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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Greek word: μη

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/m/m-et.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

μη

The particle μη (me) is one of two major particles of negation; the other one is ου (ou). The difference between the two is that μη (me) describes a subjective negation and needs the context of option and alternatives, whereas ου (ou) introduces an objective negation and bluntly negates the existence of whatever follows. The nuances stretch far, but μη (me) is mostly used to introduce questions in which a negated situation is viewed in relation to its affirmation or alternatives (not going down one road means going down another), whereas ου (ou) negates absolutely (not going down that road means you stand there).

Often our particle occurs in tandem with other words to form standard expressions (if not, in order not, etcetera). Most spectacular perhaps is its occasional coalition with ου (ou), which forms the interrogative expression μη ου (me ou), in which me turns the whole sentence into a review of alternatives of whatever the absolute negation ου (ou) forbids (Roman 10:18, 1 Corinthians 9:4). The reverse, ου μη (ou me), occurs also but functions as a double, emphasized, negation (Matthew 16:22, John 18:11, Hebrews 8:12).

Our particle of subjective negation also occurs merged with other words to form compound words. Many of these also occur with a space in between the two elements (as two separate words, therefore) are parallel with derivatives of ου, ou):

  • Together with the particle δε (de), which mostly indicates transition and is rarely translated: the conjunction μηδε (mede), meaning neither or "and also not". It usually follows an instance of μη (me) and thus serves to introduce clauses that are additionally negated (Matthew 10:14, Romans 6:13, Ephesians 5:3). From this word in turn derive:
    • Together with a mysterious word αμος (amos), which apparently meant way or wise: the adverb μηδαμως (medamos), meaning by no means (Acts 10:14 and 11:8 only).
    • Together with εις (heis), the cardinal number one: the adjective μηδεις (medeis), meaning not even one, not any, not anything, no one (Matthew 16:20, Luke 3:13, James 1:6).
    • Together with the adverb ποτε (pote), meaning whenever: the adverb μηδεποτε (medepote), meaning not even ever (2 Timothy 3:7 only).
    • Together with the particle πω (po), meaning yet or even: the adverb μηδεπω (medepo), meaning not yet (Hebrews 11:7 only).
  • Together with the adverb ετι (eti), meaning still or yet (plus an auxiliary κ, k): the adverb μεκετι (meketi), meaning no more, no further (Mark 1:45, Acts 4:17, 2 Corinthians 5:15).
  • Again together with the adverb ποτε (pote), meaning whenever: the adverb μηποτε (mepote), meaning lest ever, if perhaps, (Matthew 4:6, John 7:26, Hebrews 9:17).
  • Again together with the particle πω (po), meaning yet or even: the adverb μηπω (mepo), meaning not yet (Romans 9:11 and Hebrews 9:8 only).
  • Together with particle of indefiniteness πος (pos), meaning somehow: the conjunction μηπως (mepos), meaning lest somehow (Acts 27:29, Romans 11:21, Galatians 2:2).
  • Together with the conjunctive particle τε (te), meaning and: the conjunction μητε (mete), meaning and not, neither, not even (Matthew 5:34, Acts 23:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:2).
  • Together with a truncated version of the interrogative pronoun τις (tis), meaning who, which, what?: the particle μητι (meti), meaning something like "isn't this the case?" or "aren't these the guys who...?" (Matthew 7:16, Luke 9:13, 2 Corinthians 1:17).

Note that the particle of strong affirmation μην (men), meaning surely, looks like it follows the same pattern as the conjunction ουν (oun), meaning accordingly, there upon, certainly.