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Ancient Greek[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


Uncertain. Probably from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)leh₂gʷ-, with cognates including Old English læċċan (English latch). This etymology is supported by the form ΛΗΑΒΩΝ (aorist participle) found in an inscription in Corfu indicating initial voiceless /l̥/, which would have developed from a Proto-Indo-European sl- cluster. Also see λάζομαι (lázomai) and λάφυρον (láphuron).

The present stem λαμβάνω has zero-grade of the PIE root with nasal infix and suffix, like λανθάνω (lanthánō, do secretly) and τυγχάνω (tunkhánō, happen). The second aorist ἔλᾰβον (élabon) has zero-grade and no further modifications, like ἔλαθον (élathon) and ἔτυχον (étukhon). The forms with eta, such as future λήψομαι (lḗpsomai), have e-grade, like λήσω (lḗsō) and τεύξομαι (teúxomai).




λᾰμβᾰ́νω (lambánō)

  1. I take
    1. I take hold of, grasp, seize
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey 6.81
        ἡ δ᾽ ἔλαβεν μάστιγα καὶ ἡνία σιγαλόεντα
        and she took the whip and bright reins
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 21.286
        χειρὶ δὲ χεῖρα λαβόντες
        clasping his hand in theirs
      1. I take by force, plunder
        • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 5.273
          εἰ τούτω κε λάβοιμεν, ἀροίμεθά κε κλέος ἐσθλόν.
          Could we but take these twain, we should win us goodly renown.
      2. I exact (punishment)
        • 445 BCE – 380 BCE, Lysias, On the Murder of Eratosthenes 29
          καὶ ταύτην ἔλαβον τὴν δίκην
          and I exacted that punishment
    2. (of emotions) I seize
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 1.387
        Ἀτρεΐωνα δ᾽ ἔπειτα χόλος λάβεν
        thereafter anger seized the son of Atreus
      1. (of a god) I possess
        • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 4.79.4
          ὅτι βακχεύομεν καὶ ἡμέας ὁ θεὸς λαμβάνει
          because we play the Bacchant and the god possesses us
      2. (of darkness, etc.) I cover
        • 472 BCE, Aeschylus, The Persians 365
          κνέφας δὲ τέμενος αἰθέρος λάβῃ
          and darkness had covered the region of the sky
    3. I catch, overtake
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 5.159
        ἔνθ᾽ υἷας Πριάμοιο δύω λάβε
        Then took he two sons of Priam
    4. I catch, discover, detect
      • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 2.89.2
        λαμφθῆναι γὰρ τινὰ φασὶ μισγόμενον νεκρῷ προσφάτῳ γυναικός
        For it is said that one was caught having intercourse with the fresh corpse of a woman
    5. I bind (under oath)
      • 429 BCE, Sophocles, Oedipus the King 276
        ὥσπερ μ᾽ ἀραῖον ἔλαβες, ὧδ᾽, ἄναξ, ἐρῶ.
        As you have bound me under oath, my king, I will speak.
    6. I keep
    7. I take (food or drugs)
      • Diocl., Fr. 121
        τὸν σικυόν φησι μετὰ σιτίων ἐν πρώτοις λαμβανόμενον ἐνοχλεῖν
        [he] says that cucumber, if it is taken with the sium in the first course, makes the eater uncomfortable
    8. I perceive, understand
      • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 3.41.1
        ταῦτα ἐπιλεξάμενος [] καὶ νόῳ λαβὼν ὥς οἱ εὖ ὑπετίθετο Ἄμασις
        reading this, and perceiving that Amasis' advice was good
      • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 7.142.3
        οἱ γὰρ χρησμολόγοι ταύτῃ ταῦτα ἐλάμβανον
        for the readers of oracles took the verses to mean [that] []
      1. (logic) I assume, take as granted
    9. I undertake
      • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 3.71.3
        [] ἐπιχείρησιν ταύτην μὴ οὕτω συντάχυνε ἀβούλως, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ σωφρονέστερον αὐτὴν λάμβανε
        don not hurry this undertaking without thinking, but take it up more prudently
  2. I receive, get
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 6.427
      ἂψ ὅ γε τὴν ἀπέλυσε λαβὼν ἀπερείσι᾽ ἄποινα
      but thereafter set her free, when he had received ransom past counting
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 23.275
      ἦ τ᾽ ἂν ἐγὼ τὰ πρῶτα λαβὼν
      surely it were that I should win the first prize
    • 429 BCE, Sophocles, Oedipus the King
      τίς οὗτος ἔσται, τίς παραρρίψει, τέκνα, τοιαῦτ᾽ ὀνείδη λαμβάνων
      who shall be the man, my daughters, to risk suffering reproach []
      1. I receive hospitably
        • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey 7.255
          ἥ με λαβοῦσα ἐνδυκέως ἐφίλει
          She took me to her home with kindly welcome
      2. I receive in marriage
        • 460 BCE – 420 BCE, Herodotus, Histories 9.108.1
          δοκέων αὐτὴν μᾶλλον λάμψεσθαι ἢν ταῦτα ποιήσῃ
          for he thought that by doing so he would be most likely to win her
      3. I conceive
    1. I admit
      • 522 BCE – 443 BCE, Pindar, Olympian Ode 1.81
        ὁ μέγας δὲ κίνδυνος ἄναλκιν οὐ φῶτα λαμβάνει.
        Great danger does not admit of a coward.
    2. (of emotions)
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey 10.461
        εἰς ὅ κεν αὖτις θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λάβητε
        until you once again take heart
      • 406 BCE, Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 729
        ὁρῶ τιν᾽ ὑμᾶς ὀμμάτων εἰληφότας φόβον νεώρη τῆς ἐμῆς ἐπεισόδου
        I see from your eyes that you feel a sudden fear at my coming
  3. (middle) I take hold of
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey 5.325
        ἀλλὰ μεθορμηθεὶς ἐνὶ κύμασιν ἐλλάβετ᾽ αὐτῆς
        but sprang after [his raft] amid the waves, and took hold of it
    1. I lay hands upon
    2. I find fault with, censure
    3. I check myself


Along with a few others (ἐλθέ (elthé), ἰδέ (idé), εὑρέ (heuré), εἰπέ (eipé)), the aorist imperative has an irregular accent: λαβέ (labé) and not **λάβε. This is not the case in compounds, however.

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Related terms[edit]




Alternative forms[edit]


λαμβάνω (lamváno) (simple past έλαβα, passive form λαμβάνομαι)

  1. get, receive
  2. take
  3. (figuratively) understand, get



Related terms[edit]