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According to Wiktionary and Etymonline, I only find the ultimate Greek word "κολοφών", leading to my question.

The first part of "colophon" is "colo-", which derives from PIE *kolən-, *koləm-.

I want to find out the Greek or PIE root of "-phon", the second part of "colophon".

colophon (Wiktionary)

from Ancient Greek κολοφών (kolophon, “peak or finishing touch”)

colophon (Etymonline)

1774, "publisher's inscription at the end of a book," from L. colophon, from Gk. kolophon "summit, final touch" (see hill).

hill

From Middle English, from Old English hyll (“hill”), from Proto-Germanic *hulliz (“stone, rock”), from Proto-Indo-European *kolən-, *koləm- (“top, hill, rock”). Cognate with Middle Dutch hille, hulle (“hill”), Low German hull (“hill”), Icelandic hóll (“hill”), Latin collis (“hill”), Old English holm (“rising land, island”). More at holm.

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    It appears it's a place name. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/…
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 13:40
  • I believe what OP is asking for is the origin of the -phon portion of the word. Does Greek κολώνη, "hill" : κολοφών, "summit" represent a regular transform? Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 14:43
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    I'm afraid this question is rather clearly about Greek and not English now.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 14:52

1 Answer 1

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I think you might be mistaken in splitting colophon into two parts.

As you already noted, most sources agree that 'colophon' comes from the Greek city Kolophon, which in turn comes from the Greek work kolophon. Your research shows that kolophon might be related to (though not necessarily derived from) the PIE root for 'hill'.

If you're familiar with Perseus, you might be able to get more info from this link.

You might also be interested in a book called The Intriguing Derivation of the Word "Colophon". I don't actually have access to this title, so I can't vouch for its contents.


Although it isn't relevant to the etymology of colophon, here's the answer to your original question: the -phon suffix is the same as the -phone suffix, which means "sound" and derives from the ancient Greek -ϕωνος. A few examples of this suffix in action: homophone, megaphone, microphone, and saxophone.

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    +1 The fact that there's an entire book about a single word is intriguing. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 5:17

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