Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.05.03

James Morwood, John Taylor, Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary.   Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2002.  Pp. 640.  ISBN 0-19-860512-9.  $16.95.  

Reviewed by Anne Mahoney, Tufts University (
Word count: 756 words

The Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary (hereafter POCGD) is a modernization of Karl Feuerabend's 1910 Pocket Greek Dictionary, still in print from Langenscheidt in a sturdy little book that really is pocket sized. While the POCGD will not fit in the average pocket, its features more than make up for the slight increase in size. This is a nice dictionary for intermediate-level Greek students.

The most striking feature, and the one which sets the POCGD apart from all other student-size Greek dictionaries currently available, is the English-to-Greek section. Even if they're not doing composition, students will often want to know "how do you say X in Greek?" Asking and answering questions like that helps build an active vocabulary of words the students themselves have found relevant. This small (about 65 pages) glossary won't replace Woodhouse (English-Greek Dictionary, Routledge, 1972) or even the English-to-Greek searches in Perseus, but it doesn't require a trip to the computer or the library reference section.

The POCGD claims over 20,000 headwords. These include all the words in Feuerabend plus some more that turn up in the authors that intermediate students read nowadays. In particular, some of the racier words in Aristophanes, omitted in the earlier work, are now included (though often with no indication of register, which is unfortunate).

Many of the definitions have been modernized, especially where the words of the earlier version have changed in meaning or fallen out of use. For example, ἀβλαβής is "innoxious, harmless; unhurt" in Feuerabend; the POGCD drops "innoxious," which has been replaced in current English by "innocuous." Feuerabend begins the gloss of ποικίλος with "party-coloured, pied, dappled"; the POCGD starts off simply "coloured, pied, dappled." The familiar idiomatic usage of μίγνυμι is "lie with" in Feuerabend, which readers of 1910 would presumably have understood, while the POCGD straightforwardly says "have sex with."

Some definitions have been expanded with additional information about idioms or about cultural context. Under δοκέω, Feuerabend gives the idiomatic uses of δοκῶ μοι and δοκεῖ; the POCGD adds ἔδοξεν and the use of the dative with δοκεῖ. To the article on λόγος the POCGD adds the very common idiom λογῷ μέν ... ἐργῷ δέ. In both editions μυστήριον is defined as "secret rite, mystery," but the POCGD adds the idiom τὰ μυστήρια, glossed "the mysteries (e.g. of Demeter at Eleusis)." ἔφορος is "overseer, guardian; ephor" in Feuerabend; the POCGD adds "(Spartan magistrate)." While none of these additions would obviate the use of a good commentary or classical dictionary, they will get students started in the right direction.

Irregular or suppletive forms have also been added. The reader using Feuerabend who does not remember οἴσω is lost; the POCGD includes it, along with λιπ- from λείπω, σχήσω from ἔχω, and others. For intermediate-level students this is a great convenience.

The POCGD begins with three pages on pronunciation, giving the restored classical system. The principal parts of 101 irregular verbs are listed. There is no other information on morphology, and nothing on syntax, beyond what is in the individual entries of course; the editors point out that the Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek is available as a grammatical reference.

A small section of proper names lists the Latinized English versions and gives their Greek equivalents. In this list are people, places, ethnonyms, and a couple of names of festivals. The book closes with a map of Greece and Asia Minor, labelled in English.

Oxford publishes two other student Greek dictionaries, the Abridged and Intermediate versions of LSJ. The Abridged, or "Little Liddell," weighs in at just over 800 dense pages and includes well over 20,000 words. The "Middle Liddell" is even longer, about 900 pages and over 30,000 headwords. (For comparison, there are some 110,000 words in LSJ itself, even without the Supplement.) The Middle version also indicates whether words are primarily prosy or poetic, giving names of authors who use them. The Abridged includes more verb stems and other inflected forms. Articles in these two are longer than in the POCGD, giving older or less common uses for the words as well as their primary senses in Attic Greek. As students move past the intermediate level, they will grow into these lexica.

But both of the smaller LSJ versions are fair-sized hardcover books, costing (and weighing) more than twice what the POCGD does. While the serious Hellenist will, over time, acquire a large pile of lexica, the beginner may prefer to start small. And for those who read Greek on the subway, the POCGD is definitely the lexicon to have.

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