Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb πιπτω (pipto) means to fall or lower. It describes a descent, which can be controlled (to lower) or not (to fall), or it describes some kind of figurative descent: into calamity, ruin or the superior control of someone or something. It also often describes instead of a motion downward a motion toward someone else. Joined with pronouns our verb may describe a falling upon (= an eager approach), falling in (= a joining) and so on.
One specific usage is in the idiom of "falling prostrate" or "falling upon one's face" in an effort to show humility or submission. In this case the falling-part is obviously controlled (to lower) and when one "falls upon one's face", one obviously simply lowers one's face to the floor rather than falling like a plank headlong forward and hitting the pavement with one's face.
Our verb is used 91 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on or upon in a repetitive way: the verb αναποπτω (anapipto), literally meaning to lower upon (implying having done so before). This verb is the common Greek verb for reclining in order to eat a meal. People didn't really have dinner tables and chairs the way we have them, so folks made themselves comfortable in all sorts of ways, but usually ended up on the floor or on low benches. This verb is used 11 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning over or against: the verb αντιπιπτω (antipipto), meaning to fall against (to collide), to assault, or to actively resist interference (Acts 7:51 only).
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb αποπιπτω (apopipto), meaning to fall from (Acts 9:18 only).
- Together with the noun γονυ (gonu), meaning knee: the verb γονυπετεω (gonupeteo), meaning to get down on one's knees; to kneel. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εκπιπτω (ekpipto), meaning to fall out or off. This verb is used mostly to describe a falling out of a proper or purposed place. It's used 13 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at, by: the verb εμπιπτω (empipto), meaning to fall into. This verb is used 7 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition επι (epi) meaning on or upon: the verb επιπιπτω (epipipto), meaning to fall upon. In the New Testament this verb usually denotes a controlled approaching and engaging of someone. It's used 13 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταπιπτω (katapipto), meaning to fall down or to lower down (Acts 26:14 and 28:6 only).
- Together with the preposition παρα (para) meaning near or nearby: the verb παραπιπτω (parapipto), meaning to fall just beside one's intended or purposed way (Hebrews 6:6 only). This verb is on a close par with the verb αμαρτανω (hamartano) meaning to err, which is commonly translated as "to sin". From this verb derives:
- The noun παραπτωμα (paraptoma), meaning a falling just aside from one's intended or purposed way. This important noun commonly expresses a relatively mild form of sin: an unintended slip or mistake which one would hastily correct once it's pointed out. Still, Paul applies this word to the original sin (Romans 5:17-18) in an apparent deliberate hyperbole: even the slightest goof causes the whole of creation to be tainted (also see Ephesians 2:1). Note that traditional theology usually explained these things in legal terms (one is guilty of transgressing an edictal law and will be duly punished), whereas modern theology tends to see God's law as the law upon which the whole of creation operates — hence an incomplete mastery of natural law produces inefficiency and dissonance, which in turn leads to loss. Our noun παραπτωμα (paraptoma) results from an inappropriate application of a perfect law, but instead of blowing us all up, God mercifully keeps giving us more time to get a handle on things, and in the mean time forgives us our stumblings and goof ups. Our noun is used 23 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the verb περιπιπτω (peripipto), literally meaning to fall around: to enter into something which then totally encompasses one (Luke 10:30, Acts 27:41 and James 1:2 only).
- Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσπιπτω (prospipto), to fall toward, that is: to engage or approach something with deliberate intent or specified reason. This verb is used 8 times; see full concordance.
- The noun πτομα (ptoma), meaning a fallen one; a corpse. This noun occurs 5 times; see full concordance.
- The noun πτοσις (ptosis), meaning a fall, a crash, a ruin (Matthew 7:27 and Luke 2:34 only).