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Aeolic Greek

Aeolic Greek (also known as Lesbian Greek) is a linguistic term used to describe a set of rather archaic Greek sub-dialects, spoken mainly in Boeotia (a region in Central Greece), in Lesbos (an island close to Asia Minor) and in other Greek colonies.

The Aeolic dialect shows many archaisms, in comparison to the other Greek dialects (i.e. Ionian-Attic, Doric, Northwestern and Arcado-Cypriot), as well as many innovations.

Aeolic Greek is most widely known for being the language of the writings of Sappho and Alcaeus of Mytilene. Aeolic poetry, the most famous example of which being the works of Sappho, mostly uses four classical meters known as the Aeolics, which are: Glyconic (the most basic form of Aeolic line), Hendecasyllabic verse, Sapphic stanza and Alcaic stanza (the latter two so named after Sappho and Alcaeus respectively).

In Protagoras (dialogue) 341c of Plato, Prodicus labelled the Aeolic dialect as barbarian, while referring to Pittacus of Mytilene

He didn't know to distinguish the words correctly, being from Lesbos, and having been raised with a barbarian dialect
The Aeolic dialect might, in the time of Socrates and Plato, sound so strange to the Athenians, as to be termed, from an exclusive pride in the Attic literary style, barbaros.

Main traits of the Aeolic dialect

  • The original proto-Indo-European (and Proto-Greek) labiovelar, *, turned into p everywhere, whereas the Attic-Ionic, Arcadocyprian and Doric dialects have t before e and i (e.g. Attic τέτταρες, Ionic τέσσερες, Doric τέτορες ~ Lesbian πίσυρες, Boeotian πέτταρες "four" < PIE *). This treatment of the labiovelar finds its exact counterpart in the so-called P-Celtic languages and in the Sabellic languages.
  • The Proto-Greek long ā was retained everywhere, in contrast to the Attic-Ionic dialect, which turned it into a long open ē (e.g. Attic-Ionic μήτηρ ~ Aeolic μάτηρ "mother" < IE *).
  • The Aeolic dialect made extensive use of the so-called "athematic" verb conjugation, i.e. the conjugation ending in -mi (e.g. Attic-Ionic φιλέω, φιλῶ ~ Aeolic φίλημι "love"). The same is also found in Irish, where this selection has been generalized, i.e -im.
  • In the Lesbian dialect, the tonic accent of all words appears recessive ("barytonesis"), as is typical only in the verbs of other dialects (e.g. Attic-Ionic ποταμός ~ Lesbian πόταμος "river").
  • The athematic infinitive ending of the Aeolic dialect is -men (Lesbian also -menai) as in the Doric dialects, whereas Attic-Ionic has -(e)nai (e.g. Attic-Ionic εἶναι ~ Lesbian ἔμμεν, ἔμμεναι, Thessalian, Boeotian εἶμεν). In the Lesbian dialect this ending also extends to the thematic conjugation (e.g. ἀγέμεν).
  • In Lesbian Aeolic, the phenomenon of "psilosis" occurred, as in the Ionic dialect; this is the absence of the aspiration of initial vowels, frequently the result of the loss of sigma or digamma (e.g. Attic ἥλιος ~ Ionic ἠέλιος, Lesbian ἀέλιος "sun" < Proto-Greek *hāwelios < PIE *).
  • In Thessalian and Boeotian, the proto-Indo-European (and Proto-Greek) semi-vowel w ("digamma") was retained word-initially, as it was in the Doric dialect (e.g. Attic-Ionic ἔπος ~ Boeotian, Doric ϝέπος "word, epic" < PIE , cf. Latin vōx).
  • In Boeotian, the vowel-system was, in many cases, changed in a way reminiscent of the modern Greek pronunciation: Attic-Ionic αι /ai/ ~ Boeotian η /e:/ ~ Modern Greek αι /e/; Attic-Ionic η /e:/ ~ Boeotian ει /i:/ ~ Modern Greek ει /i/; Attic-Ionic οι /oi/ ~ Boeotian υ /y:/ ~ Modern Greek οι /i/.
  • The original Indo-European consonant clusters * were assimilated to . The Attic-Ionic and Doric dialects have a short nasal / liquid and compensatory lengthening instead (e.g. Attic-Ionic εἰμί ~ Aeolic ἔμμι < PIE *).
  • First and second declension nouns use -αις/-οις endings for acc. pl. and -αισι(ν)/-οισι(ν) for dat. pl. Masculine 1st aorist participle is -αις (e.g. λυσαις, not λυσας).



  • ἀέλιος aelios Doric also (Attic helios sun) (Cretan abelios) (Laconian bela) (Pamphylian babelios) (PIE *saewel- )
  • ἄγωνος ágônos (Attic ἀγῶν agôn struggle) (Elean dat. pl. agônoir for agôsi)
  • ἀθρήματα athrêmata gifts sent by kins to Lesbian brides (Sappho fr.) (Cf.Homeric hedna , eedna)
  • Αἰολίωνες Aioliônes (Attic Αἰολεῖς Aeoleis Aeolians)(aiolizô speak Aeolic , aiolisti ,compose in the Aeolian mode , trick out with false words Sophocles.Fr.912 ) (aioleô vary,adorn,diversify (aiolos quick-moving,glittering,shifty)
  • ἀκλάδες aklades (unpruned vineyards) (Attic akladeutoi ampeloi)
  • ἀκόντιον akontion (part of troops) (Attic spear) (Macedonian rhachis,spine or backbone,anything ridged like the backbone)
  • ἀμένης -τος amenês -tos (Attic ὑμήν humēn) thin skin, membrane.
  • ἀμώνες amônes (Attic ἀνεμώνες anemones
  • ἄορος aoros (Attic ἄϋπνος ahypnos ,without sleep) Μηθυμναῖοι
  • ἄρπυς arpys (Attic ἔρως Eros,Love) attested in Crinagoras, ἁρπάζειν harpazein to snatch. Homeric harpaleos attractive,devouring
  • ἄσφε asphe to them (Attic sphe, sphi)
  • βακχόα bakchoa (Attic βόθρος bothros sacred dungeon, pit)
  • βάλλα balla threshold (Attic βῆλος bêlos ) (Doric balos )
  • βελφιν belphin dolphin (Attic delphis ) and Βέλφοι Belphoi Delphi
  • βᾶμα bama Doric also (Attic βῆμα bema walking,step)
  • βλῆρ blêr incitement (Attic delear) τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ καὶ αἶθμα. παρὰ Ἀλκαίῳ ἡ λέξις
  • βραδανίζω bradanizô brandish,shake off. (Cf.Elean bratana Common rhatane )
  • βραδινός bradinos slender,soft (Attic rhadinos) Sapph.90,104.
  • βράιδιον braidion (Attic ῥάιδιον rhaidion easy)
  • βρακειν brakein to understand (dysbrakanon imprehensible)
  • βράκος brakos long robe, Sapph.70 Homeric ῥάκος ϝράκος rhakos wrakos
  • βρίζα briza root (Attic rhiza)
  • βρόδον brodon (Attic ῥόδον rhodon ,rose) and vagina metaphorically in Erotic Glossary.
  • βροδόπαχυς brodopachus with pink,rosy forearms (Attic rhodopuches) (βροδόπαχυν brodopachun Sappho) and brododaktulos with rosy fingers
  • βροχέως brocheos or βρουκέων broukeon (Attic βραχύ brachy short) ( 2,7)
  • δράσειν drasein (Attic θύειν to sacrifice)
  • δνόφος dnophos darkness Ionic also (Attic ζόφος zophos) (akin to knephas)
  • εἴδη eide (Attic ὕλη ,forest) (εἴδη Ionian also)
  • Ἐννησιάδες Ennesiades Lesbian Nymphs
  • ἐπιάλτης epialtês and epialês nightmare (Attic ephialtês) (wiki Ephialtes)
  • ζάδηλον zadelon with holes in it,open (Attic diadelon obvious) (Alcaeus 30 D 148P)
  • ἴμβηρις imbêris eel (Attic ἔγχελυς enchelys) Μηθυμναῖοι
