May's word: esthes


Smith JM, Ancient Greek female Costume, London 1882

Smith JM, Ancient Greek female Costume, London 1882

“He wore a long esthēs” is an expression that we can still see in Modern Greece in comments about theatrical plays, or social gatherings.

The family of the term esthēis very rich and the term itself is a simple derivative. Together with ἱμάτιονἱματιοθήκη (wardrobe), ἀμφίεση (apparel), μεταμφίεση (disguise), it counts among the few terms of this family still used today. 

The ancient verb is ἕννυμι and derives from the widespread old-Indoeuropean root *es-, “ένδυμα”, with the suffix /nu/ and the ending: *es-nu-mi > *ϝέσ-νυ-μι >*ϝέh-νυ-μι > ϝέν-νυ-μι.

In Greek, the ϝ has dropped (but Cretan ϝῆμα), although it is maintained in related languages with athematic verb or suffix /t/: Germ. wasjan > wear, Lat. ues-ti-s (hence veste, vêtement, Weste, investiture, investment, vest, transvestite, vestiti, vestir etc.).

From the present perfect εἷμαι < ϝέ-μαι < *es-mai and ἤσθημαι, derive τὸ εἷμα< *es-mn̥τὰ εἵματατὰ εἱμάτια and, with early itacism, τὰ ἱμάτιατὰ ἐσθήματα (clothing), ἡ ἐσθής.

One of the oldest terms (already since the Myc. we-a2-no-i / wehanoihi, Dat. pl.) ὁ ἐανός, “woman’s clothing”.

There are many composita, mostly ending in –μωνἀνείμων (without clothing), κακοείμων (ill-clad), μελανείμων (black-clad).