An linguistic exploration of Propolis

Propolis is the only community site for B2B Marketing. Did you ever stop to consider what Propolis actually means? You might be surprised.

“What’s in the name?” Shakespeare said that a rose of any other name would smell just as sweet. Nomen est, declared the Romans, arguing that destiny is a name.

No matter your opinion, naming is fascinating. This blog is my last year blogging. It gives me the chance to put on my Classicist’s hat, and do some parsing (semantic depth diving). Propolis, a new community site for B2B Marketing, is the name. Its associations to bee glue, the products that appear immediately if you Google propolis, sent me straight to my Greek dictionary. The word was new to me. It turns out that the word is rare enough that it is only found in the massive, unabridged Liddell and Scott Greek English dictionary. Not the smaller, more accessible version.

Propolis can have two meanings.

1. Suburb. This meaning includes propolis, which is a synonym of proastion. It can be interpreted as the root pro (in front or before) followed by polis, (the city).

2. Scott and Liddell do not offer specific parsings. However, there is the idea of pro- (in support, as in proponent) and pro-polis (city, or community – metaphorical for a hive). This is how it means to protect and support the hive. This was just an hypothesis, not a proof. There is nothing in the word propolis to suggest that it would be connected to bees or hives.

This hypothesis is confirmed by further research into the word’s origins from current online sources (happily).

Metonymy (substitutions of one word for another) and synecdoche, propolis evolved from being a core concept of community-protector to hive protector. Bees use bee glue from natural sources to repair, strengthen, or plug holes in their hives for the benefit of their communities. Some sources claim that propolis is the entry to the hive. pro literally refers to before, in front the community which is made of be-glue.

It was also remarkable to me that the citations were so rare and even obscure.

Propolis, in its “suburb” meaning, was cited by Origen in Celsus’ 2CE philosopher Celsus’ book.

This is also evident in Varro’s work (1C BCE Latin historian and grammarian, contemporan of Cicero). Although his works are mostly fragmented and have few known texts, he uses propolis to refer to bee-glue. He appears to be the only source, or at least the one that has been passed to us, for the word bee-glue. Celsus via Origen was the lone resource for propolis meaning suburb.

When I first saw the name of the community site, Propolis, I began to interpret it for myself. It was having to do pro to support, or in the behalf of the city . The meaning of Propolis was, I felt, absolutely correct for me to identify the community site. Its stated purpose to support the larger B2B community or community, or even the “worker bees” in the site’s honey hives, in their daily, purposeful, high-energy discipline. You can use my original parsing to work at all of these levels.


B2B Marketing did a great job finding the word and richly using the many meanings to support everything that the Propolis community site stands up for and continues to promote.

I opt for nomen est omen, myself.