This is related to a conversation here in EL&U SE.
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?

  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 6:56
  • Related: Religious use of “exegete” english.stackexchange.com/q/106062/14666
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 6:58
  • 2
    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
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 7:22
  • "... new and not a static text to exegize; " (books.google.co.in/…)
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 7:24
  • 1
    There's always the option of not forcing a single word and getting the more than adequate "make/write/produce/etc an exegesis".
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 17:46

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 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
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 7:33
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach: Added another paragraph on -ize: I believe it does not apply to words like baptize, which already had the z in Greek. Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 7:46
  • 1
    @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). Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 7:56
  • 1
    @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. Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 8:16
  • 1
    @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. Commented Mar 8, 2013 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


I have a Biblical world-view, and using exegete as a verb seems to exactly fit within that world-view; when asking someone to exegete from their world-view, whatever it may be.

  • 3
    This sounds right, but I'm curious on how to support this. Can you elaborate how that fits in a Biblical word-view? Do you have on-line examples that support this? Maybe contrast with another word that might be for another world view. Also, by 'Biblical' do you mean Christian or Protestant or Abrahamic or what?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 17:48
  • 1
    Please provide substatiation for your answer rather than just pointing out your opinion.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 19:04
  • I only became aware of the word (exegete) in the context of Biblical teaching. So for me it has a far more profound meaning than; explain, expound, extrapolate, etc. To truly understand the basis for one's position on a topic, I would ask them to exegete from their world-view or perhaps, from the thesis of their world-view. By Biblical I mean; everything that I am aware of, is understood by means of the Bible. The word exegete already exists and the form of it seems to be verb-like. So I will continue to use it as a verb.
    – jimjames
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 1:53

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.