Bill Casselman

At the Wording Desk

In this iconic depiction of Jesus as The Good Shepherd, the Greek words of the New Testament are shown on each side of Christ’s head, in slightly Slavic Greek: ho poimen (head of Jesus) ho kalos ‘I am the good shepherd.’

Etymology of Gregory
Gregory is such a popular given name and surname all around the world, and particularly common throughout Christian countries that speak languages of the Indo-European family because Γρηγόριος Gregorios ‘watchful’ was the name of three great saints and many popes. Our Gregorian calendar is named after one of those, Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582 CE.

In classical Greek its adjectival form γρηγορικός gregorikos meant ‘watchful,’ as a shepherd watches over his flocks. The Greek verb from which the adjective stems was ageirein ‘to gather together’ as a shepherd gathers sheep together and then watches over them. One ancient Greek cognate noun familiar to us named the plaza or town square in which people gathered together to vote and to speak, the agora.

A related word, a cognate of the Greek gregorios, was the Roman word for flock, herd, animal gathering, namely grex, gregis from which derive English words like gregarious, congregation, segregate (to separate into different groups), aggregate, and of course our given name under discussion, Gregory, from the agent noun from grex, Latin gregor 'one who tends flocks, shepherd.'

Something really bad that stands out in its badness is egregious. This negative sense developed in English. In Latin egregius meant the exact opposite: literally standing above or outside the common herd because of its excellence, from Latin ē or ex ‘out of, above’ + Latin grex, gregis ‘flock, herd.’

Of course the idea of shepherd as a Christian description of Jesus perfuses the New Testament, where the Latin shepherd word is pastor, appearing, for example, in Saint Jerome’s Latin version of the Bible called The Vulgate. Here is one famous passage which begins at John 10:11 “Ego sum Pastor bonus. Bonus pastor ánimam suam dat pro óvibus” 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his very life for his sheep.'

The original is of course in the Koine Greek of the New Testament: Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός ego eimi ho poimen ho kalos. “I am the good shepherd.”

Latin grex ‘flock’ has cognates throughout Indo-European, such as Old Irish graig ‘herd of horses,’ Lithuanian gurgulys ‘swarm,’ Gaelic greigh ‘stud horse’ and Sanskrit grama ‘herd, crowd, community of people.’

To show the worldwide spread of this popular name, here is Gregory in various languages:

*  Albanian: Grigor

*  Arabic: Jurayj ( جريج ) Grēgōrī ( جريجوري)

*  Belarusian: Рыгор (Ryhor)

*  Bulgarian: Григор (Grigor)

*  Catalan: Gregori

*  Croatian: Grgur, Grga or Grgo

*  Czech: Řehoř

*  Danish: Gregers

*  Faroese: Grækaris

*  Finnish: Reijo

*  French: Grégory or Grégoire

*  Georgian: გრიგოლი (Grigoli)

*  German: Gregor

*  Greek: Γρηγόριος (Grigorios)

*  Hungarian: Gergely, Gergő or Gerő

*  Icelandic: Gregor

*  Indonesian: Gregorius

*  Irish: Gréagóir

*  Italian: Gregorio

*  Japanese: Guregori ( グレゴリー )

*  Latin: Gregorius

*  Lithuanian: Grigalius, Grigas or Gregoras, Gregorijus

*  Norwegian: Greger or Gregers

*  Polish: Grzegorz

*  Portuguese: Gregório

*  Romanian: Grigore or Gligor

*  Russian: Григорий (Grigorij), Гришa (Griša) or Гришка (Grishka)

*  Scottish: Gregor (as back-formation from MacGregor)

*  Serbian: Григорије (Grigoriye), Глигорије (Gligoriye) or Гргур (Grgur)

*  Slovak: Gregor

*  Slovene: Grega or Gregor or Gregori

*  Spanish: Gregorio

*  Swedish: Greger

*  Thai: เกรกอรี or เกรกกอรี

*  Ukrainian: Григір (Hryhir), Григорій (Hryhoriy), Гриць(ко) (Hryts(ko))

*  Wales: Grigor

Although it pains a person of my stature beyond measure to indulge even a nano-second of vulgar jest, I feel it may be acceptable to utter one low crudity: Now let us make like sheep and flock off.

Bill Casselman, May 04, 2017

Text Copyright 2017 by William Gordon Casselman


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