Concomitant Meaning

Concomitant meaning occurs when words convey “a secondary [‘substituted’] meaning, while still in some measure retaining the primary, or literal, one” (Rediscovery of Meaning 32).

Perhaps the best exposition of the nature of concomitant meaning can be found in the following discussion of the words “spirit” and “breath” in Speakers Meaning:

6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.

7. Marvel not that I said unto thee. Ye must be born again.

8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the spirit.

Probably most people read the first part of verse 8 as a metaphor comparing the spirit with the wind. But if we turn to the Greek, we find it is not so. The same word pneuma is employed throughout, though it has been (rightly) translated first as ‘spirit,” then as “wind” and then again as ‘spirit.” In Hellenistic Greek pneuma still conveyed the concomitant meanings; but the English translators had to split it into two words, one of which (‘spirit”) had since lost its outer meaning, while the other(“wind”) had lost its inner meaning. (56-57)

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