Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun χρυσος (chrusos) means gold, and it appears to be of Semitic origin (rather than Indo-European, like most Greek words are). An excellent candidate for its source is the noun that in Hebrew came to be spelled as חרוץ (harus). This Hebrew noun is commonly reported to simply mean gold, but the regular and widely used word for gold is זהב (zahab), which demonstrates that חרץ (harus) does not simply mean gold. Since our noun חרוץ (harus) is identical to words that mean diligence and decisiveness, to early Greek adapters our word probably denoted intricately crafted gold artifacts, and particularly artifacts of a high symbolic value (artifacts that stored and conveyed information). The noun חרוץ (harus) itself stems from a verb חרץ (harus), to be yellow, which is identical to the verb חרץ (harus), to decide or be diligent.
Our English word "science" shares its Proto-Indo-European root with the Greek verb σχιζω (schizo), to break, split or divide. The Hebrew equivalent of this verb is בין (bin), to discern or create space between things. The Hebrew word for son is בן (ben), since in Hebrew terminology a father is personified by his complex of sons (in the sense that colors are the "sons" of white light). The word for daughter is בת (bat). House or temple is בית (bayit). The verb בנה (bana) means to build. Hence, living stones, rejected by men, are being built into a living temple (1 Peter 2:1-7).
When human babies are born, they see mostly black and white and some mere smudges of pink. The first color they begin to see is red, which explains why in many cultures the color red signifies beginnings and primitivity (see our article on the Red Sea). Nuances in colors begin when the child learns to see yellow, which explains why yellow often signifies doubt, fear, carefulness, having options and reversal of one's course and finally discernment, knowledge and wealth. Color vision becomes complete with the advent of blue, which explains blue as the color of royalty and divinity. Silver is associated with white (all colors mixed into one). Gold with yellow (the discernment between different colors). And bronze with red (the beginning of color).
In antiquity, gold was prized because it is inert: a gold artifact does not rust or decay, which means that gems set in gold stay set and don't fall out after a while. Words or symbols carved or cast in gold are virtually eternal, and up to the rise of the alphabet, gold was the only medium in which information could be stored indefinitely (Psalm 16:10). This is how intricately worked gold artifacts came to denote humanity's theoretical understanding of the eternal natural laws, as expressed in narratives collectively called Logos or the Word.
In that same metaphorical arch, αργυρος (arguros), or silver, stands for the broad economy of the spoken word; the common use of language that allows the gradual formation and testing of ideas as if in a world-wide furnace (Psalm 12:6, Exodus 20:24 see Revelation 6:9, 1 Kings 10:25, Acts 2:5, Revelation 21:26). And χαλκος (chalkos), or bronze, stands for any kind of intuitive and subconscious appropriation of truth and wisdom. The proverbially strongest but most perishable and least noble of the metals is σιδηρος (sideros), iron, which represents human legislation (and particularly its enforcement). Iron and silver are both white, and relate to general, inclusive and dynamic interactions of great masses of people. Bronze and gold are both yellowish (bronze so dark it's reddish), and relate to specific, exclusive, static truths cherished by an elite few.
Our noun χρυσος (chrusos), processed gold, is used 12 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The adjective χρυσεος (chruseos), meaning gold or golden. In English, the word golden is a bit tricky, because unlike the word wooden (which describes something made from wood), the word golden technically describes something that merely looks like gold, whereas the word gold (used as adjective) describes something made from gold. Hence a golden crown may be made from aluminum foil, whereas a gold crown is certainly made from gold. But alternatively, the adjective golden may also describe something made largely from gold (and also including gems and such), or made from gold plus a lot of artistic effort. All these considerations are of course additionally complicated by the fact that our Greek word(s) are adaptations of a Semitic word that already described processed gold (rather than the base material gold), so all attempts at linguistic consistency are rather futile. This adjective is used 19 times; see full concordance.
- The diminutive noun χρυσιον (chrusion), the golden counterpart of the silver αργυριον (argurion), or silverling: a gold(en) coin, which for some reason nobody called a "goldling" in English — the Dutch pre-Euro unit of account was the gulden, or guilder, which meant gilded or golden (the Dutch word for yellow is the similar geel). Likewise the name of the Polish złoty means golden, and derives from złoto, meaning gold (and the Polish word for yellow is żołty). The word αργυριον (argurion) mostly denoted silver coins and was often used to denote money in general. Our noun χρυσιον (chrusion), on the other hand, could denote any relatively small and portable (or wearable) gold trinket; goldware including but not limited to coins. Note that both the main street of the New Jerusalem, and the entire city itself, are likened to goldware by means of this diminutive (Revelation 21:18 and 21:21). It's used 9 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun δακτυλιος (daktulios), meaning finger-ring: the adjective χρυσοδακτυλιος (chrusodaktulios), meaning golden-finger-ring-ish (James 2:2 only). James appears to have invented this word, and it's not even certain that he had a finger-ring in mind. The noun δακτυλιος (daktulios) obviously derives from δακτυλος (daktulos), meaning finger, but could be used to refer to any kind of ring-shaped item (including the anus). One's grasp and power rested in one's hands (Greek: χειρ, cheir; Hebrew: יד, yad), which means that one's finger(s) denoted one's extended power. The noun δακτυλος (daktulos) not only denoted bodily fingers but was used for any kind of protruding member or branch. All this suggests that a golden-finger-ring-ish person was not simply a person equipped with a golden finger-ring, but rather someone who had himself wrapped around an extended executive branch of supreme legal power (implying a very high Roman official).
- Together with the noun λιθος (lithos), meaning stone: the adjective χρυσολιθος (chrusolithos), or chrysolite, a gemstone of unknown qualities (Revelation 21:20 only). Intuition would suggest that chrysolite was called such because it was a kind of yellowish stone, but it should be remembered that in Greek antiquity, gold had already become associated with very fine craft and perpetuity of data, rather than with its yellowish color.
- Together with the otherwise unused noun πρασον (prason), leek: the noun χρυσοπρασος (chrusoprasos), or chrysoprase, which in modern times denotes a kind of green gemstone but which in antiquity may have denoted something else (it's not unthinkable that it denoted Chinese jade, favored among Chinese scholars, but that's a guess). This word occurs in Revelation 21:20 only.
- The verb χρυσοω (chrusoo), meaning to gild, to overlay or adorn with gold (Revelation 17:4 and 18:16 only).