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Headword: Λυκάβας
Adler number: lambda,793
Translated headword: twelvemonth, lykabas, lycabas, lukabas, light-course, wolf-gang
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
[Meaning] a year. [sc. The term comes] from 'quickly going', or 'gloomily going' (that is, darkly and unclearly).[1]
Or from a metaphor of wolves, which cross rivers while holding onto each other's tails in wintertime.
So 'lykabas' ["wolf-gang"] [comes] from what happens in the case of the animals: for they go across the river following upon one another.[2]
Greek Original:
Λυκάβας: ἐνιαυτός. ἀπὸ τοῦ ταχέως βαίνειν: ἢ λυγαίως βαίνειν: ὅ ἐστι σκοτεινῶς καὶ ἀδήλως. ἢ ἀπὸ μεταφορᾶς τῶν λύκων, οἳ τοὺς ποταμοὺς περῶσιν, ἀλλήλων τῆς οὐρᾶς ἐχόμενοι χειμῶνος ὥρᾳ. Λυκάβας οὖν ἀπὸ τοῦ συμβεβηκότος περὶ τὰ ζῷα: ἑπόμενα γὰρ ἀλλήλοις τάξει δίεισι τὸν ποταμόν.
Notes:
The headword is the nominative singular of a noun that occurs in the genitive twice in Homer's Odyssey: 14.161 (web address 1) and 19.306 (web address 2). Most if not all of the material in the entry derives from commentary on these passages, and focuses on explaining the etymology of the word, something modern scholars are still uncertain about. One suggestion connects its first element λυκ- with Indo-European words for "light" (cf. Latin lux) but this is far from certain.
[1] (For this parenthetical equivalence see already lambda 770.) So far the entry = Synagoge lambda162, Photius lambda450 Theodoridis. Of the two suggested etymologies the first is obscure in form, since the word used for 'quickly' (ταχ- ) would not self-evidently combine with 'going' (βα- ) to form λυκάβας . Perhaps it assumes as obvious the connection with wolves discussed later in the entry (viz. wolves as swift animals); or it may be an interpretation of the second etymology, 'gloomily going' which is more straightforward in form λυγ- + βα- , but obscure in sense. Apart from 'quickly going', the material in this sentence is quite similar to material in Apollonius' Homeric Lexicon (109.11) whence Etymologicum Gudianum and Hesychius lambda1356. In the latter two it is made clearer than elsewhere that a year is 'darkly going' because the passage of time is imperceptible (although whether it is conceived of as too quick to perceive or too slow to perceive is left ambiguous). See also the scholia to Oppian, Halieutica 1.551, where the etymologies that seem separate in other sources are combined: λυγαίως καὶ ὀξέως βαίνων καὶ κεκρυμμένως καὶ λεληθότως. ("gloomily and swiftly going, and hiddenly and imperceptibly").
[2] cf. Artemidorus 2.12. This etymology, deriving the word from the roots for 'wolf' (λυκ- ) and 'going' (βα- ) is found in the scholia to Homer. A scholion to Homer, Odyssey 19.306 clarifies that the wolves in the wolf-chain are thought to resemble the days, weeks and months that follow upon one another within the year. For other wolf-related etymologies, see the scholia to Oppian, Halieutica 1.551: wolves travel in groups of twelve, like the twelve months; wolves breed only once every year (cf. Aristotle, History of Animals 580a); the alternating movement of the wolf's feet resembles the sequence of months, etc.
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: chronology; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; dreams; epic; imagery; philosophy; poetry; science and technology; zoology
Translated by: William Hutton on 18 June 2009@18:46:36.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (betacode typo, status) on 19 June 2009@00:52:44.
David Whitehead (additions to notes; another keyword; tweaks and cosmetics) on 21 June 2009@03:32:55.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 23 April 2013@06:19:03.
Catharine Roth (tweaked links) on 24 April 2013@21:20:11.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 13 April 2015@19:43:27.

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