Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The New Testament Greek word: δεω

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/d/d-e-om.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

δεω I

The verb δεω (deo) means to bind, pretty much on a precise par with the English verb to bind. It describes the forced joining of elements: bundling things or binding one thing to some other thing, implying constraint or restriction. It's used 44 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • The noun δεσμη (desme), meaning a bundle or something bound (Matthew 13:30 only).
  • The noun δεσμος (desmos), meaning a thing that binds: a bond or restriction; or the condition of being bound: imprisonment, bondage. This noun is used 20 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
    • The verb δεσμευω (desmeuo), meaning to apply bonds or imprison (Matthew 23:4 and Acts 22:4 only).
    • The alternate but similar verb δεσμεω (desmeo), also meaning to apply bonds or imprison (Luke 8:29 only). From this verb comes:
      • The noun δεσμιος (desmios), meaning a bound one, a prisoner. And note that in the old world imprisonment was not a form of punishment; one was thrown in prison in order to wait one's trial during which one was either acquitted or else punished with a fine, torture, forced labor, exile or death. Only on rare occasions would a person be bound — perhaps to protect others from his violent outbursts (Mark 5:3). This word is used 16 times, see full concordance, and is equivalent with the noun δεσμωτης (desmotes), see below.
    • Together with the noun φυλαξ (phulax), meaning keeper, from the verb φυλασσω (phulasso), to ward or guard: the noun δεσμοφυλαξ (desmophulax), meaning prison-keeper or warden (Acts 16:23, 16:27 and 16:36 only). In the classical world, a prison was a holding pen where to-be-tried people were held. Since these suspects might be guilty of a crime punishable by death, letting any prisoner escape translated to a death sentence to the prison-keeper.
    • The noun δεσμωτηριον (desmoterion), meaning a prison or place of bondage: a place where suspects awaited their trial. This word is used 4 times; see full concordance.
    • The noun δεσμωτης (desmotes), meaning a prisoner (Acts 27:1 and 27:42 only). A more common word for prisoner is δεσμιος (desmios), see above.
  • Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διαδεω (diadeo), meaning to bind throughout or all around. In the classics this verb was used for any kind of binding by winding around, but most often of hair bound together or items that bound around the head (a bandage, veil or diadem). This verb is not used in the New Testament, but from it derives:
    • The noun διαδημα (diadema), from which comes the English word diadem (Revelation 12:3, 13:1 and 19:12 only). It literally means "a binding through and through" and obviously refers to the legislative aspect of the authority of a central ruler. Since Isis and Osiris are celebrated as one of mankind's original law-givers (see the 5th century BC Hermetic work Kore Kosmou), our word originally described the headbands worn by Isis and Osiris, whose "diadem pierces the heavens and becomes a brother unto the stars" (from a Hymn to Osiris, written on a stele from the 28th dynasty). The διαδημα (diadema) was an early crown — στεφανος (stephanos) — and a signature element of the outfit of the Persian kings, then of Alexander the Great. Its significance lies in its relation to the sun — the familiar Latin word for sun, sol, gave us the adjective solo, whereas the Greek word mono gave us the word monarch — the solitary golden light-giver. Its counterpart was the silver starry night, whose anarchistic manifestation was the animal wilderness, a lawless freedom, but whose democratic ideal was the republican concept of ελευθερια (eleutheria), or lawful freedom (for more on this, see our articles on αργυρος, arguros, silver, and χρυσος, chrusos, gold). The purpose of the gospel is ελευθερια (eleutheria; Galatians 5:1), which means that everyone in Christ is Christ (John 14:20), the sovereign of his own life, and this explains why Christ is crowned with many diadems (Revelation 19:12). Any creature with a mere seven or ten crowns is a confederacy of tyrannies or an oligarchy at best (and see Mark 3:24 about that).
  • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from or down upon: the verb καταδεω (katadeo), meaning to bind down, or to dress or bandage (Luke 10:34 only).
  • Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the verb περιδεω (perideo), meaning to bind around: to swaddle or wrap (John 11:44 only).
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνδεω (sundeo), meaning to bind together with or jointly bind (Hebrews 13:3 only). From this word comes:
    • The noun συνδεσμος (sundesmos), meaning a thing that binds together or is bound together: a conglomeration. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition υπο (hupo), meaning under, beneath: the verb υποδεω (hupodeo), meaning to bind under. This verb served as the regular verb for shoeing foot wear (Mark 6:9, Acts 12:8 and Ephesians 6:15 only), and from it in turn derives:
    • The noun υποδημα (hupodema), literally meaning under-bound and denoting foot wear: sandals or shoes. The sandal is probably a much younger invention than the shoe and even in Biblical times many cultures (including the Greeks) shunned the wearing of foot wear. The Romans normalized footwear, but only for free people, and slaves still went barefoot (Acts 7:33). This may also help to understand why John the Baptist seemed so concerned about the foot wear of Jesus (Matthew 3:11, but see Ruth 4:7). This noun is used 10 times; see full concordance.
δεω II

An identical verb δεω (deo), or perhaps rather a specialized nuance of the previous, means to lack, miss or be in need of. This verb, or this particular specialization, is very common in the Greek classics but not at all used in the New Testament. From it, however comes:

  • The curious verbal expression δει (dei) or δειν (dein), which is basically an impersonal 3rd person singular form of our parent verb, meaning: it is needed, required, necessary, fitting or even morally obligatory. The imperfect form points to something that's been long deemed necessary: it ought to be so ... according to long-standing conviction. The present tense refers to necessity derived from an acute situation. Our verb is used 104 times; see full concordance.

