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Logos is a word that has acquired meaning in philosophy, religion, history and psychology across the centuries. Read more on the history of the word itself.... read more
Logos, the word, comes from the Greek verb legō (λέγω), meaning "to count, tell, say, speak".
Logos became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitis (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for the principle of order and knowledge. In non-technical Greek, logos had a meaning beyond the literal and convention translation as "word". Logos also implied talking, statement, speech, conversation, tale, story, prose, proposition, and principle; and it also implied thought, reason, account, consideration, esteem, due relation, proportion, and analogy.
Philo (ca. 20 BC–AD 40) distinguished between logos prophorikos (the spoken word) and the logos endiathetos (the unspoken word). The Stoics also spoke of the logos spermatikos (the generative principle of the Universe). Early translators from Greek, like Jerome in the 4th century, were frustrated by the inadequacy of any single Latin word to convey the Logos expressed in the Gospel of John. The Vulgate Bible usage of in principium erat verbum was thus constrained to use the perhaps inadequate noun verbum for word, but later romance language translations had the advantage of nouns such as le mot in French. Reformation translators took another approach. Martin Luther rejected Zeitwort (verb) in favor of Wort (word), for instance, although later commentators repeatedly turned to a more dynamic use involving the living word as felt by Jerome and Augustine. In English, logos is the root of "logic," and of the "-logy" suffix (e.g., geology).
Ancient philosophers used the term in different ways. Aristotle applied the term to "reasoned discourse" in rhetoric. Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe. After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo (ca. 20 BC–AD 40) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos), and further identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos.
Although the term "Logos" has been widely used in the Christian sense, in academic circles it often refers to various ancient Greek uses, or to post-Christian uses within contemporary philosophy, Sufism and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.