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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/th/th-r-et-n-o-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

θρηνεω  θραυω

Below we will discuss a small group of words that we, here at Abarim Publications, expect derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root "dren-". At its core, this root (again, per our private opinion) primarily has to do with separation or breaking into little bits, but secondarily, the assumption of a challenged but consistent procession or collective progression of those bits. Hence this root would describe typically social insects (bees), but also any collective expression, or the collective experience of social breakage (the loss of a loved one), or the loss of consistency of a crowd. And it could literally mean to break into shards. A comparable duality exists in the verb κλαω (klao), to break, and its twin κλαιω (klaio), to wail.


The noun θρηνος (threnos) describes a loud wailing or weeping, but not so much in a spontaneous and chaotic way and more so in a composed and organized way. This word would commonly describe a dirge or a composed lamentation, and featured often in titles of sad songs. It appears to be related to the (unused in the New Testament) verb θρεομαι (threomai), to cry aloud, but is also compellingly similar to the Proto-Indo-European root "dren-", which described various buzzing insects, hence the German Drohne, the Dutch dar and the English drone (which meant male bee before it came to describe a small aircraft).

This means that our very specific English word for male bee comes from a verb that means to buzz, and this is not unlike the Hebrew word for bee, namely דברה (debora), which comes from the verb דבר (dabar), to speak. From this same verb comes the Hebrew term Dabar (the Word), what (or whom) the Greeks would later call the Logos. In the Bible, the Word is of course strongly associated with mourning and weeping, whereas our English word "science" shares its root with the verb σχιζω (schizo), which means to split or divide.

In the New Testament, our noun θρηνος (threnos) occurs in Matthew 2:18 only, where it translates the Hebrew verb נהה (naha), to wail or lament — from which also comes the name Gehenna, which in turn is associated with Jerusalem's Gate of Broken Pottery (Jeremiah 19:2).

From our noun comes:

  • The verb θρηνεω (threneo), meaning to loudly bewail, or rather to sing a dirge, or sing about in a dirge. Expressing grief in an orderly and organized matter was a common affair in ancient Greece. In the Odyssey, Homer spoke of a dirge sang by the nine clear-toned Muses, that left not one Argive eye dry (Od.24.61), and when the mangled corpse of Hektor was finally returned to Priam's crumbling palace, by his side were placed minstrels who chanted the dirges to which the women added the chorus (Il.24.722). This verb is used 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

The noun θορυβος (thorubos) means noise, tumult or uproar. The -βος (-bos)-part is a fairly common suffix of words that describe sound, which leaves the main trunk of our word clearly similar to the previous and explained by its origin in the PIE root "dren-", to drone — although this noun and the previous one probably diverged while still in a pre-Greek language, and were adopted as duo into Greek (what that language might have been is no longer clear, but perhaps the same mystery language that gave us the word θριαμβος, triambos, triumph; see below).

This noun and the previous one differ in that the previous one describes an organized expression of grief, whereas our present noun describes a confused noise of a disturbed crowd — both negative (roaring with angry revolt), or positive (cheering with enthused approval). In the classics, this word mostly referred to human crowds, but was also applied to stampeding herds, and even to a disturbed single human mind.

In the New Testament, this noun occurs 7 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:

  • The verb θορυβεω (thorubeo), meaning to make or cause an uproar (whether negative or positive). It's used 4 times; see full concordance

The verb θραυω (thrauo) means to break into pieces or shatter (Luke 4:18 only). In the classics this verb mostly appears in contexts of breakable objects, but on occasion it speaks of enfeebling a fragile mind. Experts have declared our word's pedigree missing in action, but here at Abarim Publications we find its form clearly akin the previous, and see no reason to exclude it from the PIE root "dren-".

Note that the Hebrew word for evil, namely רע (ra'), comes from the verb רעע (ra'a'), to break. Its counterpart is the familiar word שלום (shalom), peace or wholeness, from the verb שלם (shalam), to be whole and complete. In Hebrew theology, sin has to do with brokenness and malfunction, rather than violation and guilt. Hence the name Levi (of the priestly Levites) means to join, and the human profession of Jesus was that of τεκτων (tekton), meaning assembler.


The verb θριαμβευω (thriambeuo) means to triumph over, or to lead one's conquered enemies and/or or one's victorious soldiers in a triumphant procession into and throughout one's hometown or state capital (2 Corinthians 2:14 and Colossians 2:15 only).

Our verb derives from the noun θριαμβος (triambos), which became the Latin triumphus and hence the English triumph, but it's a mystery where the Greek noun came from. The suffix -αμβος (-ambos) relates to the sound-suffix -βος (-bos) we mentioned above, and is familiar from musical terms like ιαμβος (iambos), which suggest a preference for rhythm, song and dance.

Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that this word too essentially stems from the PIE root "dren-" we discuss above, although it clearly separated from the other words on this page before the Greek language had properly formed. Its ultimate form in Greek may have been helped along by the proximity of the θρι- (thri)-element to the familiar word τρις (tris), thrice, from τρεις (treis), meaning three, which in turn carries the familiar mystique of divine triads and items such as the θριναξ (thrinax), or trident.

Also similar, the noun θριξ (thrix) means hair, and as we demonstrate in our article on κοσμος (kosmos), world-order, one's hair sits atop one's skull the way the milky way sits atop the vault of heaven.

Another word of note is θριον (thrion), which means fig-leaf, possibly after its three bulbous lobes. But where laurels were woven into victory wreaths, the fig, or συκον (sukon), served as a proverbial dimwit, and was considered a close relative of the μορον (moron), or mulberry.

The Greek alphabet is an adaptation of the Hebrew one, and was imported along with some handy terms. Quite to the fig's contrary, the Hebrew verb תור (tur) means to explore or survey and associates with broad, circular or sweeping motions. Nouns תור (tor) and תר (tor) describe either circular braids of hair, or else the dove or turtledove. The Greek word for the same is περιστερα (peristera) and signified an easy abundance and peaceful posterity. That would suggest that our word θριαμβος (triambos) is a Dove Song (which in turn reminds of the dedication of Psalm 56:1, and of course the physical form assumed by the Holy Spirit).

The more regular Hebrew word for dove is ינה (yona), hence the name Jonah, which derives from יון (yawen), meaning mire or being without foothold (Genesis 8:9), hence the name Javan, which is the Hebrew word for Greece.