The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Any Greek linguists out there?


I’m looking for ancient Greek for “those who forget.”   Anyone know, or know someone I can ask?


Author: corwin

Site administrative account, so probably Corwin, Felix or DD-B.


  1. hawkwing_lb, on DW, LJ,, and the SU boards. She’s getting a master’s in it.

  2. Autoi pou xehnanen

  3. Latroi? (he suggested wolfishly)

  4. Thanks. Seth, can you break that down for me?

    Tucker: Uh, I think there’s something I’m not getting. If Latroi actually means that, it would be perfect.

  5. Sadly I think Latro just means “soldier.” I was trying to make a funny on Gene Wolfe’s “Soldier of X” series. (in which, at the risk of overexplaining the /entire/ joke, the protagonist, who goes by Latro, can’t remember anything from longer ago than about 24 hours.)

  6. You could go with “ameleoi” which is a mellifluous thing, means basically the forgetters, and a single word, which I sense you’re after.

  7. Tucker: Right; I should have caught that; love the series.

    Cat: Perfect! Thank you!

  8. What dialect do you want? In koine I think it would be literally ἐκεῖνοι οἳ ἐπιλανθάνονται (ekeinoi oi epilanthanontai) or if you want one word meaning forgetting ones ἐπιλανθανομένοι (epilanthanomenoi). I’m not an expert so I wouldn’t be surprised if I have gotten at lest an accent wrong. These are both in the nomitive masculine so depending on how you were using them in a sentence you might have to change the case, gender, or tense.

  9. *is summoned by TexAnne*

    ἀμελέω has more connotations of neglectful, I think? But I’ve not but a year and a bit of intensive ancient Greek under my belt, so I’m open to being corrected.

    οι ἐπιλανθανόμενοι (those forgetting) or οὗτοι οἷ ἐπιλανθάνονται [+gen of the thing being forgotten] (these ones who forget), is more literal a translation.

    Adjust for gender, number, case and verb tense as necessary.

  10. Ron Echeverri pointed me here ‘cuz he knows I study classics and have been doing a lot of Greek over the last few years.

    So you have a few different options – it really depends what connotation you’re going for.

    First of all, you have a choice of going with a adjective or a verb. Ancient Greek is very versatile in that all you have to do is throw a definite article in front of an adjective or a participle to turn it into a noun. (eg. put the definite article οἱ in front of the adjective for “tall” and you get “the tall ones”, or put it in front of the appropriate type of participle for “swim” and you get “the swimming ones” or “the ones who swam”.)

    If you want to emphasize the forgetting as a character trait or a description of a person (that is, if the forgetfulness seems more nouny), I’d go with an adjective.

    Whereas if you want to emphasize the *action* of forgetting (that is, if it has a verby feel to it), I’d probably use a participle.

    If you choose to go with an adjective, your further choices are pretty simple: which adjective has the right connotation and what’s the gender of the people in question. If it’s a mix of men and women, you want masculine. If it’s all men, you want masculine. If it’s all women, you want feminine.

    (If you really want to be fastidious about your grammar, you’d also want to change the case ending based on what it’s doing in your sentence, but that’s needlessly complicated and one doesn’t usually do so with borrowed foreign words in normal English style, so forget I mentioned it unless you aspire to the level of pedantry normally only embraced by particularly wacko classicists.)

    If you go with a participle, you not only need to figure out which verb has the right connotation, and the gender of the group, but you also need to determine whether you mean “those currently engaged in the process of forgetting” (present participle) or “those having already completed the forgetting process” (aorist participle). Your original question stated “those who forget” which seems to imply a continuing, ongoing forgetting process, so based on that, I’d say you want to go with the present, but it’s possible your question didn’t fully express your intended connotation, so just know that the other is an option if that’s more like what you meant.

    So with all of that out of the way, now we just need to know what connotation of “forget” you mean so as to pick the correct root adjective or verb.

    The verb ἀμελέω, which Cat suggested, means, as hawkwing mentioned, more like “neglect”, so if you’re looking for something like “forget to feed the goldfish” or “forget to take off your boots when you come inside”, that would be the one you want. Cat’s suggested form, “ameleoi”, isn’t quite right though. She put a perfectly legitimate noun ending on the verb stem, but that particular combination isn’t how Greek does things. What you’d want οἱ ἀμελοῦντες [hoi amelountes] (best literal translation: “the neglecting ones”). That’s the masculine plural present participle. If you wanted to go with the feminine, you’d want αἱ ἀμελοῦσαι [hai amelousai].

