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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Ancient Coin Forum (Moderator: goldenancients)  |  Topic: Is the word 'triskeles' the plural of triskele? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Is the word 'triskeles' the plural of triskele?  (Read 4601 times)
esnible
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« on: January 21, 2010, 11:53:00 am »

I thought the word 'triskeles' was singular and I was surprised to find out that Wikipedia and Wiktionary think the singular is 'triskele'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triskelion#Spiral_triskele
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/triskele

This symbol is frequent on coins, such as http://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?param=82368q00.jpg&vpar=68&zpg=39928&fld=http://www.forumancientcoins.com/Coins2/

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary seems to agree: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/triskele
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2010, 04:23:27 pm »

Hmm, interesting. 
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2010, 04:34:11 pm »

I know that in the Greek language you can sometimes pronounce a word with an "s" at the end without it becoming a plural form.  For simple example, my name in greek, Mihali, can also be pronounced Mihalis.  Or lets say dog, skilo, can be pronounced or spelt skilos, while still being singular.
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2010, 04:52:56 pm »

Mihali,

I was going to say the same thing.  The name example is a very good one.  Dino/Dinos.  Niko/Nikos.  etc.
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Jochen
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2010, 05:46:26 pm »

I use triskeles as singular and for my sprachgefühl (feel for language) the plural is triskeleis. This I have read too in older scientific literature.

Best regards
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2010, 06:00:00 pm »

Interesting.  Historia Numorum uses triskeles as singular (for example, here: http://www.snible.org/coins/hn/lycia.html ).  Perhaps tomorrow I can check in the O.E.D. at the library.

The reason I stumbled across the Wiktionary and Wikipedia entries was because I was trying to figure out the Italian word for 'triskeles' so that I could search Italian eBay for ancient coins and modern tokens with it.  (There is a triskeles on the flag of Sicily [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Sicily ] and I have some unidentified modern medalets with this image.)
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« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2010, 06:48:09 pm »

This strikes me as another example of what we see with trousers, pants, breeches and any other item of clothing made to accommodate a pair of legs.  Triskeles is in itself necessarily a set of three so falls into the collective category where you can't have a single.  If you spill something on only the right side of your leg attire do you say, "I stained my pant!"?  Children ride one tricycle but they never wear a solo pant.
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2010, 06:57:05 pm »

I'm not so sure that analogy works, Doug.  A more analogous example might be a tripod.  It's singular and like a triskeles has three legs .  You can also say, either I broke my tripod or one leg of my tripod and the plural is tripods.
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2010, 07:10:05 pm »

Both the O.E.D and the Random House Unabridged list triskele as singular with no plural indicated. The Random House dictionary also has triskelion, with plural triskelia.
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« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2010, 09:18:23 pm »

well Star Trek suggests that Triskeles is singular, so that ends it!

~ Peter
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2010, 09:38:38 pm »

Jochen and I are both glad that somene, if only the writers at Star Wars, had some Sprachgefühl.
Tri-skelês, neuter in -es, is in ancient Greek, first, an adjective.  We have only upper case  Greek_Tau Greek_Rho Greek_Iota GreeK_Sigma Greek_Kappa Greek_epsilon Greek_Lambda Greek_Eta GreeK_Sigma.
If its prime form were a noun, I would be sure that Jochen was right, but since it is an adjective one would form the plural with whatever noun-gender was expressed or understood. 
Like most I-E adjectives, it freely became a substantive, as, in Latin, boni are good men, and bona are good things.
As a substantive it denotes that shield device formed of three bent legs, making a sort of whirligig expressive of running, I think.  It probably has appeared here because we had that little silver fraction with what was hard for many to see as a bent leg, but which perhaps means a third of a perhaps a tritemorion, one bent leg being a third of three (I may be disgracing myself on the language of Greek fractions) or diobol and a third of a drachm?
Anyhow, -skel- as in skeleton.
Pat L.
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« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2010, 09:56:30 pm »

I just use triskelion. Saves trouble.

I wonder: what say the Manx, or the Sicilians, or the Wiccans (some of them, anyway), or the Bretons, or those naughty whip wielding folks in leather, or any of the others who use this symbol as an integral part of their identity?
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Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2010, 02:43:29 am »

Patricia, when in the presence of 'Nerds' mixing up Star Wars and Star Trek can be very serious!
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« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2010, 03:12:27 am »

When adjectives or descriptive phrases are turned into nouns, their form can easily be misleading.  In English, if you call something "a threelegs" it is a singular object that has three legs.  The legs are plural, the object is not.  I would not be surprised to find this making for odd forms in other langages, too.

Bill
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« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2010, 05:40:41 am »

The modern use 'Triskeles' can be seen as a plurale tantum. Here: one object named by its three parts. The Greek origins have lost their grip on the word imo.

Frans
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« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2010, 06:10:51 am »

The Merriam-Webster dictionary entry for triskelion says it's from the Greek "triskelēs", and gives a reference to the word "isosceles", "from Greek isoskelēs, from is- + skelos leg"

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/triskele

Isosceles is an adjective ("isosceles triangle") and thus neither singular nor plural.

Maybe "triskeles" entomology is that it was borrowed from the Greek twice, once by numismatists to describe coins and once by non-numismatists to describe the symbol used on the Isle of Man?
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« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2010, 07:28:24 am »

The Italian word for triskeles is "triscele", also known as "triquetra" in heraldry. In its Sicilian form it has a Gorgon's head in the middle, in common understanding the symbol points to the island's triangular form with a cape at each tip (Peloro, Pachino, Lilibeo). For the same reason the island is sometimes dubbed "la Trinacria" (no translation needed for those who have a minimal understanding of Greek), a name which is sometimes improperly used for the symbol itself.

Regards, P.  Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2010, 12:22:53 pm »

but a triskeles and a triquetra are two different symbols, the former meaning "three legs" (roughly), the latter meaning "three corners" (see image below).

i have always associated the triskeles more with the swastika, that is a rotating or cyclical symbol, possibly representing the seasons or the elements.
the triquetra is more of a unity symbol, and has even been used to symbolise the Trinity.

~ Peter

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« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2010, 01:59:20 pm »

A triskelion.

(This coin photo has been modified in Photoshop.)
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« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2010, 05:01:49 pm »

In his later years Edward Steichen, the photographer, had a rescued dog that had lost one hind leg, and he named it Tripod (naturally).
I wish I'd thought of isosceles as the perfect analog to triskeles.
Pat
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« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2010, 05:10:41 am »

A triskelion.

(This coin photo has been modified in Photoshop.)

Very funny!
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« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2010, 02:27:08 pm »

Now I get it, and can stop staring at moonmoth's coin!  "Lion," for God's sake. Embarrassed  George S.
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« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2010, 03:58:59 pm »

Confession: it took me that long to get it, too.  I couldn't disassociate the Greek diminutive ending (or the prefix, tri-, for that matter) so as to see "lion", especially since the -s- and the -l- both belong to the stem, 'skel-'.
I got the visual joke of removing one leg in Photoshop, but until you guys "got it" it was just a three-legged tetrapod / quadruped  to me!  So I just remembered Steichen's dog, tri-pod, and remembered how convenient it is to turn things neuter by using an -ion diminutive in Greek as with -chen in German!
We all have our own problems.
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« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2010, 11:44:30 pm »

Well, sorry about that, but I had an image of a three-leg-lion and I wanted to share it .. anyway, ions are difficult to draw.

From the same mind that contains this scalene triangle.
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« Reply #24 on: January 24, 2010, 12:16:55 am »

it must be lots of fun in your brain man.

~ Peter
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