See also: Ψυχή and ψυχῇ

Ancient GreekEdit

Alternative formsEdit


From ψῡ́χω (psū́khō, I blow) +‎ (), but never had the meaning "breath", even in Homer.


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ψῡχή (psūkhḗf (genitive ψῡχῆς); first declension

  1. The animating principle of a human or animal body, vital spirit, soul, life (the animating principle of life).
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 22.324 f.:
      [] φαίνετο δ’ ᾗ κληῖδες ἀπ’ ὤμων αὐχέν’ ἔχουσι / λαυκανίην, ἵνα τε ψυχῆς ὤκιστος ὄλεθρος·
      [] phaíneto d’ hêi klēîdes ap’ ṓmōn aukhén’ ékhousi / laukaníēn, hína te psukhês ṓkistos ólethros;
      • 1924 translation by Augustus Taber Murray
        [] but there was an opening where the collar bones part the neck and shoulders, even the gullet, / where destruction of life cometh most speedily;
    • New Testament, Revelation 8:9, (text according to Stephanus [1550] and Scrivener [1894]):
      [] καὶ ἀπέθανεν τὸ τρίτον τῶν κτισμάτων τῶν ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ τὰ ἔχοντα ψυχὰς καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν πλοίων διεφθαρη.
      [] kaì apéthanen tò tríton tôn ktismátōn tôn en têi thalássēi tà ékhonta psukhàs kaì tò tríton tôn ploíōn diephtharē.
      • 1862 translation by Robert Young (Young’s Literal Translation)
        [] and die did the third of the creatures [] in the sea, those having life, and the third of the ships were destroyed.
    1. (poetic) Life-breath, life-blood (‘the animating principle of life’ in corporeal interpretation).
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 14.516–519:
        Ἀτρεΐδης δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειθ’ Ὑπερήνορα ποιμένα λαῶν / οὖτα κατὰ λαπάρην, διὰ δ’ ἔντερα χαλκὸς ἄφυσσε
        δῃώσας: ψυχὴ δὲ κατ’ οὐταμένην ὠτειλὴν / ἔσσυτ’ ἐπειγομένη, τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψε.
        Atreḯdēs d’ ár’ épeith’ Huperḗnora poiména laôn / oûta katà lapárēn, dià d’ éntera khalkòs áphusse
        dēiṓsas: psukhḕ dè kat’ outaménēn ōteilḕn / éssut’ epeigoménē, tòn dè skótos ósse kálupse.
        • 1990 translation by Robert Fagles
          Menelaus took the hardened captain Hyperenor, / gouged his flank and the bronze ripped him open,
          spurting his entrails out — and his life[-blood], gushing forth / through the raw, yawning wound, went pulsing fast
          and the dark came swirling down across his eyes.
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 16.505:
        [] τοῖο δ’ ἅμα ψυχήν τε καὶ ἔγχεος ἐξέρυσ’ αἰχμήν.
        [] toîo d’ háma psukhḗn te kaì énkheos exérus’ aikhmḗn.
        • 1990 translation by Robert Fagles
          [] so he dragged out both the man's life-breath and the weapon's point together.
    2. (philosophy, since the early physicists) Animating principle in primary substances, the source of life and consciousness.
      • Heraclitus, frag. 36 :
        ψυχῇσιν θάνατος ὕδωρ γενέσθαι, ὕδατι δὲ θάνατος γῆν γενέσθαι, ἐκ γῆς δὲ ὕδωρ γίνεται, ἐξ ὕδατος δὲ ψυχή.
        psukhêisin thánatos húdōr genésthai, húdati dè thánatos gên genésthai, ek gês dè húdōr gínetai, ex húdatos dè psukhḗ.
        • 1920 translation by John Burnet
          For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul.
      • 384 BCE – 322 BCE, Aristotle, De anima 405a20:
        ἔοικε δὲ καὶ Θαλῆς ἐξ ὧν ἀπομνημονεύουσι κινητικόν τι τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπολαβεῖν, εἴπερ τὴν λίθον ἔφη ψυχὴν ἔχειν, ὅτι τὸν σίδηρον κινεῖ·
        éoike dè kaì Thalês ex hôn apomnēmoneúousi kinētikón ti tḕn psukhḕn hupolabeîn, eíper tḕn líthon éphē psukhḕn ékhein, hóti tòn sídēron kineî;
        • 1855 translation by Charles Collier
          Thales, too, from what has been recorded of him, seems to have assumed that the Vital Principle is something motive, since he said that the loadstone must have a Vital Principle because it gives motion to iron.
  2. Animate existence, viewed as a possession, one’s life.
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 9.322:
      [] αἰεὶ ἐμὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλόμενος πολεμίζειν.
      [] aieì emḕn psukhḕn paraballómenos polemízein.
      • 1924 translation by Augustus Taber Murray
        [] ever staking my life in fight.
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey 9.422 f.:
      πάντας δὲ δόλους καὶ μῆτιν ὕφαινον, / ὥς τε περὶ ψυχῆς· μέγα γὰρ κακὸν ἐγγύθεν ἦεν.
      pántas dè dólous kaì mêtin húphainon, / hṓs te perì psukhês; méga gàr kakòn engúthen êen.
      • 1862 translation by Augustus Taber Murray
        And I wove all manner of wiles and counsel, as a man will in a matter of life and death; for great was the evil that was nigh us.
  3. The spirit or soul thought of as distinct from the body and leaving it at death (the immortal part of a person).
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 1.1–5:
      μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος / οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
      πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν / ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
      οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή.
      mênin áeide theà Pēlēïádeō Akhilêos / ouloménēn, hḕ murí’ Akhaioîs álge’ éthēke,
      pollàs d’ iphthímous psukhàs Áïdi proḯapsen / hērṓōn, autoùs dè helṓria teûkhe kúnessin
      oiōnoîsí te pâsi, Diòs d’ eteleíeto boulḗ.
      • 1990 translation by Robert Fagles
        Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles, / [] doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
        hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy [] / great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
        feasts for the dogs and birds, / and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
    • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Iliad 5.696:
      [] τὸν δ’ ἔλιπε ψυχή, κατὰ δ’ ὀφθαλμῶν κέχυτ’ ἀχλύς·
      [] tòn d’ élipe psukhḗ, katà d’ ophthalmôn kékhut’ akhlús;
      • 1924 translation by Augustus Taber Murray
        [] and his spirit failed him, and down over his eyes a mist was shed.
    1. A disembodied spirit, a shade or ghost (the spirit of a dead person).
      • 800 BCE – 600 BCE, Homer, Odyssey, 23.362 f. and 24.1 f.:
        αὐτίκα γὰρ φάτις εἶσιν ἅμ’ ἠελίῳ ἀνιόντι / ἀνδρῶν μνηστήρων, οὓς ἔκτανον ἐν μεγάροισιν:
        Ἑρμῆς δὲ ψυχὰς Κυλλήνιος ἐξεκαλεῖτο / ἀνδρῶν μνηστήρων: []
        Robert Fagles’ translation (1996):
        [Go] quick as the rising sun the news will spread / of the suitors that I killed inside the house.
        Now Cyllenian Hermes called away the suitors’ ghosts, []
  4. Spirit (animated attitude), conscious self, personality as centre of emotions, desires and affections, heart.
    • 522 BCE – 443 BCE, Pindar, Isthmian Ode 53–55:
      Θηβᾶν ἀπὸ Καδμεϊᾶν μορφὰν βραχύς, ψυχὰν δ’ ἄκαμπτος, προσπαλαίσων ἦλθ’ ἀνὴρ / τὰν πυροφόρον Λιβύαν, κρανίοις ὄφρα ξένων ναὸν Ποσειδάωνος ἐρέφοντα σχέθοι, / υἱὸς Ἀλκμήνας
      Thēbân apò Kadmeïân morphàn brakhús, psukhàn d’ ákamptos, prospalaísōn êlth’ anḕr / tàn purophóron Libúan, kraníois óphra xénōn naòn Poseidáōnos eréphonta skhéthoi, / huiòs Alkmḗnas
      • 1990 translation by Diane Svarlien
        And yet once there went from Thebes, Cadmus’ city, a hero short in stature but unflinching in spirit. This hero went to the house of Antaeus in grain-bearing Libya, to keep him from roofing Poseidon's temple with the skulls of strangers, Alcmena's son.
    • 430 BCE – 354 BCE, Xenophon, On Horsemanship 11.1:
      ἢν δέ τις ἄρα βουληθῇ καὶ πομπικῷ καὶ μετεώρῳ καὶ λαμπρῷ ἵππῳ χρήσασθαι, οὐ μάλα μὲν τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐκ παντὸς ἵππου γίγνεται, ἀλλὰ δεῖ ὑπάρξαι αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν μεγαλόφρονα καὶ τὸ σῶμα εὔρωστον.
      ḕn dé tis ára boulēthêi kaì pompikôi kaì meteṓrōi kaì lamprôi híppōi khrḗsasthai, ou mála mèn tà toiaûta ek pantòs híppou gígnetai, allà deî hupárxai autôi kaì tḕn psukhḕn megalóphrona kaì tò sôma eúrōston.
      • c. 1898 translation by Henry Graham Dakyns
        If, however, the wish is to secure a horse adapted to parade and state processions, a high stepper and a showy animal, these are qualities not to be found combined in every horse, but to begin with, the animal must have high spirit and a stalwart body.
    1. (philosophy, since Platon) The spirit of the universe, the immaterial principle of movement and life.
      • 360 BCE, Plato, Timaeus 34b:
        ψυχὴν δὲ εἰς τὸ μέσον αὐτοῦ θεὶς διὰ παντός τε ἔτεινεν καὶ ἔτι ἔξωθεν τὸ σῶμα αὐτῇ περιεκάλυψεν, []
        psukhḕn dè eis tò méson autoû theìs dià pantós te éteinen kaì éti éxōthen tò sôma autêi periekálupsen, []
        • 1925 translation by W. R. M. Lamb
          And in the midst thereof He set Soul, which He stretched throughout the whole of it, and therewith He enveloped also the exterior of its body; []
  5. The mind (seat or organ of thought), (the faculty of) reason.
    • 430 BCE – 354 BCE, Xenophon, Economics 6.16:
      ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἄρα εἶχεν οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ἐνίους ἐδόκουν καταμανθάνειν τῶν καλῶν τὰς μορφὰς πάνυ μοχθηροὺς ὄντας τὰς ψυχάς.
      all’ ouk ára eîkhen hoútōs, all’ eníous edókoun katamanthánein tôn kalôn tàs morphàs pánu mokhthēroùs óntas tàs psukhás.
      • 1979 translation by E. C. Marchant, O. J. Todd and William Heinemann
        But after all, it was not so: I thought I discovered that some who were beautiful to look at were thoroughly depraved in their minds.
  6. (rare, extended from the meaning ‘soul’) Butterfly.
    • 384 BCE – 322 BCE, Aristotle, History of Animals 5.19:
      Γίνονται δ’ αἱ μὲν καλούμεναι ψυχαὶ ἐκ τῶν καμπῶν, αἳ γίνονται ἐπὶ τῶν φύλλων τῶν χλωρῶν, καὶ μάλιστα ἐπὶ τῆς ῥαφάνου, ἣν καλοῦσί τινες κράμβην.
      Gínontai d’ hai mèn kaloúmenai psukhaì ek tôn kampôn, haì gínontai epì tôn phúllōn tôn khlōrôn, kaì málista epì tês rhaphánou, hḕn kaloûsí tines krámbēn.
      Those arise — those which one calls butterflies (psukhai) — out of those caterpillars which arise on leaves of green, especially on the [leaves] of the cabbage-plant (raphanos), which some call cabbage (krambē).