  • ἴρον iron holy (Attic ἱερόν hierón ) (Doric hiarón) (Ionic hirón)
  • Ἰσσα Issa old name of Lesbos Island Cf. Antissa
  • ἴσσασθαι issasthai (Attic κληροῦσθαι klerousthai to take sth by lot)
  • καγκύλη kankulê (Attic κηκῖς kêkis wet,vapour,mordant dyeing)
  • κάμμαρψις kammarpsis dry Measure (Attic ἡμιμέδιμνον hemimedimnon half of Medimnos)
  • καραβίδες karabides (Attic γρᾶες graes ) Μηθυμναῖοι
  • καυαλέον kaualeon Hsch (Attic αἶθος aithos fire, burning heat) (Cf.kaiô burn)
  • κλᾷδες klaides Doric also (Attic kleides bars, bolts, keys)
  • Mεσοστροφώνια Mesostrophonia Lesbian festival
  • μέσσυϊ messui (Attic ἐν μέσῳ in the middle)
  • μόλσος molsos (Attic δημός ,fat)
  • ξέννος xennos foreigner,guest-friend,strange (Attic xenos) (Ionic xeinos)
  • ξίμβα ximba (Attic ῥοιά rhoia pomegranate-tree) (Boeotian sida)
  • ὄθματα othmata (Attic ommata eyes)
  • ὄν ónὄνα óna (Attic ἀνά aná) upon,through,again (Arcadocypriot also)
  • πασσύριον passyrion (Attic passydia totally,all together,with the whole army)
  • πεδαμείβω pedameivô (Attic metameivo exchange) (πεδέχω pedecho μετέχω metecho) , pedoikos metoikos peda for meta
  • πέμπε pempe five (Attic πέντε pente, Pamphylian πέδε pede ) (πεμπάσσειν pempassein to count per five) (Attic pempe imp. of pempô send)
  • Πέῤῥαμος Perrhamos Priamus (Alcaeus 74D,111P (it means also king)
  • πέσδος pésdos pedestrian,infantry) (Attic πεζός pezós)
  • πέσσον pesson plain (Attic πεδίον pedion)
  • πέσσυρες pessyres four (Lesbian πίσυρες pisyres) (Boeotian πέτταρες pettares) (Attic τέσσαρες tessares) (Doric tetores)
  • σάωμι saômi save (Attic σῴζω sôizô ) (Homeric σαόω saoô)
  • σίγλαι siglai ear-rings (Attic enôtia , Laconian exôbadia)
  • σκίφος skiphos Attic xiphos sword (skiptô , given as etym. of skiphos and xiphos, Sch.Il.1.220; cf. skipei: nussei, it pricks,pierces)
  • σπόλα spóla(Attic στολή stolê) equipment,garment (spaleis ,the sent one, for staleis)
  • στρότος strótos (Attic stratós) army
  • συρξ syrx (Attic σάρξ flesh) (dative plural σύρκεσιν syrkesi Attic σαρξίν sarxin)
  • τενεκοῦντι tenekounti (Attic enoikounti dative singular of ἐνοικῶν enoikôn inhabiting)
  • τράγαις tragais you break, grow rough and hoarse and smell like a goat
  • τῦδε tude tudai and tuide here) (Ionic têde)
  • ὔσδος usdos (Attic ozos twig,branch)
  • φαυόφορος phauophoros priestess (Attic ἱέρεια hiereia) (light-keeper) (Aeolic phauô for Homeric phaô shine) (Homeric phaos light , Attic phôs and phôtophoros)
  • φηρία phêria (Attic θηρία thêria beasts)
  • Ψάπφα Psappha , Psapphô Σαπφώ Sapphô


