Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The familiar noun μητηρ (meter) means mother, and although both these words stem from the same ancient Proto-Indo-European root mater-, meaning mother, the root itself is widely believed to have formed from baby babble, along with the similar word πατηρ (pater), meaning father.
We moderns reserve the words mother and father for our parents, and any figurative use of these words (fatherland, motherboard) sound rather bombastic and slightly misplaced. But in etymologic reality, the words mother and father have a much wider application and speak of much more than one's biological parents.
From what we can tell from the use of familial terms in ancient languages, these words came to exclusively denote one's biological parents when mankind's natural order collapsed — and mankind's natural order consists of large tribal family groups in which the social collective is the "mother," the domestic economic sphere of the society is the "house," and the ruler (or ruling code) is the "father". This is why Paul calls Jerusalem the mother of all free folk (Galatians 4:26) and Jesus said to not call anyone but God our father (Matthew 23:9). Mankind's natural nations, or tribes, have been disrupted since the collapse of the Bronze Age — around the time of the Tower of Babel and Abraham; which is why (1) Abraham was called the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4), and John the Revelator proclaimed the New Earth to consist of nations that are healed (Revelation 21:24, 22:2).
A person in whom the rule of the father is expressed in a "son" which is why Jesus is the Son of God (Hebrews 1:3). The familiar image of Mary holding on to her baby Jesus originated in the depiction of the society of learned men (that's Mary) who slowly but surely received a true understanding of the scientific nature of reality (that's Jesus, or the Word: John 1:1, Luke 2:52, Colossians 2:3). Only later was this marvelous image degenerated into the religious devotional imagery we know today.
The Greek word υιος (huios) means son, but in a legal way and not a biological way. A legal son is someone who is formally accepted as both part of the mother and the father (John 14:20), whereas a νοθος (nothos) is an illegitimate child, either not part of the mother or of the father (or both). But these words have nothing to do with biological descent, and a biological child could be a νοθος (nothos), while an adoptee could be a υιος (huios).
The Hebrew word for mother is אם ('em) and the word for tribe or people is the closely related אמה ('umma). The Hebrew word for son is בן (ben), whereas the verb בנה (bana), means to build and אבן ('eben) means stone. The word בת (bat) means daughter, whereas the word בית (bayit) means house. The Greek word for house is οικος, oikos), from which comes our word "economy."
The noun μητηρ (meter), meaning mother, is used 85 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning without: the adjective αμητωρ (ametor), meaning motherless. This word occurs only once in the New Testament, namely in Hebrews 7:3, where it is applied to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). Like all characters of the early Old Testament, the latter is of course much rather a school of thought than simply some rogue theological wunderkind, but the author of Hebrews emphasizes that this school of thought arose spontaneously and naturally, not grafted upon an existing tradition or higher authority, but self-forming from people looking at creation and calling upon the Name of the Creator (Genesis 4:26) and those of fellow researchers to compare notes with (which in Melchizedek's case was the house of Abraham). This statement is of course highly relevant, since it emphasizes that the essence of Christ lies not in obedience to a tradition or human authority but in one's personal, natural and unrestricted relationship with the Creator.
- The noun μητρα (metra) meaning womb (Luke 2:23 and Romans 4:19 only). This word didn't merely denote the body part but rather its function, and was used metaphorically to describe one's origin. It's a synonym for δελφυς (delphus), from which comes the word αδελφος (adelphos), meaning brother. The Latin equivalent of this word is matrix (hence the movie).
- Together with the otherwise unused verb αλοιαω (aloiao), meaning to thresh (threshing is stumping on harvested grain to separate kernels from husks and straw): the noun μητραλωας (metraloas), meaning mother-thresher (1 Timothy 1:9 only). This word is mentioned along with the similar πατραλωας (patraloas), or father-thresher, and although these words were used as synonyms for parricide (the murder of one's parents), the usage of the verb αλοιαω (aloiao) indicates that these words originated in the excessive demands of children from their parents (as hinted at in the parable of the prodigal son; Luke 15:12). Note that the Law of Moses prescribed the death penalty for children who merely cursed their parents (Leviticus 20:9) and the command to honor one's parents is right up there with the prohibition of murder (Exodus 20:12-13).
- Together with the noun πολις (polis), meaning city: the noun μητροπολις (metropolis), literally meaning mother-city, which denotes the principle city of an area. This noun is not used in the majority Textus Receptus (the one we use for our interlinear New Testament) but does occur in certain minority texts of 1 Timothy 6:21 (for instance Stephanus' Textus Receptus). No modern translation incorporates it.