Can anyone shed some light onto the process by which (masculine) personal names of the Ancient Greek world were Russianized? With some notable exceptions (Homer, Aristotle, Hadrian, et al.), English tends to Anglicize them using a fairly straightforward transcription of the Greek name in the nominative case, whereas I've noticed a trend in Russian whereby the -us/-es/-as/-is endings are elided. Here are some examples where English kept these nominative endings and Russian didn't:

Κόρινθος – Corinthus — Коринф
Περσεύς – Perseus – Персей
Ἡρακλῆς – Heracles – Геракл
Ὀρφεύς – Orpheus – Орфей
Αἰνείας — Aeneas — Эней
Ὀδυσσεύς — Odysseus — Одиссей
Οἰδίπους — Oedipus – Эдип
Νάρκισσος — Narcissus – Нарцисс
Ἀπολλώνιος – Apollonius – Аполлоний
Ἱπποκράτης — Hippocrates – Гиппократ
Ἀρχιμήδης — Archimedes – Архимед
Ἀσκληπιός – Asclepius – Асклепий
Πρωτεύς – Proteus - Протей

This may be a difficult question to answer, but does anyone know why Russian has (for the most part, from what I've observed) elided the nominative endings? Why Персей, Эдип, and Аполлоний and not *Персеус, *Эдипус, and *Аполлониус, for example?

Also, am I perhaps asking this of the wrong language? Specifically should I be asking instead why Old Church Slavonic/Old Bulgarian used this process? Meaning, did Russian import the OCS versions of Greek names, and therefore this represents an Old Bulgarianization moreso than a Russianization, or were these imported from Greek directly into Russian without the OCS middleman? I have noticed quite a few similarities between Ancient Greek names in Modern Bulgarian and Russian, but I don't know if this represents a common origin or not.

Thanks in advance / Заранее спасибо.

  • 1
    Not only Greek names but Latin too. E.g. Юлий Цезарь Август = Julius Caesar Augustus. Yes, that is mostly due to Church Slavonic/Old Bulgarian. But, again, not only that. There are many rules and even more exceptions. Also some names may have several transcriptions, e.g. Гермес/Эрмий (Hermes).
    – Matt
    Jul 20, 2015 at 5:44
  • 3
    English sometimes drops the inflexional endings too, consider Euclid, Plutarch, Virgil etc.
    – Quassnoi
    Jul 20, 2015 at 11:28
  • In English you have July, Livy, Pliny, Aristotle, Homer, all without the endings.
    – Anixx
    Jul 20, 2015 at 13:22
  • Also I always was wondering why Appollo, Pluto and Nero but Charon, Triton, proton and electron.
    – Anixx
    Jul 20, 2015 at 13:29
  • Russian film lovers should not forget Ипполит (Hippolytus). (I was surprised myself when I saw Ирония судьбы that it was not "Гипполит.")
    – SAH
    Jun 28, 2017 at 2:04

2 Answers 2


This tradition comes way back from Old Church Slavonic.

OCS was conceived as a literary language for translation of the Scripture. As such, though it was based on the Slavic dialect spoken in vicinity of what is now Thessaloniki, Greece, it had several features which made it a little bit different from the live spoken language. Mainly it was wide usage of calquing, both lexical and grammatical.

Greek words which had no established correspondence in Slavic were translated morpheme by morpheme. Thus we have numerous words like иносказание, совесть, etc. Sometimes existing words were given new meanings: судьба ("fate", originally "ruling", "verdict"), слава ("fame", originally "naming"), etc. Sometimes whole phrases were calqued: исполнить приговор (literally "to fill", compare English "fulfill"), нанести ущерб (literally "to bring in") etc. Finally, even grammatic constructs like вкушая вкусихъ, видя видехъ etc. were translated word for word and form for form from Greek (which in turn had it calqued the same way from Bible Hebrew).

The same principle was of course used for nouns. Since Greek had inflexion and Slavic had inflexion, and words were calqued morpheme by morpheme, and inflexional suffix was a morpheme, it made sense when translating a proper name to leave the word stem (everything but the inflexional suffix) as is and use the native suffixes to translate Greek suffixes.

Sometimes the proper names were analyzed for calquing. For instance, Pontius Pilate's name (nomen) is etymologically an adjective, and it had been translated as such into Church Slavonic (при Понтiйстѣмъ Пiлатѣ in the Symbol of Creed).

Note that "elision" is not exactly the word to describe the process. Unlike Russian, Old Church Slavonic had no zero inflectional morphemes. What we now perceive as a zero morpheme in words like Ахилл-Ø, used to be a reduced vowel ъ: Ахилл-ъ. It is not pronounced in Russian and modern recensions of Church Slavonic but used to be pronounced alright in Old Church Slavonic. So it is better to used the term "replacement".


You can find a detailed rule (5 steps) for endings in the end of this article:


  • The copy of the article ending will greatly improve your post. (Currently it is "link-only answer").
    – Artemix
    Jul 20, 2015 at 11:51
  • Didn't spend much time reading the link, but "Ипполит" would seem to be a famous exception to the rule that the ' diacritic in gk tends to --> Г or Х in russian
    – SAH
    Jun 28, 2017 at 2:09

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