5

A recent question on EL&U elicited the following etymonline entry:

Hypothecate: 1680s, "pledge (something) without giving up control of it; pawn; mortgage,"....from Greek hypotheke "a deposit, pledge, mortgage," from hypo- "beneath, under" + tithenai "to put, to place”.

I'd like to know whether the Greek word tithenai features in the etymology of the English word tithe.

tithe noun One tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax for the support of the Church and clergy. - ODO

The dictionary entry traces the etymology back to Old English:

Old English tēotha (adjective in the ordinal sense ‘tenth’, used in a specialized sense as a noun), tēothian (verb).

And so does etymonline:

a tenth part (originally of produce) due as support of the clergy, c. 1200, from Old English teogoþa (Anglian), teoþa (West Saxon) "tenth," from Proto-Germanic *teguntha, from PIE *dekmto-, from PIE root *dekm- "ten." Retained in ecclesiastical sense while the form was replaced in ordinal use by tenth.

So there might not be a direct link between tithenai and tithe.

Further, tithe is more directly related to tenth than it is to giving. "Tithe" was coined around 1200 according to etymonline, with hypothecate appearing about half a millenia hence, so I'm discounting hypothecate from the etymology of tithe on timing alone.

However, with tithenai's "to put, to place" appearing to be not far off tithe's connotation of "to give" in the money-related usage of the term, there appears to be at least a superficial, tangential link between tithe and tithenai. Even so, the link is such a stretch that I was hesitant about posting the question, until I stumbled upon the following:

For centuries, visitors and dignitaries attending the Olympics would contribute spectacular gifts---treasures---from their cities or homelands, which were housed in a newly constructed thesauros, from the root of tithenai, which later gave us both treasure and tithe. - Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words, by Phil Cousineau

Can anyone confirm the link between tithe and tithenai or, alternatively, completely dissociate the words from each other?

  • 1
    The verb is actually tithemi to put [Strong 5087] biblehub.com/strongs/greek/5087.htm. Tithenai is, I think, the participle but my grammar is not beside me at the moment. – Nigel J Feb 6 '18 at 7:38
  • 1
    @NigelJ: It seems to be the present active infinitive. – sumelic Feb 6 '18 at 7:43
  • 1
    Tithe wasn’t coined around 1200—it’s attested with the meaning given around 1200. The word itself is much older, as the Etymonline entry shows. It’s actually the more or less regular outcome of the PIE ordinal ‘tenth’. The modern ‘tenth’ is a more recent and transparent formation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '18 at 8:00
  • 3
    The roots apprear to be different going back to PIE : tithe etymonline.com/word/tithe has the PIE root dekm- (ten) etymonline.com/word*dekm-?ref=etymonline_crossreference - while tithenai derives from the PIE root dhe (set/put) etymonline.com/word*dhe- – user240918 Feb 6 '18 at 9:01
  • As cited in your source, thesaurus and treasury share with tethenai the same PIE root: - 1823, "treasury, storehouse," from Latin thesaurus "treasury, a hoard, a treasure, something laid up," figuratively "repository, collection," from Greek thesauros "a treasure, treasury, storehouse, chest," related to tithenai "to put, to place," from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe "to set, put." etymonline.com/word/thesaurus – user240918 Feb 6 '18 at 11:23
1

To preserve information from comments:

  • The verb is actually tithemi to put (Strong 5087). - Nigel J Tithenai may be the participle (Nigel J) or the present active infinitive (sumelic).

  • Tithe wasn’t coined around 1200—it’s attested with the meaning given around 1200. The word itself is much older, as the Etymonline entry shows. It’s actually the more or less regular outcome of the PIE ordinal ‘tenth’. The modern ‘tenth’ is a more recent and transparent formation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet

From user159691:

  • The roots appear to be different going back to PIE : tithe has the PIE root dekm- (ten) - while tithenai derives from the PIE root dhe (set/put).

  • As cited in your source, thesaurus and treasury share with tethenai the same PIE root: - 1823, "treasury, storehouse," from Latin thesaurus "treasury, a hoard, a treasure, something laid up," figuratively "repository, collection," from Greek thesauros "a treasure, treasury, storehouse, chest," related to tithenai "to put, to place," from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe "to set, put." while a possible common root of tithe with tethenai is less clear. Tithe does not appear to have derived from Greek : tithe, from Old English tēoþian, teogoðian), from a proposed Proto-Germanic *tehunþô, *tehundô (“a tenth”), with its nasal consonant being lost according to the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law. Ultimately from the PIE dekm- as shown above. Those who have access to the OED might give more precise information.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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