For other uses, see Kalamos (disambiguation).

Kalamos (Greek: Κάλαμος; Latin: Calamus) is an ancient Greek word meaning reed or reed pen. The basis for this meaning is the story of the Greek mythological figure Kalamos, son of Maiandros (god of the Maeander river).

Greek mythology

A story in Nonnus's Dionysiaca tells about the love of two youths, Kalamos and Karpos, the son of Zephyrus and Chloris. Karpos drowned in the Meander river while the two were competing in a swimming contest. In his grief, Kalamos allowed himself to drown also. He was then transformed into a water reed, whose rustling in the wind was interpreted as a sigh of lamentation.[1]

Walt Whitman's "Calamus" poems in Leaves of Grass may have been inspired by this story.

Etymology of the word Kalamos

Similar words can be found in Sanskrit (कलम kalama, meaning "reed" and "pen" as well as a type of rice), Hebrew (kulmus, meaning quill) and Latin (calamus) as well as the ancient Greek Κάλαμος (Kalamos). The Arabic word قلم qalam (meaning "pen" or "reed pen") is likely to have been borrowed from one of these languages in antiquity. The Swahili word kalamu ("pen") comes from the Arabic qalam.

From the Latin calamus come a number of modern English words:

See also


  1. Nonnos, Dionysiaca, translated by le Comte de Marcellus in 1856. Eglinton 1964: 474.
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