The verb δεομαι (deomai) appears to have formed from a passive use of either of the verbs δεω (deo), and thus literally means to be bound and to be the thing lacking. Somehow this verb assumed the meaning of to pray or beseech (which indeed literally means to be seeking), or rather to exclaim one's need or state of bondage, specifically irrespective of any implied hope that a hearer will deliver.

The crucial nuance of our verb is that it expresses an awareness, rather than a desire, and focusses on oneself, rather than on a potential deliverer. Our verb deals with the very rudiments of awareness: the realization of one's displeasure with one's own condition. The next step, namely the contemplation of a solution, or even the contemplation of an autonomous agent who is more powerful than the trouble, and willing to swoop in and save the day, or else enticeable to do so (perhaps after a payment of some sort), appears to be not addressed by this verb.

Our verb δεομαι (deomai) describes how an animal that's caught in some trap — via a mechanism that the animal can't begin to comprehend — cries out in frustration and fear, without declaring what's actually going on or what specific actions the animal would like a potential savior to engage in. Our verb is not even about crying for help; it's about crying of bondage.

Our verb is used 22 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • The noun δεησις (deesis), which describes a cry of need or bondage — not yet a cry for help or a cry for deliverance, but an expression of helplessness, restraint and frustration; not the details of an elaborate aid program or escape plan, but a formless expression of the bare awareness of captivity. This noun is used 19 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the difficult and paradoxical verb προσδεομαι (prosdeomai), which combines the primal awareness of restriction with willful intent. The active form, προσδεω (prosdeo), appears in the classics with the meaning of to need besides, or additionally want, but this passive adaptation (used in Acts 17:25 only) appears to be a Pauline (or Lukan) invention, apparently to respond to the assumption that the Creator created out of some need or restriction. This familiar and popular assumption ties the statement that "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18) to "Let us make man in our own image" (1:26) and "God is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4), and concludes that God brought about creation when he realized that he was one, and thus alone, which was not good. And that means that prior to creation, God was "not good" and became good upon creating. The so-called "problem of evil" is certainly formidable (also because both good and evil originate in the same Creator: Isaiah 45:7), but this theory of prosdeomai has more screws loose than an old Volvo. God's aloneness may have been "not good", but that didn't make God "not good" (likewise, Adam was found alone, not good, before the fall). But more importantly, God did not create out of a lack or need, particularly the kind that is described by our verb δεομαι (deomai), namely the kind that has to be solved from the outside. Said simpler: God did not create because he needed help with anything (see for a slightly more elaborate reflection on the nature of the Creator our article on the verb πασχω, pascho, to experience).

The inseparable prefix δυσ- (dus-) is the opposite of ευ (eu): it spoils any positive sense of a word it's connected to and exacerbates any negative sense. Like the previous word, this prefix expresses a degree of want and both words derive from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root "deu-", to lack or be wanting.

Our prefix δυσ- (dus-) differs from ευ- (eu-) also in that it doesn't occur independently, and the cluster of compounds it's part of is also much smaller. It's the source of our English prefix "dys-", which describes poor functioning, abnormalcy or impairment (the word dysfunction refers to poorly functioning).

The Latin look-alike dis is really a wholly other word and describes a total absence or separation from (the word disfunction would mean: without a function). This Latin word comes from the Proto-Indo-European root "dis-", meaning apart, and is much closer related to the word duo than to δυσ- (dus-).


The pronoun δεινα (deina) means so-and-so or "that guy from the place with the thing". It's a curious and deliberately vague way of referring to someone one rather not mention or won't mention by merit of that person's utter irrelevance. In the classics this same pronoun was used as interjection to introduce a suddenly striking idea: "Oh, and by the way...!"

This word is used only once in the New Testament, namely in Matthew 26:18, where it points to the curiously unimportant proprietor of the room where Jesus instituted the enormously important rite of the Lord's Supper.


The adverb δειως (deinos), means terribly (Matthew 8:6 and Luke 11:53 only). It comes from an unused adjective δειος (deinos), terrible or fearful (hence the dino- part of the word dinosaur), which in turn comes from noun δεος (deos), fear or alarm.

Identical to the previous adjective, and also not used in the New Testament, the noun δειος (deinos) describes a variety of round or spinning things (a kind of dance, a threshing floor, some kind of device that made pills). That noun also occurs in the forms δινος (dinos) and δινη (dine), and derive from the verb δινευω (dineuo), to whirl or spin around. Hebrew equivalents of these words are the verb חגג (hagag) and חול (hul).