Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not One Iota

Doug from Traverse City asked about the phrase, not one iota. Αn iota is a Greek letter -- to the point, a very small Greek letter [ ι ]. It’s the equivalent of our lowercase i. Not one iota is used to signify “not even one little bit.”

Jot was the Anglicized version of iota, and it shows up in the pairing jot and tittle. It means “one whit added to one whit,” a reduplicative way to express the smallest detail. Its most prominent occurrence is in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5:

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” KJV

The quotation uses them as an example of extremely minor details. The phrase "jot and tittle" indicates that every minute detail has received attention.

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