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Both Eleusian and Eleusinian are used in relation to mysteries. I've only seen Elysian used in relation to Elysian Fields.

Given that the suffix -ian denotes "of or belonging to," I'm wondering if there is a rationale behind the use of Eleusinian. If I wanted to describe something 'of or belonging to' Eleusis, it would seem that Eleusian would be the most obvious choice.

Is Eleusinian used specifically to denote a meaning broader than originating from Eleusis? I'm wondering what (if any) the linguistic basis is for this.

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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To be more precise, the English word Eleusinian can be traced to the ancient Greek Ἐλευσίς (Elefsis, eu is read as fin Greek) which becomes Ἐλευσῖνος (Elefsinos) in the genitive and provides the -in- in Eleusinian. Ἐλευσίς is a place name (Ελευσίνα, pronounced Elefsina, in modern Greek) and since the mysteries are the mysteries of Eleusis, in Greek the genitive is used so they are the mysteries of Ἐλευσῖνος => Eleusinian.

Eleusian is simply wrong and Elysian is completely unrelated, it comes from the ancient Greek Ἠλύσιον which is the name of a place in the underworld (Hades). It was, essentially, the nice neighborhood of Hell, the equivalent of Heaven. It has absolutely nothing to do with Eleysis or its mysteries.

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+1 for discussion of Elysian (especially “the nice neighborhood of Hell”). –  Bradd Szonye May 16 '13 at 13:08
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So informative- I'm definitely going to be looking in to "the nice neighborhood of hell" so that I can try to weave that into casual conversation... –  batpigandme May 16 '13 at 14:05
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@batpigandme yeah, it was a great place really, back in the day people were just dying to get in there. –  terdon May 16 '13 at 14:13
    
Entirely correct, but note that the town is called Eleusis not Eleysis in English: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleusis. Modern Greeks often think Ancient Greek should not affect the Roman-alphabet spelling of Greek names: it does. –  TimLymington Jun 8 '13 at 11:52
    
@TimLymington so it is, thanks. In any case it has as much to do with Ancient Greek as Modern since the spelling is the same. Its just that the Greek υ is sometimes transliterated to the latin alphabet as y(as in Elysian, gr: Ἠλύσιον) and sometimes as u (as in Eleusis, gr: Ἐλευσίς) so it is hard to remember which has been chosen when. –  terdon Jun 8 '13 at 13:25
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According to American Heritage and Random House, Eleusinian is from Latin Eleusīni(us) “of Eleusis,” which is in turn from Greek Eleusinios. The stem change doesn't indicate any special meaning; that's simply how it appears in the source languages. (As terdon notes, it's from the genitive inflection of the name.)

Eleusian does not appear in dictionaries, and very rarely appears in English writing. It's most likely a misspelling.

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