Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb λεγω (lego), means to speak intelligently (Matthew 1:20, Luke 18:1, Revelation 6:6). It sometimes occurs as synonym of the verbs επω (epo), meaning to say (Matthew 26:44, Luke 4:3), and καλεω (kaleo), meaning to call (Matthew 19:17, John 5:18), but it should be distinguished from the verb λαλεω (laleo), meaning to talk. The Hebrew equivalent of our verb is דבר (dabar).
The meaning of verb λεγω (lego) underwent an interesting evolution. It originally denoted a lying down to sleep. Then it slowly began to mean to lie together and to collect and finally it came to mean to lay before or to relate, or simply to say, speak, to deliver a discourse. Still, the verb never lost its meaning of gathering or collecting, and as an expression of intelligence it demonstrates that the world of knowledge is a world of gathering, linking and combining. That explains with great clarity the many Biblical "metaphors" that deal with gathering or harvesting, and it also connects reason to fundamental offices such as that of the Levites (the joiners) and even places like Hebron (the joined).
Our verb occurs 1343 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, is part of a long list of compound words (see below), but it also comes with two direct derivations. These two derivations are the feminine and masculine versions of basically the same idea, and are right on a par with the Hebrew words דברה (deborah, the feminine meaning honey bee) and דבר (dabar, the masculine meaning word):
Much more prominent is the masculine noun λογος (logos):
The noun λογος (logos), means "word" (Luke 4:22) or rather: intelligence as an interconnected network of things known, or the expression of that intelligence (Matthew 12:37, Acts 14:12): a woven-together discourse (Matthew 8:8) or a saying or statement (Titus 3:8). But that means that often our word λογος (logos) may denote something as abstract as "a matter" or "a case" (Matthew 5:32, Hebrews 13:17). It exists in modern English in terms such as psychology and technology, and its core idea is maintained in our modern idea that we "gather" something when we understand it. The verb "to comprehend" literally means "to seize together".
It needs to be remembered that in the old world, words were considered real. In our modern world we are so used to deceit that anything spoken is usually taken with a grain of salt, or expected to come with some degree of "poetic license". In the old world, lying was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 18:22, Psalm 5:6) and tangible things existed because they had commenced their ontological career as words spoken by the Creator: God speaks and the thing comes into existence. That's why bread was considered just one of the many words of God by which man lives (Deuteronomy 8:3, also see John 21:25).
Significantly, the Bible teaches that where the divine and the natural meet, there exists the Logos of God. Initially, this Logos meets humanity as something of an intimate outsider (Genesis 15:1) but later he became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14) and later still he will exist on earth, known intimately by everyone and governing earth in justice and love (Isaiah 9:6-7, Revelation 21:23). The opposite of this situation would be a humanity that forgets God's natural laws, and is subsequently "forgotten" by the Lord and will disintegrate and scatter — the verb λυω (luo) means to loosen and is the opposite of our verb λεγω, lego — for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
Our noun λογος (logos) is used 330 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and is part of a handsome list of compounds:
Compounds containing the noun λογος (logos):
- Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning without: the adjective αλογος (alogos), meaning without reason in the sense of irrational (Acts 25:27, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10 only).
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on or upon: the familiar noun αναλογια (analogia). In the classics this curious word denoted a "proper relation" and was used to describe the mathematical concept of proportion. In the Bible this word is used only once, namely in Romans 12:6, to describe the relation between one's faith and the effects of it: these need to be in proportion.
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb απολογεομαι (apologeomai), meaning to speak for [someone/oneself/out of some specified reason], that is to verbally defend someone. This verb occurs 10 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- Again together with the particle of negation α (a), plus the auxiliary letter 'n': the adjective αναπολογητος (anapologetos), meaning indefensible or inexcusable (Romans 1:20 and 2:1 only).
- The noun απολογια (apologia), meaning a plea or defense. This noun is used 8 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and lives on in English as the noun "apology".
- Together with the otherwise unused noun βαττος (battos), denoting a stutterer or stammerer, the verb βαττολογεω (battologeo), meaning to go on blabbering (Matthew 6:7 only). The word βαττος (battos) is probably onomatopoeic but, significantly, it's also the name of the legendary founder of Cyrene.
- Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at or by: the verb ελλογεω (ellogeo), to count in, include or take into consideration (Romans 5:13, Philemon 1:18 only).
