Language of Hand in Homeric Epic

  • Tamar Sukhishvili
Keywords: Gestures, Homeric Epic


The paper focuses on the somatic word hand and its uses in Homeric epic. The paper aims at defining the functions and meanings of this body part in Homeric poems as well as sorting out how these meanings are reflected in the language. The chief lexeme for denoting hand in old Greek is ή χείρ with the basic meaning of upper extremities of a human, hand, hand and arm. It is used also to denote paw or hand of an animal, but there is no evidence of this meaning in Homer, it is found in the later texts.

The high frequency of the uses of this word is not unusual. Hand is a body part that can speak symbolic language. Speaking about the frequency of somatic words during the process of metaphorization, J. Vendryes mentions that the metaphor of hand is one of the most widespread one. According to him, hand is the main human instrument; a man usually does his work by his hands, and there is a variety of jobs done with the help of hands. Having considered the above-mentioned opinion the frequency of figurative phrases containing the word hand becomes evident [Vendryes 1931:203] (cf.monkeys do not have hands, they have body parts for catching the things. A hand is a human attribute; the attribute of the living creature that has speaking ability, i.e. cognition).

The basic contextual uses of χείρ (hand) in Homeric epic are as follows:

1. Hand is a basic instrument of daily life.

2. Hand is an instrument of gesticulation. It is widely used in body language.

3. Hand symbolic is a source for metaphorization.

And in all these three cases hand refers to the connection between human and environment.


How to Cite
Sukhishvili, T. (1). Language of Hand in Homeric Epic. KADMOS, (2), 64-82. Retrieved from