democracy

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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democracy

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Nov 17, 1998 12:00 am

I've always been told that the word "democracy" comes from the Greek and means essentially "rule by the people."

However, some friends of mine believe that the origin of "demos" is "demon," thus "democracy" means "demon rule."

I need proof to dispell this view, can you help?

Thanks.
Submitted by Roberto Elrubio (Phoenix - U.S.A.)
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democracy

Post by Jonathon Green » Wed Nov 18, 1998 8:00 am

You are right; your friends, like all those who venture upon the road of what can at its kindliest be termed 'popular etymology' are mind-blowingly dumb. The word, as noted in the Oxford English Dictionary is composed of two Greek words: 'demos', the commons, the people + 'kratia', authority.
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Re: democracy

Post by Anonymouse » Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:55 am

Jonathon Green wrote: Wed Nov 18, 1998 8:00 am You are right; your friends, like all those who venture upon the road of what can at its kindliest be termed 'popular etymology' are mind-blowingly dumb. The word, as noted in the Oxford English Dictionary is composed of two Greek words: 'demos', the commons, the people + 'kratia', authority.
Wow. That was extremely unnecessary. I've seen about 50,000 weirder etymological correlations and connections. And for the record, "demon" also comes from "da" which means "to divide". The word "country" means "to counter" (a division of people). Democracy comes from "demos" which means "people" (or a portion of people). And in ancient times, demons were always considered subdivided cults who broke off from the whole. Please do not introduce verbal abuse, esp. if you're trying to plead a case.
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Re: democracy

Post by Phil White » Mon Feb 08, 2021 6:28 pm

  1. The post you have replied to actually dates back to some time around the turn of the century and is no longer live.
  2. The poster of the reply, Jonathon Green, no longer contributes to Wordwizard, but was one of the mainstays of the site in the early days.
  3. Jonathon Green is, and was at the time, an eminent lexicographer who has considerable experience tracking down the etymology of words. You can find out more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathon_Green
  4. Even a rudimentary knowledge of ancient languages is sufficient to identify that "democracy" can be traced directly back to the Greek "δημοκρατία" (dēmokratía), which is in turn made up of "demos" (people or district) and "kratos" (rule or strength), whereas "demon" goes back to the Greek "δαίμων" (daimôn), meaning a deity, usually a lesser god or tutelary deity. The two words are unrelated.
  5. Jonathon's comment is only unjustified insofar as the dumbness of some people no longer blows one's mind as it did in the early days of the Internet.
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