Bed and Sleep Compounds in Ancient Greek

Inspired by Paul Holdengraber’s tweet:

κλινήρης:klinêrês “bed-ridden”

κλινοβατία: klinobatia: “confinement to bed”, lit. “bed-wandering/walking”

κλινοκαθέδριον: klinokathedrion: “easy-chair”, lit. “bed-chair”

κλινοπάλη: klinopalê: “bed-wrestling”

κλινοπηγία: klinopêgia: “bed-making”

κλινοποιός: klinopoios: “bed-maker”



My four-year old son talks in his sleep. And I don’t mean that he merely makes sounds–he holds entire conversations with himself. Sometimes there are arguments. As I discovered this morning, however, there is no Ancient Greek word for “sleeping-talkng” or “sleep walking”.

Based on the compound “walking on air” (ἀεροβατεῖν) I propose ὑπνολέγειν (“sleep-talking”) and ὑπνοβατεῖν (“sleep-talking”). But I must admit that my faith is a bit rattled. So, here are some sleep-compounds from ancient Greek.

ὑπνομαχέω: (hupnomakheô) “fight against sleep”

ὑπνοποιός: (hupnopoios) “sleep-making”

ὑπνάπατης: (hupnapatês) “cheating of sleep”

ὑπνοφόβης: (hupnophobês) “frightening in sleep”

ὑπνοφόρος: (hupnophoros) “sleep-bringing”

ὑπνοδεσμήτος: (hupnodesmêtos) “bound-by-sleep”

ὑπνοτραπἑζος: (hupnotrapezos) “table-sleeper” (an epithet for a parasite)


Gorgias on Sleep and His Brother (Aelian, Varia Historiia 2.30)

“When Gorgias of Leontini was at the end of his life and, extremely old, he was over taken by a certain weakness, he stretched out in his bed slipping off to sleep. When one of his attendants who was looking over him asked how he was doing, Gorgias replied “Sleep is now starting to hand me over to his brother.””

Γοργίας ὁ Λεοντῖνος ἐπὶ τέρματι ὢν τοῦ βίου καὶ γεγηρακὼς εὖ μάλα ὑπό τινος ἀσθενείας καταληφθείς, κατ’ ὀλίγον ἐς ὕπνον ὑπολισθάνων ἔκειτο. ἐπεὶ δέ τις αὐτὸν παρῆλθε τῶν ἐπιτηδείων ἐπισκοπούμενος καὶ ἤρετο ὅ τι πράττοι, ὁ Γοργίας ἀπεκρίνατο ‘ἤδη με ὁ ὕπνος ἄρχεται παρακατατίθεσθαι τἀδελφῷ.’

Gorgias of Leontini was an orator who lived nearly one hundred years. In Greek myth, Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos) are brothers. Here’s the Euphronios Krater that shows the pair carrying off the mortally wounded Sarpedon.


One thought on “Bed and Sleep Compounds in Ancient Greek

  1. This article is totally wrong!
    Υπνοβατώ, from Ύπνος + ancient word βατω and βαίνω..

    Μουρμουρά, Μουρμουριζω (verb) in english .. Murmuring !

    Sleep murmur.

    Do not trust any translation for Greek language..

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