From ``Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma'' by Ludwig Ott:

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According to St. Francis de Sales:

``Church comes from the Greek word meaning to call. Church then signifies an assembly, or company of persons called.'' (from his Catholic Controversies)

Using an online translator, I seem not to be able to get what I thought would be the English equivalents for κυρικόν and κυριακόν. Respectively, I get "mainly" and "Sunday." (I had thought I would get something along the lines of ``to call''.)

QUESTION: Does anyone know what are the English equivalents to κυρικόν and κυριακόν; and, if they do not translate into "to call" or something similar, can anyone conjecture what may have been the Greek word for "to call" that St. Francis de Sales had in mind?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Note that Francis de Sales didn't write in English, so the translator is an extra layer to consider
    – eques
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 20:32
  • @eques I couldn't be sure from a quick google, but Ott's work may be originally in German, and so would also have that additional layer.
    – Conrado
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 12:15
  • @Conrado Yes, Ott was German and the wikipedia page (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Ott) implies he originally wrote Fundamentals in German. However, the English version cited above does show the correct etylmology for Church via German and onto Greek.
    – eques
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


ⲕⲩⲣⲓⲁⲕⲟⲛ is the Greek adjective that means "belonging to the Lord". BDAG gives this listing for the word:

κυριακός, ή, όν (s. κύριος) pert. to belonging to the Lord, the Lord’s

(BDAG, s.v. “κυριακός,” 576.)

So, in English, κυριακος would just simply be rendered, "Lord's".

κυρικον, as the author describes with the word, "vulgar" is not a Greek word at all.

He's on the right track, though, when he mentions that "Church" is from "Call". The Greek word "ἐκκλησία" (which we translate as "church") etymology comes from the word, "καλεω" ("to call"). Hence, as BDAG cites it:

  1. a regularly summoned legislative body, assembly, as gener. understood in the Gr-Rom. world (Jos., Ant. 12, 164; 19, 332, Vi. 268) Ac 19:39 (on ‘[regular] statutory assembly’, s. ἔννομος and IBM III/2, p. 141. The term ἐννόμη ἐ. here contrasts w. the usage vss. 32 and 40, in which ἐ. denotes simply ‘a gathering’; s. 2 below. On the ἐ. in Ephesus cp. CIG III, 325; IBM III/1, 481, 340; on the ἐ. in the theater there s. the last-named ins ln. 395; OGI 480, 9).—Pauly-W. V/2, 1905, 2163–2200; RAC IV 905–21 (lit.).
  2. a casual gathering of people, an assemblage, gathering (cp. 1 Km 19:20; 1 Macc 3:13; Sir 26:5) Ac 19:32, 40.
  3. people with shared belief, community, congregation (for common identity, cp. the community of Pythagoras [Hermippus in Diog. L. 8, 41]. Remarkably, in Himerius, Or. 39 [Or. 5], 5 Orpheus forms for himself τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, a group of wild animals, who listen to him, in the Thracian mountains where there are no people), in our lit. of common interest in the God of Israel.

(BDAG, s.v. “ἐκκλησία,” 303.)

  • 1
    Good treatment by BDAG. I think that you should say: "Francis is on the right track", as he is an entirely separate source--he is not Ott. Both of them are on track, they are just quite different words that they are talking about.
    – Conrado
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 17:42
  • 2
    I suspect the translator of Francis de Sales translated too literally and overlooked that Ecclesia and Church don't have common ancestry.
    – eques
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 20:36

In short, De Sales and Ott are talking about two distinct words.

"Church" in English comes through OE circe from Proto-Germanic *kirika, thought to come through non-Latin etymologies from Greek kyriake "The Lord's (house)", as etymonline has it. Ott is German; he is writing about a word that is derived from Gr. κυριακόν.

In Latin, however, ecclesia was often used, which comes from a Greek word derived eventually from kalein ("to call"). "Ecclesiastes" and "Ecclesiastic" come from this Latin word. De Sales wrote in French, using the word église (which is derived from the Latin ecclesia, and before this from Gr. ἐκκλησία); all three are usually translated church in Engish:

Page 570 from De Sales "Controverses" (from gallica.bnf.fr)

L'Eglise vient d'un mot grec , qui veut dire convocation : l'Eglise donc signifie une assemblée, ou une compaignie rie gens appeliez; la Synagogue, à proprement parler, veut dire un trouppeau... Controverses on Google books

Ott, unsurprisingly, wrote about the english word derived from the Germanic Kirche.

The Greek used the word ἐκκλησία quite some time before Christ's promise as recorded in Mt 16:18 ("...I will build my church"), the first use of this word in the Bible. The Greek Ecclesia was a sort of voting body, a "citizen's assembly" if you will. Brittanica, for example, says that it meant

(“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, assembly of citizens in a city-state. Its roots lay in the Homeric agora, the meeting of the people.

And with regard to the historical use of this word,

The Athenian Ecclesia, for which exists the most detailed record, was already functioning in Draco’s day (c. 621 bc).

Etymologically, Greek ecclesia is

a compound of two segments: "ek", a preposition meaning "out of", and a verb, "kaleo", signifying "to call" - together, literally, "to call out". That usage soon disappeared and was replaced with "assembly, congregation, council", or "convocation". wikipedia

The Germanics, on the other hand, did not use an ecclesia-derived word; their whole geographical region used words derived from Proto-Germanic kirika, again according to etymonline:

This is probably [see extensive note in OED] borrowed via an unrecorded Gothic word from Greek kyriake (oikia), kyriakon doma "the Lord's (house)," from kyrios "ruler, lord," from PIE root *keue- "to swell" ("swollen," hence "strong, powerful").

Greek kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike. An example of the direct Greek-to-Germanic transmission of many Christian words, via the Goths; probably it was used by West Germanic people in their pre-Christian period.

  • 1
    But doesn't the Greek word έκκληοία which is the rendering of the Latin ecclesia mean "assembly" or "community"?
    – DDS
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 17:01
  • I figured I would ask the question on this site because of its context. Also, the Greek St. Francis is alluding to is rather ancient, I'm sure.
    – DDS
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 17:09
  • 1
    "Francis, being from Assisi in Italy," Wrong Francis. Francis de Sales is from, well, Sales in France.
    – eques
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 20:35
  • 1
    @eques My bad... haha, it was right there in the question... However, whether he wrote in French église or in Latin ecclesia, it's the same etymological path. I'll edit my answer, thanks for the notice!
    – Conrado
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 22:11
  • It makes no sense to say that church is derived from “Kirche” as that is the modern German word.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 9:31

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