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On the Etymology of Hybrid (Lat. Hybrida). 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica prefaces its full discussion of 
Hybrids with this explanation : " The Latin word hybrida. or 
hibrida, a hybrid or mongrel, is commonly derived from Greek 
tS/3pir, an insult or outrage, with special reference to lust, hence, an 
outrage on nature, a mongrel." The English dictionaries give the 
same derivation with more or less confidence. Skeat adds, " The 
Greek origin of the Latin word is somewhat doubtful." Recent 
Latin lexica, if they say anything at all, connect it with vfipis. 
Vanicek observes a discreet silence in regard to the word in his 
several dictionaries. Keller, however, in his Epilegomena to 
Horace, Satires, Book I 7, 2, has gone out of his way to propose 
an etymology which is as startling as it is indefensible. His words 
are, " Wie pumilio aus Uvyptakiav, Codes aus KukXoji^, so ist Hybrida 
aus 'Yirepi8ris, 'YnepeiSqs hervorgegangen, und aus einem Eigennamen 
zum Appellativum geworden. Wahrscheinlich war Hybrida 
zufallig bei einem Komiker der Name eines Bastards und wurde 
dann zunachst Beiname eines Menschen, des Q. Varius (Valerius 
Maxim. VIII 6, 4), und spater allgemein adjectivisch verwendet 
wie codes, etc." Saalfeld, in his recent Thesaurus Italograecus, p. 
550, quotes Keller's entire article, but adds : " Wir konnen aber 
nicht umhin, denselben, wegen seiner Zusammenstellung mit 
pumilio und codes aus Xivyfuikiav und KvkAwi//-, etwas vorsichtig 
aufzunehmen." Saalfeld, although he offers other and more 
plausible explanations for pumilio and codes, has nothing new to say 
about hybrida. It seems to me, however, that the word is not so 
hopeless a puzzle that we need resort to such wild conjectures to 
explain it. Hybrida, as Keller shows, has better MS authority 
than hibrida. The following passages establish the fact, which it 
is important to recognize, that the Romans understood under 
hybrida, strictly speaking, the progeny of a wild boar and a sow. 
Pliny, VIII 213 (de suibus), "In nullo genere aeque facilis mixtura 
cumfero, qualiter naios antiqui hybridas vocabant ceu semi/eros." 
Isidorus, Orig. XII 1, 61, "In animantibus bigenera dicuntur, 
quae ex diversis nascuntur, ut mtilus ex equa et asino : burdo ex 
equo et asina : hybridae ex apris et porcis : tityrus ex ove et hirco : 


musmo ex capra et ariete. Eugenius has turned the above into 
an epigram. Cf. Latin Anthology, Meyer, Vol. I, No. 387 : 

Hae sunt ambigenae, quae nuptu dispare constant. 

Burdonem sonipes general commixtus asellae. 

Mulus ab Arcadicis et equina matre creatus. 

Tityrus ex ovibus oritur hircoque parente. 

Musimonem capra ex vervegno semine gignit. 

Apris atque sue setosus nascitur hybris. (Meyer, ibris) 

At lupus et catulae formant coeundo lyciscam. 

Hybris, therefore, had as distinct a meaning as mulus or burdo. 
On this the whole point of Martial, VIII 22, turns: 

Invitas ad aprum, ponis mihi, Gallice, porcum, 
Hybrida sum, si das, Gallice, verba mihi. 

It seems, therefore, not unreasonable to find in hy- the Greek 
vs (so Anton Marx Hulfsbuchlein, p. 35.) A gloss of Hesychius 
gives a clue to the remainder of the word, IppUaXoi : x°'P° l - ofipiKd- 
\oia-i occurs, Aeschylus, Ag. 135 (Schneidewin), in the sense of 
oppia. Curtius, Studien, Vol, 1, p. 260, has already connected this 
stem with apro. " Es ist um so verfiihrerischer den Stamm 
o/Spo sammt der Nebenform Ifipo mit dem lat. apro zu vergleichen, 
als sich die IfipUaXot begrifrlich zu aper verhalten warden wie 
unsere Ferkel zu tropKos, porcus." Compare also poXo/ipinjf and 
p.o\6fiptov. v -\- Iftpo would form a compound (m becoming regularly 
v, as in ftoTpiSiov) , very like )(oipiKa(pos, XvKonavBrip, kvvoXvkos, Xeonapbos, 

(cf. Isidorus, Or. XII 2, 1 1, Leopardusex adulierio leaenae nascitur 
et pardi). The form in k (*vfipis) may be compared to ap.vis, 
irapbaXis, vvKrepis, etc. Finally, hybrida stands in the same relation 
to hybris as absida to absis, magida to magis, cassida to cassis, 
stomida to stomis, and crepida to Kpr^ls. 

Note. — The glosses given by De Vit and Du Cange, Iber ; animal ex 
duobus diversae speciei genitus, hybrida. Iber ; t/fiiovot; may, perhaps, point to 
the actual existence of a Greek form *vfipoc to which iber would correspond as 
conger (gonger) to yiyypos, iber being, of course, bad spelling for hyber. In 
Pseudo-Acron's Comm. to Horace Sat. I 7, 2, two explanations are given of 
Hybrida, showing that the original meaning had been lost sight of: "Hybridae 
autem proprie dicuntur canes qui nascuntur ex cane venatico et cane gregario," 
" Tractum est ab aquila ea, quae ex aquila et vulture nascitur." Here reference is 
probably made to the yvirdeTog or iiraerof. Some such notion of a cross between 
two species of birds may underlie the Greek t>/3pif found in Arist. H. A. 9, 12, 
5, and commonly supposed to be the strix bubo, for which, curiously enough, our 
English name is eagle-owl. 

Minton Warren.