  • 522 BCE – 443 BCE, Pindar, Nemean Ode 37–39:
    παῦροι δὲ βουλεῦσαι φόνου / παρποδίου νεφέλαν τρέψαι ποτὶ / δυσμενέων ἀνδρῶν στίχας / χερσὶ καὶ ψυχᾷ δυνατοί
    paûroi dè bouleûsai phónou / parpodíou nephélan trépsai potì / dusmenéōn andrôn stíkhas / khersì kaì psukhâi dunatoí
    cited by Liddell and Scott as an example of ψυχή meaning “the conscious self or personality as centre of emotions, desires, and affections”
    Dawson Turner’s prose translation (1852):
    But few are able to counsel how with hands and soul to turn the cloud of war that is upon them upon the ranks of the enemies.
    Abraham Moore’s metrical translation (1852):
    Few are the fiery souls that know, / When war’s fierce tempest heaviest falls, / Back on th’ assailant’s arms and wavering ranks / With hand and heart to turn / The wasteful wreck.
    Diane Svarlien’s translation (1990):
    But few are able to conspire with hand and heart to turn back against the ranks of the enemy the cloud of slaughter that presses close upon them.
  • (text according to Stephanus [1550], Westcott-Hort [1881] and Scrivener [1894])
    [] ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν
    [] in your patience possess ye your souls. (YLV, KJV)
    Stand firm, and you will win life. (NIV)

Derived termsEdit





From Ancient Greek ψυχή.


  • IPA(key): [psiˈçi]
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  • Hyphenation: ψυ‧χή


ψυχή (psychíf (plural ψυχές)

  1. (religion, folklore, also figuratively) soul, spirit (essence of a person (or place or thing figuratively) usually thought to consist of one's thoughts and personality)
    Ο Θεός να αναπαύσει την ψυχή της.O Theós na anapáfsei tin psychí tis.God rest her soul.
    Το σώμα είναι η κιβωτός της ψυχής.To sóma eínai i kivotós tis psychís.The body is the vessel of the soul.
    Η ψυχή της Ελλάδας φαίνεται σε κάθε νότα της μουσικής.I psychí tis Elládas faínetai se káthe nóta tis mousikís.The soul of Greece can be heard in every note of music.
    Στον δρόμο δεν υπήρχε ψυχή τέτοια ώρα.Ston drómo den ypírche psychí tétoia óra.There wasn't a soul to be seen on the road at that hour.
  2. (figuratively) courage, bravery, valour (quality of a confident character not to be afraid or intimidated easily)
    Δεν έχει κανείς εδώ ψυχή μέσα του.Den échei kaneís edó psychí mésa tou.Not one person here has any courage.
  3. (entomology) butterfly
  4. (music) sound post (of a string instrument, e.g. the violin)


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit