tags:  Egyptian Greek Latin Sanskrit Semitic Sumerian phoenix pun recommended · name   —   by Gerry · Feb 2019 · 1383 words

The name Phoenicians, Greek Phoinikes, means “finance”, and is likely the actual etymological origin of the very word “finance”, stemming from the Semitic roots pn-nks meaning “exchange of wealth” and “exchange of accounts”. Phoenicians thus means “bankers” or “financiers” and is an ancient global title. This is confirmed with the Phoenix date palm and the Phoenix bird palm which are also named for “turning” fruitstalks and “returning” to life.

In a nutshell

Greek Phoinix & Phoinikes for “Phoenicians”

In Greek, the term φοῖνῐξ phoinix or φοίνικας phoinikas denotes several things:

  1. The Phoenicians
  2. The phoenix date palm
  3. The color purple
  4. The phoenix bird
  5. The phenax impostor

Greek phoinix, phoinikas = Phoenician, phoenix bird, date palm, purple

φοῖνῐξ phoînix : purple or crimson; palm tree; date (the fruit of the date palm); phoenix, the mythical bird derived from Egyptian mythology; (music) A guitar-like instrument invented by the Phoenicians; The etymology surrounding all senses remains somewhat unclear. The fact that the dye came exclusively from Phoenicia assures some connection. However, it is unclear if it comes from native Greek or is a Phoenician loanword. — Ancient Greek (Wikt)

Φοῖνῐξ Phoînix : Phoenician; Carthaginian; Phoenix, a city on the Mediterranean Sea — Ancient Greek (Wikt)

φοίνικας, φοίνικες phoinikas, phoinikes : palm tree; phoenix (bird which rose from the ashes) — Greek (Wikt)

Φοινίκη Phoinike : Phoenicia — Ancient Greek (Wiki)

Φοίνικες Phoinikes : Phoenicians (an ancient people) — Ancient Greek (Wiki)

φένᾱξ phénāx : cheat, quack, impostor; according to Beekes, of Pre-Greek origin — Ancient Greek (Wikt)

Global root pn for “turning”, “changing”, “trading”

It’s often said that the common denominator of these is the purple color. However, I think it is really the aspect of “changing” & “turning”, because this meaning is named with the word root √pn in almost all major ancient languages, and especially in the Semitic languages.

  1. The Phoenicians were traders.
  2. The phoenix date palm has curved fruitstalks.
  3. The color purple is primarily a dyeing color.
  4. The phoenix bird is said to return to life, has a curved beak as eagle, a curved neck as heron.
  5. The phenax impostor turns & bends the truth.

Examples for the root √pn can be found in many languages:

Hebrew, Egyptian, Coptic, Sanskrit pn = turning, changing, trading

פנה pnh : to turn; turn toward; turn and look; turned away; was free, was at leisure; was removed; he removed, cleaned, emptied; he vacated, evacuated; was removed, was emptied; was vacated, was evacuated; was turned, was directed; was disengaged, was free — Hebrew (Klein)

𓊪𓈖𓂝𓊜 pnˤ : turn around, capsize, to bend down; to turn upside down; to be turned upside down — Egyptian (TLA)

ⲡⲱⲱⲛⲉ pwwne : change, transform oneself, return; turn, alter, adapt, copy, transfer — Coptic (CDO)

पाण pāṇa : trade — Sanskrit (SpokenSanskrit)

पण paṇa : business; property; commodity for sale — Sanskrit (SpokenSanskrit)

(For more examples, see the separate page for the root √pn.)

We may thus conclude that the pn in the Greek phoinix words means not “red”, but “turning”, because both the spelling and the meaning match.

Phoin-nix & Phoin-nikes as a compound word

The suffix -nix or -nikes may be simply a Greek grammatical expression. However, I think in the case of the Phoenicians it’s also a multi-lingual word root: Semitic √nks for “wealth” & “accounts”, which is also found in Egyptian & Sumerian. The Phoenicians were “exchangers of wealth” & “exchangers of accounts”. In Phoenician language, this would have been פן נכס pn-nks. Transcribed in Greek, this would be spelled Φοῖνῐξ Phoinix or Φοίνικες Phoinikes.

All the phoinix terms can be explained as being such compounds:

  1. The Phoenicians were traders, written פן-נכס pn-nks for “exchangers of wealth” & “exchangers of accounts”.
  2. The phoenix date palm has curved fruitstalks, written פן-ענקא pn-ˁnqˀ for “turned branch”.
  3. The color purple is primarily a dyeing color, and could be written פן-קנא pn-qnˀ for “turned dark-blue”.
  4. The phoenix bird is said to return to life written פן-חי pn-ḥy, has a curved beak written פן-נקז pn-nqz, a curved neck written פן-אנק pn-ˁnq, and often a double neck written עף-אנק ˁp-ˁnq.
  5. The phenax impostor may be named for turning & bending the truth, written פן-קשט pn-qšṭ for “bend truth”.

There is even another homonymity for the Phoenicians: “traders of tin”.

What we can see is that all Greek words named phoinix can also be explained as Semitic compound words with the root pn, plus some term with K or Q.

At least for the Phoenicians, who were using Semitic dialects, it would be very likely that they were named in Semitic themselves, with terms that described what they did. I suggest that “Phoenician” was in fact a Semitic word, or several words:

Semitic nks for “wealth” & “accounts”

The most important second part of the assumed compound word is נכס nks, which originally meant “cutting things”, and by derivation “accounting” & “wealth”.

This word root √nks can be found in the West-Semitic languages, but also in Akkadian & Sumerian, possibly even in Egyptian & Sanskrit.

Hebrew, Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Coptic, Sanskrit nks, nk = wealth, property, accounts

נכס nekes : riches, treasures, wealth; compare Assyrian nikâsu, property, wealth, gain — Old Hebrew (Strong)

𒃻𒅗 nikkassu : account, property, possessions, wealth, funds, assets, statement of account; nikkassu šasā ˀum: to claim settlement of accounts; nikkassu epē/āšu: to balance accounts, to break even; nikkassu ṣabātu: to balance accounts, to break even; ina nikkassu šakānu: to submit to accounting, to make something available for accounting; ina nikkassu: at the time of accounting; rab nikkassu: chief accountant, comptroller, administrator of property; bīt nikkassu: counting house (Elam); result of calculation — Akkadian (AAF)

𒃻𒋃 niĝ2-kas7 : account — Sumerian (ETCSL)

nkt : thing, wealth, riches, amount — Demotic Egyptian (TLA)

ⲛⲕⲁ nka : thing, object (in general); vessel; property, belongings — Coptic (CDO)

नख nakha : portion — Sanskrit (SpokenSanskrit)

(For more examples, see the separate page for the root √nks.)

Latin Poenus for “Phoenicia”, foenus for “finance”

In Latin, we find the grammar form Poenus meaning “Punic” & “Phoenician”, and also foenus / faenus / fenus meaning “finance”. I think this is not a coincidence. “Phoenicia” and the modern English word “finance” are all similar in meaning & pronunciation, so they seem related.

This does not mean that every common-birth sailor from the Phoenician coasts was a “financier”. Rather, the two words are derived from a common root, √pn: Phoenicia was named for being an obvious trade & finance empire, and finance was named for being an (unequal) exchange.

Since the Roman-era play Poenulus uses a lot of puns, specifically Punic puns, we can be sure that the word pun itself, for “changing” a meaning by “exchanging” similar words, was also known by the ancient elites.

Latin Poenus = Punic, Phoenician

Poenus : Carthaginian, Punic; of Carthage; Phoenician; scarlet, bright red — Latin (

Poenus : Phoenician — Latin (Wikt)

Poenus : Carthaginian — Latin (Wikt)

Latin foenus, faenus = usury, banking, moneylending

foenus; faenus; fenus : the proceeds of capital lent out, interest; capital lent on interest; gain, profit, advantage; usury — Latin (

foenus; faenus; fenus : interest (on capital); usury; gain, profit, advantage; (figuratively) banking, moneylending (faenus exerceo: practice banking) — Latin (Wikt)

foeneror; faeneror; feneror : to lend on interest; to drain by usury; to borrow on interest; to lend, impart, furnish; practise usury — Latin (

foenero; faenero; fenero : to lend (money) at interest; (in a bad sense) practice usury; to gain by usury; yield interest, compensate amply, regain; to give something against something else — Latin (

Milphio: No Punic man this day is a better Punic than I.

Milphio: Nullus me est hodie Poenus Poenior.

Plautus: Poenulus 5.2

tags:  Egyptian Greek Latin Sanskrit Semitic Sumerian phoenix pun recommended · name