ἔρα + πίπτειν

Validation

Yes

Word-form

ἑρπετόν

Transliteration (Word)

herpeton

English translation (word)

beast, reptile

Transliteration (Etymon)

era + piptein

English translation (etymon)

earth + fall

Author

Orion

Century

5 AD

Source

Id

Ref.

Etymologicum, E 61

Ed.

F.W. Sturz, Orionis Thebani etymologicon, Leipzig: Weigel, 1820 (repr. 1973)

Quotation

Ἑρπετόν. παρὰ τὸ ἕρπω ῥῆμα, ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐμπίπτειν τῇ ἔρᾳ

Translation (En)

Reptile: from the verb herpō (“creep”), or from "falling” (empiptein) on the “ground” (era)

Comment

The etymological root is clearly the simple form of the verb (expressed here in the composed form: em-piptein) ; see parallels.

Note that ἔρα (as noun) is never used in ancient Greek (only as Homeric adverb ἔραζε). 

The form ἐραπετά (hapax) is forged by Philopon as a restituted intermediary form.

Apart from the verb ἕρπω, two other etymologies are given by later Lexica : ἐρείπειν (fall down), or simply ἔρα (all present in Et. Mag.)

Parallels

Hesychius, Lexicon E 5990 (Latte) : ἑρπετά· τὰ ἄποδα, παρὰ τὸ εἰς τὴν ἔραν πεπτωκέναι (perfect infinitive of piptein).

Philopon, De Opificio mundi 217.3-6 (Reichardt) : Ἑρπετὰ δὲ καλεῖται κυρίως τὰ μὴ ποσὶ τῆς γῆς ἐπιβαίνοντα ἀλλ’ ὅλα ἐπιπεπτωκότα τῇ γῇ· ἔρα γὰρ ἡ γῆ παρ’ Ἕλλησι κέκληται, ἐξ οὗ καὶ τὸ ἔραζε γέγονεν ἐπίρρημα, ἐραπετά τινα ὄντα εἰς τὴν ἔραν πεπτωκότα.

Etymologicum magnum, E 376-7 (Gaisford): Ἑρπετόν· [...] Ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐν τῇ ἔρᾳ πέτειν (alternative form for piptein according to some ancient grammarians). Κυρίως δὲ τὰ ἄποδα εἴρηται ἑρπετὰ, ἀπὸ τοῦ πίπτειν ἐν τῇ ἔρᾳ.

Modern etymology

The word is derived from ἕρπω "to creep" (PIE *serp-), compare Latin serpens "snake", lit. "creeping". The etymological meaning is "creeping, crawling" animal.

Persistence in modern Greek

The Modern Greek form is "ερπετό" (pl. "ερπετά") and it designates the animals that are cold-blooded, have keratin skin, breathe air and move by creeping. The word is also used metaphorically to denote a sly man (Triandafyllidis Dictionary of MG).