- Together with the prefix ευ (eu), meaning good: the verb ευλογεω (eulogeo), meaning to speak well of or to bring about lots of good things or lavish welfare across the whole spectrum of existence. Although this verb is the Septuagint's equivalent of the Hebrew verb ברך (barak), meaning to bless (Acts 3:25), the usage of this English word is really rather unfortunate.
To "bless" comes from the ancient sacrificial term "blodison" meaning "to make bloody" (of an altar). Our Greek verb has nothing to do with some ritual or magic chants (or aural energies radiating from one's hands and such) and really only means to speak well of. It's a catch-all verb that covers expressing gratitude, praising, complimenting, supporting; all that (Luke 1:64, 24:53, Mark 10:16). But our verb obviously means more than simply saying lofty words. Being "spoken well of" comes with tangible effects that entail bringing about a good thing (a good logos) for somebody by means of, say, a nice gift, of by changing someone's self-destructive behavior (Acts 3:26).
It's of course wonderful when God speaks well of us (Matthew 25:34); the whole of creation is due to God speaking (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4) so good things that happen to people are due to good things said by God (John 12:13, Acts 3:26, Ephesians 1:3). Obviously, speaking well of something like food is the same as pronouncing gratitude for it. When Jesus looked at the heavens and "spoke well" of the bread he was about to distribute (Matthew 14:19), he basically pronounced his gratitude over it. In other words, he wasn't "blessing" the food (whatever that might be perceived to mean), but rather he "expressed his thanks" for it. Likewise, old Simeon when he was given the opportunity to hold baby Jesus in his arms didn't "bless" God (whatever that would be) but "expressed gratitude toward" him (Luke 2:28). In 1 Corinthians 14:16, Paul equals our verb with the noun ευχαριστια (eucharistia), which means "thanks-giving". And in 1 Corinthians 10:16 he mentions the "lavish welfare we speak well of" (rather than "blessing we bless", whatever that may mean). This verb is used 43 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn come:
- Again together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at or by: the verb ενευλογεω (eneulogeo), meaning to speak well via or because of something or someone. This word is used only in Acts 3:25 and Galatians 3:8, both times in the same context, namely that because of Abraham all families of the earth will be spoken well of or will have lots of good things happening to them; enjoy lavish welfare.
- The adjective ευλογητος (eulogetos), which describes one who has eulogeo as defining quality: one spoken well of. In the Bible this word is only applied to God (Mark 14:61, Ephesians 1:3) and perhaps Christ (Romans 9:5). This adjective occurs 8 times; see full concordance.
- The familiar noun ευλογια (eulogia), meaning "good word" in senses ranging from the pretty speech of charlatans (Romans 16:18), to sincere words of welfare (James 3:10) to gifts coming from men (2 Corinthians 9:5) to good things coming from God (Romans 15:29). In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul uses this word juxtaposed with φειδομενως (pheidomenos), meaning sparingly or stingily, which demonstrates that our noun ευλογια (eulogia) has the connotation of lavishness. It occurs 16 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the adjective κακος (kakos), meaning bad: the verb κακολογεω (kakologeo), meaning to talk bad of or to curse. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The important middle deponent verb λογιζομαι (logizomai), meaning to "be-word-ize": to ponder internally with the objective to formalize thoughts into statements (Mark 11:31, 1 Corinthians 13:5); to accredit (Romans 4:4) to reckon as (Romans 4:11, Acts 19:27), to size up (Romans 8:36). This verb is used 41 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on, upon or again: the verb αναλογιζομαι (analogizomai), meaning consider with emphasis; whether in the sense of repeatedly or extraordinarily. This word occurs only in Hebrews 12:3.
- Together with the intensifying preposition δια (dia), meaning through: the verb διαλογιζομαι (dialogizomai), meaning to think or talk thoroughly through, to discuss. This verb is used 16 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- The noun λογισμος (logismos), meaning a conclusion, reckoning, consideration etcetera (Romans 2:15 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 only).
- Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near, which in this case means askew or off: the verb παραλογιζομαι (paralogizomai), meaning to reason falsely or in error (Colossians 2:4 and James 1:22 only).
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συλλογιζομαι (sullogizomai), meaning to reason together (Luke 20:5 only).
