Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun στοιχος (stoichos) describes any row (but mostly a supporting one) in an ascending series: a step in a staircase, a course of bricks in a wall, a line of singers in a chorus, a row of columns to hold up a roof or poles to hold up a net. Most particularly, this word would describe a file or column of soldiers.
This noun στοιχος (stoichos) is thought to derive from a widely attested Proto-Indo-European root "steyg-", meaning to go or climb (hence English words like stair and stile, and the ever useful Dutch words steigeren and stichting; the term "stochastic RSI" derives from the related noun στοχος, stochos, pillar, which came to double as practicing target, and became synonymous for the cloud of arrow holes around an ever fading bull's eye).
In our article on the noun σειρα (seira), rope, we list a modest array of words that were formed by adding or removing a leading σ (sigma), which brings our attentions around to the common Hebrew adverb תחת (tahat), meaning beneath or under. The Greek alphabet of course derived from the Hebrew one, and although our noun στοιχος (stoichos) appears to have an impeccable Indo-European pedigree, its form and meaning may very well have been embellished by exposure to chatty Phoenicians traders (who appear to have deposited vast amounts of their chatty remnants into the Greek language basin: see our list).
But whatever our word's origin, it's not used in the New Testament. From it, however, come the following important derivations:
- The noun στοιχειον (stocheion), which is actually a diminutive of the parent noun, and basically means elementary, fundamental or principle unit. Our word could describe letters, basic syllables or other such elements of speech. Or it described the natural elements (fire, water, earth and air). Or it described the elements of a formal proof — a proof in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and so on — or any fundamental element of whatever realm. Perhaps most strikingly, our word could also describe the stars and planets, which in modern times turned out to be the biggest things any human has ever seen, but which in antiquity were (equally rightly so) regarded as the elements of cosmology. Our noun is used 7 times; see full concordance.
- The verb στοιχεω (stoicheo), meaning to be drawn up in a row or advance in one: to walk in line. Athenian citizens used this word when they swore: "I will not fail my comrades beside whom I stand lined up." The lining up part mostly referred to a battle array, but our verb could also mean "to align with" in the sense of being an agreeable neighbor or a compliant employee or even a husband who is content with his wife. This verb is used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συστοιχεω (sustoicheo), meaning to correspond to, to be in one line together with (Galatians 4:25 only). In the classics this very rare verb is used once or twice in a military sense, and once or twice in a figurative sense, which is how Paul uses it.