    (I’m not going to bother with the aorist participles, ‘cuz it doesn’t seem like that’s what you want. I’m also not going to bother giving the feminine forms from here on, because I’m going to assume that if you’d wanted to specifically refer to “the women who forget”, you would have mentioned it in your original question. If I’m mistaken in either of those things, please let me know and I can fill in the blanks for you.)

    hawkwing’s suggestion of the verb ἐπιλανθάνομαι would connote more of an abstract forgetting, something like “forgetting why I ever wanted to become a soldier” or “forgetting what happened last week” or “forgetting enough of my greek that I have to take a year’s worth of courses that I already took once before, 20 years ago”.

    the suggested “οἱ ἐπιλανθανόμενοι” [hoi epilanthanomenoi] (best literal translation “the forgetting ones”) is exactly the right masculine, plural, present participle form.

    another option would be the slightly different verb ἐκλανθάνω, which has an “above-and-beyond” type of connotation, as in “I TOTALLY forgot I had an exam today” or the second “forgot” in “I not only forgot my car keys – I forgot I even have a car!”

    The masculine, plural, present participle of that one would be οἱ ἐκλαθόμενοι [hoi eklathomenoi] (best literal translation “the utterly forgetful ones”).

    And that about does it for the verbs.

    The two options that come from adjectives are οἱ ἀμνήμονες [hoi amnemones] (best literal translation “the forgetful ones”). It comes from the adjective ἀμνήμων, which I believe is related to the noun νόος, which means mind. So maybe a slightly more literal translation would be “the unmindful ones”.

    And the other adjective option is οἱ ἐπιλήσμονες [hoi epilesmones] (best literal translation “the forgetful ones”). It comes from the same basic root as hawkwing’s ἐπιλανθανόμενοι and has similar connotation.

    There are a few other options, but none of the others I could track down seem to have been used more than a dozen or so times in the entire classical corpus, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say they’re too obscure to be worthwhile.

    Καλὴ τύχη!

  11. oh!
    I meant to mention also – you probably don’t need to use anything like ἐκεῖνοι or οὗτοι. they both mean “those” but more in the sense of “those guys over there” or “those are my shoes” rather than “those who” in the abstract sense of “the ones who”.

    for that latter situation, the definite article is entirely sufficient.

  12. I’m very grateful for all of the help, but I hope you realize that I can’t decipher anything that isn’t in the Roman alphabet, which limits its usefulness.

    The usage I’m going for would, I guess, be something like a term for a class of people. For example, suppose there was a group of people who remembered everything. They might take to referring to people outside of the group with a (slightly scornful) term meaning, “Those who forget.” That’s what I’m looking for.

  13. I thought the alphabet could be an obstacle, so made it a point to include transliterations of each potential candidate word. (That’s the bit in the brackets – sorry if it wasn’t clear what I was trying for with that.)

    Based on the additional clarification of your intended use for it, I’d say your best bet is probably the first of the two nounified adjectives I mentioned. It could definitely be translated as “the ones who are prone to forget” but it has the additional connotation of “mindlessness” which is probably closest to the mildly pejorative overtone you seem to be going for.

    So my best answer would be “hoi amnemones” or if you want to use the english definite article, the amnemones.

    (And it has the additional advantage of being the shortest and easiest to spell and pronounce of any of the potential options!)

  14. Excellent; many thanks! Sounds like that will do just what I want.

    Or it will after I figure out how it is likely to have been slipped over the course of 4000 years. Heh.

  15. Late to the party, but I asked my father, who used to teach biblical languages, including ancient Greek, and here’s what he said (just for yet another perspective):

    That would be *epilanthanomenoi* (masculine plural) in New Testament Greek, although that particular form (a participle) does not occur in the NT. The root *lanthano” is related to the noun *lethe* (both e’s long — eta’s), “forgetfulness”, but I don’t find any verbs deriving more directly from that noun. I don’t have a classical Greek lexicon; but New Testament (or *koine*, vernacular) Greek is certainly ancient.

  16. And it has the advantage of conjuring up mental images of invertebrate tentacled sea creatures. 🙂

  17. Yes it does. The other one, however, amnemones, conjures animals and amino acids, and one of the obvious shortened forms, Nemons, conjures demons or lemons, depending on how you pronounce it. And possibly Leonard Nimoy.

  18. amnemones have the obvious advantage of conjuring “amnesia”, making readers associate the words and feeling like they are smart. I love when I book makes me think I’m somewhat smart, like when my girlfriend says I’m cuttie: I know it is a lie but it feels goods.

  19. I didn’t catch that, Carlos. Nice.

    Final verdict: One character uses Amnemones, all of the others use a shortened form: Nemones.

  20. Just going to point out one thing:

    Some people might think you misspelled anemones.

  21. “Amnesia” is from the same root “mnem-” ‘remember’, with the same prefix “a-” ‘without’. As in, respectively, “mnemonic” and “amoral” or “aseptic”.

    Dr. Whom, Consulting Linguist, Grammarian, Orthoëpist, and Philological Busybody

  22. Mark: Yeah, it took me way to long to figure that out. Of course, when I finally did I was delighted.

Leave a Reply