- The adjective λογικος (logikos; hence our word "logic"), meaning either reasonable or pertaining to speech. This amazing word is used only twice in the New Testament. In Romans 12:1 Paul urges his readers to maintain reason as fundamental element of their service to God. In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter speaks of "logikos pure milk", which appears to relate to a level of maturity where one begins both to reason and to speak.
- The adjective λογιος (logios), meaning learned or educated (Acts 18:24 only). From this word derives:
- The noun λογιον (logion), which is something that a logios would produce; a word of wisdom, oracle or even sentence or declaration. This word is only used for God's stipulations, which would logically mean that God could be considered a logios. This word occurs 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the verb μαχομαι (machomai), meaning to fight or quarrel with: the verb λογομαχεω (logomacheo), meaning to war about words (2 Timothy 2:14 only). From this verb in turn comes:
- The noun λογομαχια (logomachia), meaning a fight about words (1 Timothy 6:4 only).
- Together with πολυς (polus), meaning many: the noun πολυλογια (polulogia), denoting the use of many words, long-windedness (Matthew 6:7 only).
- Together with the adjective χρεστος (chrestos), meaning useful or profitable: the noun χρεστολογια (chrestologia), meaning a speech-for-gain, a sales pitch (Romans 16:18 only).
The verb Lego in Latin
Our verb also exists in Latin, and according to Lewis and Short A Latin Dictionary was imported from Greek. It even exists in German as lesen, which is usually considered as two separate verbs, one denoting the gathering of grains; to glean, and the other meaning to read. It's even related to the English verb to lease (says Friedrich Kluge's An Etymological Dictionary of the German Language).
In Latin the verb lego means to bring together, to gather or to collect. From there it captured the meaning of to select or choose, and became subsequently also used in the meaning of catching up on a conversation or to catch something with the senses (to hear, see, etc.), or even to read out loud or recite.
One interesting derivation of this verb is the noun legio, legionis, denoting a Roman legion, a military unit consisting of between 4,200 and 6,000 men, or legiones (formed from lego in the sense of a selecting or choosing, says Lewis and Short's).
In the Bible this noun occurs 4 times, see full concordance, transliterated back to Greek, as λεγεων (legeon): in one context to denote a large number of demons (Mark 5:9, 5:15 and Luke 8:30) and once of angels (Matthew 26:53).
There is another verb lego in Latin, which conjugates differently from the previous one and is probably a whole different verb, but not without similarities. It means to dispatch, appoint or send as an ambassador, but is also used in a legal context with the meaning of to appoint or bequeath. It joins the previous verb in the phrase legati legionum, meaning commanders of a legion.
Compound derivations of our verb λεγω (lego) that are used in the Greek New Testament are:
- Together with the adjective αισχρος (aischros), causing shame: the noun αισχρολογια (aischrologia), meaning shame-causing talk, which may be obscene or offensive talk, or else abusive talk (Colossians 3:8 only).
- Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning against: the verb αντιλεγω (antilego), literally meaning to speak against. In the Bible this verb is used to mean to deny (Luke 20:27), to contradict (Acts 13:45), to oppose (John 19:12), or to disobey (Romans 10:21). This verb is used 11 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- Together with the noun γενεα (genea), meaning generation: the verb γενεαλογεω (genealogeo), which describes the belonging of someone to a certain lineage; the being inscribed into a genealogy (Hebrews 7:6 only). From this verb comes:
- Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διαλεγομαι (dialegomai), meaning to talk something through. This verb is used in the Bible pretty much in the same way as our derived English word "dialogue"; in the sense of to converse, dispute or reason with someone (Mark 9:34, Acts 18:4, Hebrews 12:5). This verb is used 13 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The noun διαλεκτος (dialektos), meaning what it does in English: a dialect, an ethnic language. It's used 6 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the adverb δις (dis), which comes from the familiar cardinal number δυο (duo), two, and which means twice: the adjective διλογος (dilogos), meaning being double-tongued or deceitful (1 Timothy 3:8 only).
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out, from or of: the verb εκλεγω (eklego), meaning to pronounce favor; to elect a favored thing, person of group. This verb is used 21 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The adjective εκλεκτος (eklektos, which lives forth in English as "eclectic"), denoting in the Bible the elect or the chosen (Luke 23:35, 1 Peter 2:4). This adjective occurs 23 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επιλεγω (epilego), which denotes speech in addition to something else (delivering an "epilogue"), or to choose in addition or succession to someone else (John 5:2 and Acts 15:40 only).
