Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

The Chronos-Cronos Problem

Virginia Becar sent us a note on our workup of anachronism, asking why “the Greek Titan, Kronos, was not mentioned as a source” even though she does “not know where the Ancient Greeks got that name for him.” We partcularly appreciated her continuing, “For that level I rely on my favorite words site—You!”

Well, we can help in this case for in an earlier, longer version of the Good Word article on anachronism we had a note to the effect that the titan Cronos (Greek Κρονος) should not be confused with Chronos (Greek Χρονος), a confusion that began with the Romans and continues in 90% of the Greek mythology websites today.

Cronos, as best I can learn, was the son of Uranus and Gaia and the youngest of the twelve Titans who produced Zeus and most of the other gods. Chronos was the personification of Time who existed before all the gods. Chronos later became identified as “Grandfather Time” since he was usually depicted in Greek art as an old man with a beard.

However, Chronos and Cronos were not the same originally. Chronos does not seem to have been a god or titan, just the Greek word for “time” used as though it were a name of a being. Chronos seems to have been a prior universal state that emerged from Chaos (Χαος), the original state of the universe.

All this begs the question, of course, which is where either name comes from historically.  Etymologists have no more idea about the answer to that question than Ms. Bekar.

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