  • ἄας aas ἀεστητόν aestêton tomorrow (Attic αὔριον aurion) (Cf.Attic êôs dawn)
  • ἀμίλλακας amillakas wine Theban (Attic oinos)
  • ἀνωδόρκας anôdorkas a fish βρίγκος ὁ ἰχθῦς, ὑπὸ Θηβαίων
  • βαιδύμην baidumên (Attic ἀροτριᾶν arotrian to plough)
  • βανά bana (βαλάρα balara) woman (Attic gunê ) (βανῆκες ,banêkes βάττικες battikes women (Attic gunaikes )
  • βάστραξ bastrax or bastax (Attic τράχηλος trachêlos neck) pl.bastraches
  • βλεερεῖ bleerei (Attic οἰκτείρει he feels pity) Cf. eleairei
  • γάδου gadou (ϝάδου wadou) (Attic ἡδύ hêdú) (Corinna.17)
  • Δεύς Deus instead of Zeus. Attested also in Laconian and Rhodian.
  • ἐμπυρία empyria divination (Attic manteia) (Hsch. public oath , Koine ordeal by fire)
  • ζεκελτίδες zekeltides gourds Amerias zakeltides (Phrygian zelkia vegetables)
  • ἴδηφιν idephin sweet-voiced Hsch. <ἴδηφιν>· ἴδαις· Βοιωτοί. [καὶ ὁ ἡδυλάλος διὰ τῆς διφθόγγου] (Attic hêduphônon) (Aeolic wad- , ad- )
  • ἰστάκη istake scythe (Attic δρέπανον drepanon)
  • ἰυγοδρομεῖν iugodromein (Attic ἐκβοηθεῖν, ekboêthein , and boêdromein ,run to help) (<Ἰύγγυϊ> Dionysus <ἰυγή>· voice,scream (Soph. Phil. 752))(Iungios Thessalian month)
  • ἰώ and hiôn (Attic ἐγώ egō , I) (hiônga iôga for egôge)
  • Καραιός Karaios Boeotian epithet for Zeus meaning tall,head. Boeotian eponym Karaidas
  • κᾶρουξ karoux (Attic kêryx herald)
  • κριδδέμεν kriddemen (Attic γελᾶν gelan to laugh) (Strattis fr. 47) Cf. (Cf.Attic krizô creak,screech)
  • κόριλλα korilla little girl (Koine korasion from Attic korasis girl) (Aetolian korudion)
  • μηλάτας mêlatas (Attic ποιμήν poimen shepherd) (homeric μῆλον mêlon sheep) (Attic mêlon apple , Aeolic-Doric malon)
  • μνάριον mnarion (Attic κάλλυντρον kallyntron broom, brush)
  • ὀπισθοτίλα opisthotila (Attic σηπία sêpia cuttlefish) (Strattis. fr. 47,3) (squirts its liquor from behind)
  • ὀπίττομαι opittomai (homeric opizomai I care,respect) (Laconian opiddomai)
  • ὀφρυγνᾷ ophrygnai (Attic ὀφρυάζει ophryazei he winks raising the eyebrow,to be haughty)
  • σεῖα seia I persecuted (Attic ἐδίωξα edioxa) (Cf.Homeric seuô move quickly,chase)
  • συοβοιωτοί syoboiôtoi Hog-Boeotians (Cratinus.310)
  • τρίπεζα tripeza (Attic trapeza,table)(from tetrapeza four-footed) (tripeza three-footed) (in Aeolic it would-be tripesda)
  • ψώσματα psôsmata Boeotian word acc. Aristonymus