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταλεγω (katalego). This verb appears to literally mean to talk someone down or to degrade someone, but in practice, and only in extra-Biblical texts, this verb is used merely to indicate the choosing of a place to flop. In the Bible this verb is used only used once, and that in the sense of to put someone's name down on — to submit someone's name to — a certain list (1 Timothy 5:9 only).
- Together with the adjective ματαιος (mataios), meaning vain or empty: the adjective ματαιολογος (mataiologos), which denotes idle talk. In the Bible this word is used only as substantive: empty blabbermouth (Titus 1:10 only). From this adjective comes:
- The noun ματαιολογια (mataiologia), meaning vain talk (1 Timothy 1:6 only).
- Together with the adjective μωρος (moros), foolish or dimwitted: the noun μωρολογια (morologia), meaning dimwitted speech (Ephesians 5:4 only).
- Together with the adjective ομος (homos), same or of the same kind: the verb ομολογεω (homologeo), meaning to speak in accordance with: to concur (literally: to flow together) or consent (to sense together) or confess (to admit together). Translating this verb is difficult, also because English has no seamless equivalent. Most translations go with "confess" but that verb has an undesired connotation of bad guys confessing their wrongdoings and doing so against their will and thus probably under duress. The verb "consent", likewise tends to speak of permission that a powerless receiver desires and a powerful giver dispenses, which is not what our Greek verb suggests. Finally "concur" speaks of flowing together (con + current), and in English narrative this verb is usually deployed to describe how some informed authority agrees with and verbally confirms the consensus reached by a group of her peers. And that fits our Greek verb most closely, albeit not perfectly.
One concurs either because one agrees with the addressed party (Matthew 10:32), or one speaks in concordance with the nature or behavior of the addressed (Matthew 7:23), or in agreement with the truth (John 1:20) or one's convictions (Romans 10:10), or one answers to the desire of the addressed, in which case our verb could be translated with to promise (Matthew 14:7). Altogether our verb occurs 24 times; see full concordance, and from it in turn come:
- Again together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning over or against: the verb ανθομολογεομαι (anthomologeomai), meaning to re-concur, to reply in accordance with, to agree with someone in response to their agreement with you. In the classics this verb is used to describe the achievement of a mutual agreement or the making of a mutually agreed covenant, or to agree along with a group of people who are already agreeing (Luke 2:38 only).
- Again together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εξομολογεω (exomologeo), meaning to hence-concur, to speak in accordance with something and because of something else that just occurred. This verb is used 10 times; see full concordance.
- The noun ομολογια (homologia), meaning a (verbal) concurrence, an act of speaking in accordance with, a statement in which one expresses agreement or consent with an addressed party. This noun occurs 6 times; see full concordance.
- The adverb ομολογουενως (homologoumenos), meaning concurrently or assentingly; in a manner that expresses according with (1 Timothy 3:16 only).
- Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παραλεγω (paralego). This verb is used in the Bible as a nautical term: to sail close to (some place or coast; Acts 27:8 and 27:13 only).
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προλεγω (prolego), meaning to foretell or forewarn. This verb is used 12 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun σπερμα (sperma), meaning a seed, and our verb in the sense of to collect: the adjective σπερμολογος (spermologos). This word originally described birds that wander around aimlessly, picking up whatever they come across, but came to be applied to folks who, in the course of their day, pick up tidbits of information and excitedly pass them on without context or relevance: gossips and idle babblers. This word occurs in the Bible only in Acts 17:18.
- Together with the otherwise unused noun στρατος (stratos), meaning army, the verb στρατολογεω (stratologeo), which denotes the enlisting of men in an army; to draft. It occurs only as a participle: one who has drafted, meaning a commander (2 Timothy 2:4 only).
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συλλεγω (sullego), meaning to assemble together or to collect (of fruits, Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:44; of stumbling blocks, Matthew 13:41). This verb occurs 8 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the adjective ψευδης (pseudes), meaning false: the adjective ψευδολογος (pseudologos), meaning to lie. This word is in the Bible only used as substantive: a lying one; a liar (1 Timothy 4:2 only).