Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective μωρος (moros) means foolish or dimwitted and is the source of our English word "moron". Where this word comes from is officially a mystery, but here at Abarim Publications we surmise it has to do with the noun μορον (moron), which means mulberry (see below), a proverbially small and red fruit, whose color has always reminded of primitivity: the dim glowing red just before sunrise (or after sunset). The words ruddy and rude and even the name Red Sea still tell of that ancient association. Our word's opposite, namely a brightly lit illumination or enlightenment, is the sum of all colors.
The Roman poet Ovid connected the red color of the mulberry to the deaths under the mulberry tree of Pyramus and Thisbe, the original Romeo and Juliet, whose oft-told story tells of the dynamic intersection between the solar ratio (Juliet, Daisy, Elijah the Tishbite, Samson) and the lunar emotions (Romeo, Gatsby, uncle Laban, Jericho), which in turn resulted in the evolution of life on earth — see for a longer discussion of this our article on the noun φρην (phren), which describes the figurative "midriff" between the emotional bowels and the rational heart, and the verb περιτεμνω (peritemno), to circumcise.
A person's soul is in his blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11) and it takes a trick or two to unite all the blood of man into a river, like wine that comes from trampling out grapes. Fortunately for all of us, our most primitive ancestors learned to hone their vocalizations and slowly but surely began to form words. A person's soul, or at least his thoughts, could now be carried by his words, which indeed congealed into rivers of ideas and finally formed our wonderful modern world. A person with little juice to begin with, and who can't seem to get the hang of transforming the chaotic fluids of his emotions into the bricks that are the words from which we build the city that is modern human rationality, that person is a mulberry among grapes.
We should probably add that the enthusiasm with which some of us label others, and particularly others of limited processor speed, is not shared by the authors of the Bible. When we deem someone a moron, we do that mostly to insult the receiver and elevate ourselves. The Bible has no need for such mechanisms, and emphasizes instead that whatever we humans commonly reject has an excellent chance of becoming a cornerstone in the temple to be (1 Corinthians 1:27). A Biblical moron is someone who has the juice but doesn't do the work, who has the opportunity but doesn't take it (Matthew 25:2). And since nobody can tell how much juice there is in someone else's head, calling someone a moron is a risky business indeed (Matthew 5:22).
Our adjective is used 13 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The verb μωραινω (moraino), meaning to dim, to reduce the light (or power) of something. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The noun μορια (moria), meaning dimness. Dimness in a world where a great light shines is inexcusable. But dimness in a dark world is a sign of great hope. Note that this noun is spelled similar to the name of the mountain where Abraham was to offer Isaac: mount Moriah, upon which much later the temple of YHWH would be built. This similarity is most probably a happy accident, but certainly not unnoticed or unexplored by the Bible writers. Our noun occurs 5 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the verb λεγω (lego), to speak or proclaim: the noun μωρολογια (morologia), meaning dimwitted speech (Ephesians 5:4 only).
The noun μορον (moron) means berry and specifically a mulberry, a dark purple little fruit that appears to have inspired the adjective μωρος (moros), to be dimwitted, to be just a little bit enlightened (see above). This noun does not occur independently in the New Testament but together with the noun συκον (sukon), fig (see next), it forms the name of a species of fruit tree mentioned in the New Testament:
The noun συκον (sukon) means fig, the fruit of the συκη (suke), fig tree (see below); yet another member of the mulberry family whose fruit came to symbolize intellectual primitivity and immaturity. This word's Hebrew equivalent, namely בכורה (bikkura), derives from the verb בכר (bakar), meaning to rise early. In that same sense, bronze, the reddish yellow metal, denotes primitivity. The Hebrew word for bronze, namely נחש (nahash) also means snake, which explains the red dragon motif of Revelation (see our articles on δρακων, drakon, dragon or serpent, and χαλκος, chalkos, bronze).
Where our noun συκον (sukon) comes from isn't clear, but an excellent candidate would be the Hebrew noun שקמה (siqma), meaning sycamore (Psalm 78:47, Isaiah 9:10 and of course Amos 7:14, whose "growing of siqmayim" may very well refer to the introduction of the sigma to Old Italic alphabets; see our article on Hellas for more on this). Also note the playful (not etymological) association between our noun συκον (sukon) and the name Ζακχαιος or Zaccheus. In antiquity, the word for fig was used as vulgar slang denoting the vulva (and came with a hand gesture that was called "showing the fig").
Our noun συκον (sukon), fig, is used modest 4 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun συκαμινος (sukaminos), meaning sycamore (Luke 17:6 only).
- The noun συκη (suke), meaning fig tree, the tree whose fruit is called συκον (sukon). This noun is used 16 times; see full concordance. The story of Christ cursing the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21:18-20) obviously tells of ancient civilizations whose early light must have seemed miraculous to their uncivilized neighbors, but utterly blasé to anyone finally surpassing it. Egypt's hieroglyphic writing, for instance, was nothing short of a miracle, but when the Semites invented the alphabet, Egypt's glorious script quickly passed into oblivion. The opposite of the fruitless fig tree comes in Nathanael, who was seen by Christ while still under the fig tree but who left his fig tree to pursue a greater light (John 1:48).
- Together with the noun μορον (moron), mulberry (see above): the noun συκομωραια (sukomoraia) or συκομορεα (sukomorea), also meaning sycamore (Luke 19:4 only). The difference between this tree and the συκαμινος (sukaminos) isn't clear, or even which trees any of these fig-mulberry words describe. In modern times, these words cover more than a dozen species of tree.
- Together with the verb φαινω (phaino), to shine: the verb συκοφαντεω (sukophanteo), literally to fig-shine or fig-tell (Luke 3:14 and 19:8 only). Perhaps this word stemmed from the idea of figs being primitive and dim-witted, or else from Athenian legislation that had made it illegal to export figs, which made telling on a covert fig smuggler an act of fig-telling. Later this verb assumed the meaning of pestering people by accusing them of silly infractions. The corresponding noun, συκοφαντης (sukophantes), came to denote informers who told on their wealthier neighbors for their own benefit: social parasites or sycophants (which explains that term).