Proto-Indo-European root meaning "stranger, guest, host," properly "someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality," representing "a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society" [Watkins]. But as strangers are potential enemies as well as guests, the word has a forked path.
The word ghos-ti- was thus the central expression of the guest-host relationship, a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society. A guest-friendship was a bond of trust between two people that was accompanied by ritualized gift-giving and created an obligation of mutual hospitality and friendship that, once established, could continue in perpetuity and be renewed years later by the same parties or their descendants. [Calvert Watkins, "American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots"]
It forms all or part of: Euxine; guest; hospice; hospitable; hospital; hospitality; hospodar; host (n.1) "person who receives guests;" host (n.2) "multitude;" hostage; hostel; hostile; hostility; hostler; hotel; Xenia; xeno-; xenon.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek xenos "guest, host, stranger;" Latin hostis, in earlier use "a stranger," in classical use "an enemy," hospes "host;" Old Church Slavonic gosti "guest, friend," gospodi "lord, master;" Old English gæst, "chance comer, a stranger."
updated on September 25, 2018