Adventures in Preposterous Etymology

Plato, Cratylus 397d:

“It seems to me that the earliest people in Greece had a notion of only those gods whom the majority of barbarians now recognize: the Sun, the Earth, the Stars, and the Sky. Now, because they noticed that these things were always moving in a circle and ‘running’ (theonta), they called them gods (theous) from the nature of that running (thein). Later, once they came to acknowledge the existence of other gods, they continued to use the same word, ‘gods’ for them as well.”

φαίνονταί μοι οἱ πρῶτοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν περὶ τὴν ῾Ελλάδα τούτους μόνους
[τοὺς θεοὺς] ἡγεῖσθαι οὕσπερ νῦν πολλοὶ τῶν βαρβάρων,
ἥλιον καὶ σελήνην καὶ γῆν καὶ ἄστρα καὶ οὐρανόν• ἅτε οὖν
αὐτὰ ὁρῶντες πάντα ἀεὶ ἰόντα δρόμῳ καὶ θέοντα, ἀπὸ ταύτης
τῆς φύσεως τῆς τοῦ θεῖν “θεοὺς” αὐτοὺς ἐπονομάσαι• ὕστε-
ρον δὲ κατανοοῦντες τοὺς ἄλλους πάντας ἤδη τούτῳ τῷ ὀνό-
ματι προσαγορεύειν.

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