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Apparently the noun exegete is being used as verb in religious circles.

For Biblical Scholars, the word exegesis carries with it a connotation of properly drawing out of Scripture only what is there rather than reading into it what is not there. No other English word immediately brings to mind that specific meaning.

Webster's New World Dictionary, 4th ed., indicates that the probable origin of the word exegesis is the Greek noun exegesis, "explanation", which in turn appears to come from the Greek verb exegeisthai, "to lead, explain".

If the misuse of the word exegete arises from the lack of a verb form of this word, then could we not use this Greek source to introduce a proper verb, i.e. exegisthai. That is difficult to pronounce; but, if there are other English words derived from Greek words with the same verb ending, one could see how that verb ending comes over into English and provide the same verb ending for our word. Then we would have a proper verb to introduce which carries the desired meaning and is easily recognizable as related to exegesis.

Does anyone have any idea as to how this Greek ending comes over into English?

I found this page pertaining to Greek words coming into English According to what it says here very few verbs come over from Greek, such as baptize and ostracize. So, what about exegize?

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The reason why the word "exegete" is used instead of explain or interpret is to set this kind of explanation or interpretation apart from other uses. Exegete is typically reserved for use with sacred texts of various faiths. Dmjolnir 23:33, 2 July 2011 (UTC) en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Talk:exegete –  Kris Mar 8 '13 at 6:56
    
Related: Religious use of “exegete” english.stackexchange.com/q/106062/14666 –  Kris Mar 8 '13 at 6:58
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The form ?"exegize" has indeed been used earlier. I do not think ELU can rule on its validity, though. The right thing probably would be to write to OxfordDictionaries (there's a great affinity for new and needy words & expressions there) with some background research in support. See also below. –  Kris Mar 8 '13 at 7:22
    
"... new and not a static text to exegize; " (books.google.co.in/…) –  Kris Mar 8 '13 at 7:24
    
Some Muslim commentators exegize the word "Messiah" to mean "wanderer." Jesus had no place to lay his head. (books.google.co.in/…) –  Kris Mar 8 '13 at 7:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In short, your only option seems to be exegese (or possibly exegeze, but probably not), if you must have a verb that would be acceptable to the OED.

But it should be noted that, for what is probably the majority of words on -sis, no verb is ever used; perhaps recasting your sentence would be a better idea, e.g. she interpreted the passage. Using the Greek infinitive exegeisthai is a bad idea that will send classicists off screaming.

The only traditional way of forming a verb based on a Greek word on -sis that I am aware of is -se:

Parenthesis => parenthese

Diagnosis => diagnose

Paralysis => paralyse

Basis/-se => base

Metamorphosis => metamorphose

Occasionally, modern forms on -sise are created, as in those based on -thesis (hypothesise, synthesise); I can't think of any other example. Those few Greek words on -sis whose noun-equivalents already end on -se in English also use -se for the verb, as in phrase and base.

For forms on -ise and -yse, you may encounter -ize and -yze in America, respectively, and possibly sometimes elsewhere too, so exegeze may be considered a valid alternative depending on your local tradition. However, this strictly has nothing to do with the formation of an English word based on Greek, but rather on regional variations within English. Lastly, I do not believe Americans normally do this with words on -ese/-eze (they stick with -ese: only after -i- and -y- is this z commonly used), but that's your call.

Your examples ostracize and baptize are different, because they have somehow retained or regained the z that was originally there in Greek (ostrakizein, baptizein), as opposed to in exegeisthai and most other verbs. The same applies to apologize/apologizein. This confusion is the reason (most?) British publishers and style books use -ise/-yse for verbs based on Greek nouns on -sis (Oxford and Cambridge alike, I think), like analyse; but they do often do use -ize for other Greek verbs, like baptize, and for words taken from non-Greek stems, like immunize, realize, colonize (either Oxford or Cambridge—I forgot). They usually do not, however, use -yze where Greek had no -uzein (so practically never). I know, it is a bit tiresome having to remember the exact origin of such words—I am usually too lazy to do so, I must confess.

The -i- in *exegise/exegize is not really defensible, because that is normally not done with words derived from -esis, but only with those derived from -isis. The -ize in energize comes from Greek -(e)izein, as energy comes from energ(e)ia; the -i- in apologize from Greek -izein as in apology, from apologia. The -y in English represents -(e)ia in most Greek (and Latin) words, and hence nouns on -y in English have verbs on -ise/ize.

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And in your opinion, would it be possible to introduce such a verb even after the noun is already being used as a verb? –  Sarah Mar 8 '13 at 7:33
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@AndrewLeach: Added another paragraph on -ize: I believe it does not apply to words like baptize, which already had the z in Greek. –  Cerberus Mar 8 '13 at 7:46
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@Sarah: Oh, oops, I see I made the same typo twice: the correct -z- form would be exegeze, not exegize. I don't think the forms with -i- are defensible. Yes, I would by all means use exegese over exegete: it is less ugly, more correct, and easier to recognise to boot! I see I made another mistake btw.: I don't believe American spelling ever uses -eze for -ese (just -ize/-yze only). –  Cerberus Mar 8 '13 at 7:56
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@Sarah: I would probably pronounce exegese "z", like most other Greek-derived verbs on -se (base being the exception?). The i would be undesirable because there is no -isis in the noun, and there was no -i- or -ei- in the Greek, unlike the i in crisis etc. The z is undesirable because there was no z in the Greek verb, and Americans normally only use -ze after i or y, not after e. –  Cerberus Mar 8 '13 at 8:16
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@Sarah: Yup! It comes from the same Greek verb, hêgeisthai, "to lead; to opine", related to hegemony. The prefixes are used to alter the basic meaning. –  Cerberus Mar 8 '13 at 8:51

The word exegete, apparently from exegetic, is an example of back-formation. English users intuitively drop the suffix to return it to its root form, even though, as in this case, that root form never really existed. But it is a completely valid way to create new words.

There is a list of other back-formed words here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_back-formations

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