I came across the phrase "how shall I bear my teen?" in Aeschylus' play "The Persians". I also saw "the children of teen" in "Seven against Thebes". What does teen mean here?

  • 1
    Aeschylus wrote The Persians in classical Greek. Meanwhile classics.mit.edu/Aeschylus/persians.html does not have the word teen, so may provide alternative translations.
    – Henry
    Nov 27, 2023 at 23:14
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    What translation is this? Latin SE also covers ancient Greek questions, so you could do some more research and then ask there what Greek word is being used and what it means.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 27, 2023 at 23:15
  • I think it does literally mean teen i.e. youth. The first quote is apparently from a rhyming translation, it takes liberties. I can't see "children of teen" in that text though, where is it from?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 27, 2023 at 23:18
  • Without speaking Greek, Latin or anything else between either of them and English, I suggest that any immediately useful translation to English might more helpfully be '(be)tween' than 'teen'. 'Teen' means whatever it does to you but when and where was that heard before the 1950s 'teenager'? Dec 1, 2023 at 21:11
  • Translating Attic tragedy into artificially archaic English--what Fowler dubbed "Wardour Street English," after a London street notorious for trade in spurious antiques--was all too common around the turn of the last century. Jebb is perhaps the most notorious offender in this kind, but the Wikimedia version you link to identifies itself as a 1908 translation by Edmund Doidge Anderson Morshead. Jan 3 at 14:44

2 Answers 2


I don't know what the exact context of the play is, but the ominosity of the nearby lines implies to me that it's intended in the word's second (now archaic) sense, "misery, affliction". (Merriam-Webster; astonishingly, there's no etymological connection with the primary sense used today.)

This ruin doubly unforeseen!
On Persia's land what power of Fate
Descends, what louring gloom of hate?
How shall I bear my teen?

In other words, Xerxes is asking 'How can I possibly bear this woe?'


I know no Greek, but googling leads me to believe that the original line was 'εγώ ο ταλαίπωρος', with the word in bold being the Greek version of 'teen'. Greek Wiktionary says that this word means 'misfortune'.

This other translation would also suggest that this the correct interpretation.:

Ah me, how sudden have the storms of Fate,
Beyond all thought, all apprehension, burst
On my devoted head! O Fortune, Fortune!
With what relentless fury hath thy hand
Hurl'd desolation on the Persian race!

The phrase "children of teen" comes later in the collection, but I believe that that's the same sense; a subsequent review of the original reveals that this is indeed the case.

  • 1
    Is there a literal translation that does not try to be cute with poetic meter that could be quoted from for comparison?
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 28, 2023 at 7:57
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    Compare Juliet's Nurse - "l lay fourteen of my teeth—and yet, to my teen be it spoken, I have but four—she is not fourteen." Notes say that 'teen' means 'grief'. Nov 28, 2023 at 9:03
  • The phrase "children of teen" comes later in the play — It's from a different play ("Seven against Thebes"), unrelated except that the author is the same and it's collected in the same volume.
    – Laurel
    Nov 29, 2023 at 4:31
  • In case someone wants the citation and the actual Ancient Greek: It is Aes. Persians 912, and reads “Περσῶν γενεᾷ· τί πάθω τλήμων;” (source). It is the last three words of this line that have been translated as “how shall I bear my teen?” in the 1908 translation referenced. “τί” is the interrogative “why”, “πάθω τλήμων” is a two-word phrase where the second means “suffering” and limits the first to “bear [my]”. So, indeed, 1908 Eng. “teen” means “suffering” in this context.
    – jbeldock
    Jan 2 at 22:18

The OED gives the meaning of teen, now considered obsolete (or limited to "poetic Scots") as

teen (n.)

Etym. Cognate with Old Saxon tiono crime, injustice, injury,

1.a. Harm inflicted or suffered; injury, hurt; damage. Also occasionally: an injury. Obsolete.

Frequently in to work (also do) teen: to do harm, to cause damage.

OE Æt þæm ytmestan dæge eal hit him wyrþ to teonan þæm þe his Gode wyrneþ. Blickling Homilies 51

1853 That spic'd magic draught, Which since then for ever rolls Through their blood.., Working love, but working teen? M. Arnold, Poems (new edition) 95

2.a. Affliction, trouble; suffering, grief, sorrow. In later use archaic or Scottish. Now rare.

eOE He wolde..his lare lustlice onfon, se þe hine from swa monegum ermþum & teonum [Latin tot ac tantis calamitatibus] generede. translation of Bede, Ecclesiastical History (Tanner MS.) ii. ix. 130

1920 God save you, lassie, frae a' teen. A. Gray, Songs from Heine 68

There are also other meanings around "vexation" and "rage".

  • oed.com/dictionary/teen_n1?tl=true may be helpful
    – Henry
    Nov 29, 2023 at 11:54
  • @Henry Thanks - I didn't know that you could link to the OED but your link works for me.
    – Greybeard
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:09
  • Nor did I. I was looking for something saying teonan and teonum were related to teen and that link turned up. I do not know whether it is new or temporary.
    – Henry
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:12
  • The OED have recently redesigned their website, and it now seems to allow a limited degree of access without logging in.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 2 at 22:52

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