corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Lexicons

Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament


Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

laleo (Strong's #2980) Say, Speak

lego (Strong's #3004) Tell, Talk

(lalia [Strong's #2981] (Speech, Talk

logos [Strong's #3056]) Word)

In dealing with synonyms of the New Testament, we do not need to examine earlier or even contemporary uses of words that lie completely outside of its sphere, as long as these uses do not illustrate and have not affected their scriptural use. As a result, all of the contemptuous uses of lalein (to talk at random, one who is athyrostomos) and of lalia (chatter, an illogical mixture of words) may be dismissed and set aside. The antithesis in Eupolis, "very good at chattering [lalein] but unable to speak [legein]"sheds little, if any, light on the meaning of laleo and lego.

The distinction between laleo and lego may be clarified by examining the two leading aspects in terms of which we may understand speech. Speech may be understood as the articulate utterance of human language as contrasted with its absence. This absence may be due to choice, as is the case with those who hold their peace when they might speak; or it may be due to an undeveloped condition of the organs and faculties of speech, as is the case with infants (nepioi, Strong's #3516); or it may be due to natural defects, as is the case with those born without hearing; or it may be due to an inherent inability to speak, as is the case with animals. Speech also may be understood as the orderly linking and knitting together in connected discourse of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind: "To speak and to join together aptly chosen and selected words." The first is lalein, which is equivalent to the Hebrew dibber (Strong's #1699), to the German lallen (to mumble) and sprecken (to speak), and to the Latin loqui. The second is legein, which is equivalent to the Hebrew 'amar (Strong's #559), to the Latin dicere, and to the German reden (to talk, to discourse). Ammonius wrote: "Lalein and legein differ; legein is the orderly presenting of discourse, while lalein is the disorderly uttering of chance phrases."

The dumb man (alalos,216; Mark 7:37) whose speech was restored is called elalese ( Matthew 9:33; Luke 11:14) by the Gospel writers, who were not concerned to report what the man said but only that the previously mute man now was able to speak. Thus it is always lalein "in tongues" ( Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 12:30), since the sacred narrators emphasize the ecstatic utterance per se, not its content. Lalein may be ascribed to God himself, as in Hebrews 1:1-2, where the emphasis is on God speaking to men rather than on what God spoke.

If lalein primarily refers to the articulated utterance of human language, then legein primarily refers to the words that are uttered, to the verbally expressed thoughts of the speaker. Although lalein may be applied to a parrot or talking automaton ( Revelation 13:15), since both produce sounds that imitate human speech, and though in poetry lalein may be ascribed to grasshoppers, pipes, and flutes, nothing lies behind these sounds, which therefore may not be referred to by legein.Legein always refers to the ennoia (Strong's #1771) or thought of the mind ( Hebrews 4:12) as that which is correlative to spoken words and as their necessary condition. Legein means "to bring together words in a sentence," just as Aristotle defined logos as "a compound intelligible sound." Similarly, Plutarch argued that phrazein could not be predicated of monkeys and dogs"for they utter sounds [lalousi] but do not explain [phrazousi]"but that lalein could.

Often when lalein and legein occur together in phrases like elalese legon ( Mark 6:50; Luke 24:6), laletheis logos ( Hebrews 2:2), and the like, each word retains its own meaning. Thus in the first phrase, elalese refers to opening the mouth to speak, as opposed to remaining silent ( Acts 18:9), and legon refers to what the speaker actually said. I do not believe there is any passage in the New Testament where the distinction between these words has not been observed. Thus in Romans 15:18; 2 Corinthians 11:17; and1Thessalonians1:8, there is no difficulty in giving lalein its proper meaningindeed all these passages gain rather than lose when this is done. In Romans 3:19 there is an instructive interchange of the words.

In the New Testament, lalia and logos follow the distinction described above. The one occasion when Jesus claimed lalia as well as logos for himself"Why do you not understand my speech [lalian]? Because you are not able to listen to my word [logon]" ( John 8:43) shows that lalia and lalein do not mean anything disrespectful. To understand John 8:43 we must understand the contrast between lalia and logos, something that commentators have interpreted in different ways. Some, like Augustine, have failed to notice the difference between the two words. Others, like Olshausen, have noticed the difference but have denied that it has any significance. Others have admitted that there is a significant difference between the words but have failed to explain the difference correctly. The inability to understand Jesus' "speech" (lalia) is a consequence of refusing to hear his "word" (logos). This refusal is a deeper problem and the root of the trouble. To hear Jesus' "word" can mean nothing less than to open one's heart to the truth that Jesus speaks. Those who will not do this necessarily fail to understand Jesus' "speech," the outward form that his uttered "word" assumes. Those who belong to God hear God's wordshis rhemata (Strong's #4487) as they are called in other passages ( John 3:34; John 8:47) or his lalia as they are referred to here, which those who do not belong to God do not and cannot hear. According to Melanchthon: "Those who are God's true sons and family cannot be unacquainted with the language of the paternal household."

Copyright Statement
Public Domain

Bibliography Information
Trench, Richard C. Entry for 'Say'. Synonyms of the New Testament. 1854.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, February 20th, 2020
Fat Thursday
There are 52 days til Easter!
Search for…
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  L  M 
N  O  P  R  S  T  U  V  W  Z 

Prev Entry
Next Entry
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology