What the word means has no immediate relation to language. Λέγω, λέγειν, Latin legere, is the same word as our lesen <to collect>: gleaning, collecting wood, harvesting grapes, making a selection; “reading <lesen> a book” is just a variant of “gathering” in the authentic sense. This means laying one thing next to another, bringing them together as one—in short, gathering; but at the same time, the one is contrasted with the other. This is how Greek mathematicians used the word <λόγος>. A coin collection that one has gathered is not just a heap that has somehow been thrown together. In the expression “analogy” (correspondence) we even find both meanings side by side: the original meaning of λόγος as “interrelation” or “relationship,” and its meaning as “language” or “discourse”—although in the word “correspondence” <Entsprechung> we hardly think any more of “responding” <Sprechen, speaking>, just as “correspondingly,” and in contrast, the Greeks did not yet necessarily think of “discourse” and “saying” in connection with λόγος.
A passage from Homer (Odyssey XXIV, 106) may serve as an example of the original meaning of λέγειν as “gathering.” Here the theme is the encounter between Agamemnon and the slain suitors in the underworld; he recognizes them and addresses them as follows:
“Amphimedon, by what disaster have you all been plunged down into the darkness of the earth, all of you prominent and of the same age? One could hardly bring together (λέξαιτο <a form of λέγειν>), in a search throughout a polis, such noble men.”
Aristotle says (Physics Θ 1, 252a13): τάξις δὲ πᾶσα λόγος, “but every order has the character of bringing together.”
We will not yet trace how the word passes from the original meaning, which at first has nothing to do with language and word and discourse, to the meaning of saying and discourse. Here we simply recall that the word λόγος retained its original meaning, “the relation of one thing to another,” long after it had come to mean discourse and assertion.