  • ἀβρεμής abremês (Attic ἀβλεπής ablepês ἀνάξιος του βλέπεσθαι unworthy seeing, despicable (Cypriotic also) (Hes.text ἀβλεπής Κύπριοι καὶ <Θεττ>αλοί
  • ἀγορά agora (Attic λιμήν limen port,harbour) (Hes.text Θετταλοὶ δὲ καὶ τὸν λιμένα ἀγορὰν καλοῦσιν <Κρῆτες δὲ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν
  • ἀλφινία alphinia white poplar (PIE *albho- 'white') (Attic leukê , PIE *leuk- 'bright,light') (Macedonian aliza)
  • Ἄπλουν Aploun Apollo (Attic Ἀπόλλων Apollôn) (Doric,Pamphylian Ἀπέλο̄ν Apelon)
  • ἀσπάλεια aspaleia safeness (Attic asphaleia)
  • ἀστραλός astralos (Attic ψάρ -ος psar Starling)
  • βεβυκῶσθαι bebukousthai to be swollen (Homeric βυκτάων buktaon blowing)
  • βουσία bousia (Attic γογγυλίδι gongylidi turnip)
  • δάμοσσος dámossos public (Attic dêmósios) opp. ἰδδιούστικος iddioûstikos privative (Attic idiôtikós)
  • δάρατος daratos Thessalian bread (Macedonian dramis) (Athamanian dramix) (PIE *der- cut,split)
  • δέσποινα despoina woman (Attic gunê , Doric guna) (fem. of despotes)
  • ἔνορμος enormos (agora,assembly,market and chôra) (Attic enormeô get in a harbour, hormos bay,anchorage
  • ἐρέας ereas children (Hsch.Attic τέκνα tekna) (Homeric ernos young sprout,scion) (Neo-Phrygian eiroi children)
  • θεανῶσται theanoustai (Attic ξυστῆρες xysters)
  • ἰθείη itheiê (Attic ἁμαξιτός hamaxitos chariot-road) (Homeric ἰθεῖα ὀρθή Ψ 580) (Attic ithys,eytheia straight line)
  • ἴμψας impsas past participle of impto (Attic ζεύξας zeuxas zeugnymi join together)(Ἴμψιος Impsios Ποσειδῶν ὁ ζύγιος Poseidon Zygius on horses)
  • κάλαφος kalaphos (Attic ἀσκάλαφος,Ascalaphus a bird (Magnesian)
  • καπάνη kapanê chariot (Attic ἀπήνη apênê) also, a helmet(kapanikos plenteous
  • κίς kis who , anyone (Attic tis) (Laconian tir) (Arcadocypriot sis)
  • καρπαία karpaia Thessalo-Macedonian mimic military dance (see also Carpaea) Homeric karpalimos swift (for foot) eager,ravenous.
  • κῦῤῥος kyrrhos or kyrros sir,master (Attic kyrios)
  • Μακετοὺν Maketoun 'Macedonian man' (Attic Μακεδών Makedôn) (Thessalian -ουν-oun suffix for Attic ων ôn in both nominative and genitive of participles,pronouns and nouns.
  • ματτύη mattuê a meat-dessert of Macedonian or Thessalian origin (Athenaeus)(Macedonian mattuês a kind of bird)
  • ναελεῖς naeleis new-comers, newly caught ones (Cf. nealeis, neêludes)
  • νεβεύω nebeuô pray (Macedonian neuô) (Attic euchomai , neuô wink)
  • ὀνάλα onala , ὀνάλουμα onalouma (Attic analôma expense cost) (on- in the place of Attic prefix ἀνά , ongrapsantas SEG 27:202
  • Πέτθαλος Pétthalos and Πεθθάλειος (Boeotian Φέτταλος Phéttalos) (Attic Θετταλός Thettalós) (Ionic,Koine Θεσσαλός Thessalós) 'Thesalian man' (Πετθαλια Petthalia Thessalia) (Petthaloi Thessalians) (Koine thessalisti the thessalian way) (Attic ἐντεθετταλίζομαι entethettalizomai become a Thessalian, i.e. wear the large Thessalian cloak (Thettalika ptera feathers' ), Eupolis.201. )
  • ταγεύω tageuô to be tagos archon in Thessaly ταγευόντουν τοῦμ Πετθαλοῦν


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