Market places

Last week the origins of the word agora came up in conversation and I thought I’d find out more.

An agora was a place of gathering or marketplace in Ancient Greece. It comes from the Ancient Greek ἀγείρω [ageirō] (I gather, collect), from the Proto-Indo-European *ger- (to assemble, gather together), which is the root of the English words gregarious, aggregate, congregate, egregious, segregate, allegory, category, and panegyric, via the Latin gregārius (of the herd, common), which comes from grex (herd, flock).

In Romance languages, such as Aragonese, Asuturian, Galician, Ladino, Mirandese and Portuguese, the word agora is also found, but it means ‘now’ and comes from the Latin expression hāc hōra (‘this hour’). The Spanish word ahora (now) comes from the same root. hōra comes from the Ancient Greek ὥρα [hōra] (time, season, year), from the Proto-Indo-European *yōr-ā, a suffixed form of *yēr/*yeh₁r- (year, season), which is the root of the English word year, and the words for year in many other Indo-European languages.

Source: Wiktionary

The friend who asked about agora wondered whether the Welsh word agor (open) might come from the same root. I haven’t been able to find any information about this. Does anybody know?

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Greek, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European.

5 Responses to Market places

  1. LB says:

    I assume this is also related to the Hebrew agora (אגורה), the smallest monetary unit of Israeli currency (1/100).

    Wiktionary says the root אג”ר (a.g.r), which meaning to hoard / store is the source of the Israeli currency word. Is this related to the PIE *ger- root?

  2. Simon says:

    I don’t know if there’s any connection between the Hebrew word and the PIE root – their similarity might just be a coincidence.

  3. Ned says:

    According to Mallory and Adams the root ger- results in Latin grex (as you said), Old Irish graig (a horse herd) and Greek gargara (a crowd) – I did wonder about the English word ‘crowd’, after all an IE ‘g’ should become a germanic ‘k’, but they take that from another root greut meaning ‘to compress’ – Old Irish ‘gruth’ (cheese) – i wonder.

  4. David Eger says:

    I don’t know about the origins of Welsh agor, but it could be connected with French hors and Latin foris (= outside), whence forum (= market place) and forensic.

  5. joe mock says:

    From ‘grex’ Spanish has the word, ‘grey’ which usually means ‘flock’ as in sheep.

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