The etymology of Apollo is uncertain. The spelling Ἀπόλλων had almost superseded all other forms by the beginning of the common era, but the Doric form Απέλλων is more archaic, derived from an earlier *Απέλjων. The name is certainly cognate with the Doric month name Απέλλαιος and the Doric festival απελλαι.
Several instances of popular etymology are attested from ancient authors. Thus, the Greeks most often associated Apollo's name with the Greek verb ἀπόλλυμι (apollymi), "to destroy". Plato in Cratylus connects the name with ἀπόλυσις (apolysis), "redeem", with ἀπόλουσις (apolousis), "purification", and with ἁπλοῦν (aploun), "simple", in particular in reference to the Thessalian form of the name, Ἄπλουν, and finally with Ἀει-βάλλων (aeiballon), "ever-shooting". Hesychius connects the name Apollo with the Doric απέλλα (apella), which means "assembly", so that Apollo would be the god of political life, and he also gives the explanation σηκός (sekos), "fold", in which case Apollo would be the god of flocks and herds.
Following the tradition of these Ancient Greek folk etymologies, in the Doric dialect the word απέλλα originally meant wall, fence from animals and later assembly within the agora. In the Ancient Macedonian language πέλλα (pella) means stone, and some toponyms are derived from this word: Πέλλα (Pella:capital of Ancient Macedonia), Πελλήνη (Pellini-Pallini).
A number of non-Greek etymologies have been suggested for the name, The form Apaliunas (dx-ap-pa-li-u-na-aš) is attested as a god of Wilusa in a treaty between Alaksandu of Wilusa and the Hittite great king Muwatalli II c. 1280 BCE. Alaksandu could be Paris-Alexander of Ilion", whose name is Greek. The Hittite testimony reflects an early form *Apeljōn, which may also be surmised from comparison of Cypriot Απειλων with Doric Απελλων. A Luwian etymology suggested for Apaliunas makes Apollo "The One of Entrapment", perhaps in the sense of "Hunter".
Among the proposed etymologies is the Hurrian and Hittite divinity, Aplu, who was widely invoked during the "plague years". Aplu, it is suggested, comes from the Akkadian Aplu Enlil, meaning "the son of Enlil", a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun.
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Famous quotes containing the word etymology:
“The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.”
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