and everytime you measure how far or close you got to the center. The number of shots versus the distances follows a more or less "normal distribution". You may win or lose the στοίχημα depending on how many shots you have.
     
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