Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb νυσσω (nusso) means to poke at, but in a repeated or even trying way, like horses' hooves banging on the ground, or a spear thrust several times at an unyielding shield (Il.16.704). Our verb is rare in the classics, but may describe nudging someone with one's elbow (Od.14.485, again, to illicit a response), or even poking at a maxim (Arist.Clouds.321) in an obvious metaphor that speaks of poking into some hole to see what animal comes out.
There are many Greek words that mean to pierce or skewer or damage, but this isn't one of them. Instead, our verb speaks essentially of disturbing something, of poking or jabbing at something to see what might emerge. It's a verb of inquisition and essential to the scientific method (see our article on ελπις, elpis, hope). Our verb is used only once, in John 19:34, which describes how Jesus' side was poked at, and subsequently began to produce blood and water. A grim but perhaps important implication of the use of this particular verb is that the blood and water did not flow from a wound but rather Jesus' natural orifices (John 20:25 likewise does not specifically mention a wound).
It's unclear where our verb may have come from, but here at Abarim Publications we suspect it may have been imported from the Semitic language basin (along with the alphabet and may more handy terms; see our article on that topic), and that its etymological naissance lies in the root נסס (nasas), which speaks of compromising solids: to make infirm, to make liquid.
Our verb is also obviously similar to the noun νοσος (nosos), meaning sick or strengthless, which is turn is suspiciously similar to the Hebrew noun נחש (nahash), snake — and read our article on the noun λογχη (logche), standard-point, for a look at why that might be significant.
From our verb νυσσω (nusso), to disturb to see what might happen, derive:
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατανυσσω (katanusso), meaning to disturb but in a downward, a depressing or confusing, way (Acts 2:37 only). From this verb in turn comes:
- The noun κατνυξις (katanuxis), which describes an instance of the verb: bewilderment, stupefaction (Romans 11:8 only).