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The purpose of this essay is to identify the precise meaning of λέγεται as it appears in constructions such as those considered, as well as the meaning of those constructions themselves. My thesis is that λέγεται means “is uttered signifying something.” If we take this to be correct for the moment, then a construction as τἀγαθόν ἰσαχώς λέγεται τῶ ὄντι, γάρ εν πάσαις ταῖς κατηγορίαις λέγεται means “ ‘the good’ is uttered signifying as many things as ‘being’ is, for it is uttered signifying something in all the categories”-- for example: god in the category of substance, the virtues in the category of quality, and so on. In other words, for Aristotle, whenever “we Greeks” say τἀγαθόν, whenever “we Greeks” produce the sound indicated by τἀγαθόν, then we produce a sound which signifies, in turn, something in all the categories. That is, “we” produce a sound that signifies— or is a name for—as many things as “being” is, since it signifies— or is a name for— things in all the categories.

My procedure in arguing for this thesis will be as follows. First, I will consider some of the translations that other scholars have offered for λέγεται as it appears in the NE passage and elsewhere. I will argue that these translations fall short, either because they are too literal to be of much help or, more seriously, because they are misleading or inaccurate. Second, I will consider the passages in the Categories, the De Interpretation and the Poetics that provide the textual basis for the thesis offered here. Third, I will apply the translation of λέγεται proposed to other passages in Aristotle’s works, thereby hoping to show that it may be applied widely in the corpus. Fourth, I will briefly reconsider the translations of λέγεται offered by other scholars in the light of the translation proposed here. My aim will be to indicate the extent to which, and the ways in which, the opposing translations yield claims that Aristotle did or would have embraced, and then to measure those claims against what Aristotle must be understood to mean when λέγεται is translated as “is uttered signifying something.” In other words, my aim will be to show how the translation of λέγεται proposed here agrees and contrasts with the translations offered by other scholars. My hope is that this will bring its specific meaning into sharper relief. Fifth, and last, I will consider some of the other senses of λέγεται employed by Aristotle, as well as the meaning of various phrases in which λέγεται appears. That will help us to see how all the senses of λέγεται and the phrases using it considered in this essay are related. It will also help us to see that λέγεται in the sense “is uttered signifying something” is fundamental to Aristotle’s theory of predication.


Jurgis Brakas presented “Saying, Meaning and Signifying: Aristotle’s Legetai Pollachos” to the Society at its meeting with the Pacific Division in San Francisco March 28, 2003. For information about the author see: