An article from New York Magazine (December 23, 1996) started with the claim that "cyber" was a perfect prefix because nobody knew what it meant.
Well, may be so, but if you happen to be acquainted with some classical languages, than you could try to unlock the meaning of a word, even though you happened to face it for the first time.
Cybernetics is a term coined not so long ago, in 1948 by the mathematician Norbert Wiener. In his book "Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine", the author used the term to describe self-regulating mechanisms. That work provided a foundation for research into electronic engineering, computing, and telecommunications and married forever the adjective "cybernetic" to the noun "machine".
The root of the word came from the ancient Greek nautical terminology. It derived from the verb "kybernao" (κυβερνάω) – "to steer, to drive"and the noun "kybernetes" (κυβερνήτης) – "steersmen, pilot".
Apparently, Norbert Wiener felt his research on the control and communications systems in mechanical and electronic devices close to the steering of a ship. He defined that science branch as cybernetics – a term that has received a broad usage the last quarter century due to the rise of the Internet.
The Greek verb "kybernao" (κυβερνάω) is related to the Latin "guberno"which have the same prime meaning –" to steer, to pilot a ship". "Guberno" received an additional, more abstract, notion relatively early. In Cicero’s treatises from 1st century BC, it has already presented the idea of a broader guiding (not restricted to ship) and has been used to denote directing, conducting, managing (people, cities, etc.). This, hence, stands in the root of the Modern English verb"to govern" having similar meaning – "to lead, to control and guide actions".
"Gubernator" is a Latin noun with the same origin like "guberno". It also early started to indicate not only the person behind a ship’s helm, but metaphorically the individual behind a city’s helm, the one who governs. With that notion "gubernator" gave the English word governor implying the legal rights of an official governing of people. The meaning of a ruler, a head of a province dates back to the 14th century. It can undoubtedly be tracked to the U.S. governor’s office today.
The prerogatives of an official control and management of a group are implicit in another related word in English – "government". It denotes a particular system by which everything is governed in a country or a state. It also describes the unit of persons that hold the principal political offices of a nation who have the responsibility of managing the public affairs.
Philipp Foltz, Pericles' Funeral Oration, wall painting at king Maximilian II of Bavaria's palace
The ancient notion of ruling over people could be detected in another present-day word – demagogue. It has not entered English from Latin, but through Old French, directly from Greek. It came from "demagogos" (δημαγωγός) which meant a "leader of the people" (from "demos" (δήμος) – "people" and "ago" (ἄγω) – "to lead (toward)"). The word derived from the verb "demagogeo" (δημαγωγέω) denoting leading of people but also including the sense of leading the mob.
There was another meaning that "demagogeo" could express – "to make someone popular". The Greek politician Pericles, for instance, was called "demagogos" and was extremely popular among the Athenians of the mid 5th century BC. He gained his fame through various political and military deeds, but mainly through his language ability.
Pericles communicated his ideas using regular public speeches and hence, although not intentionally, added to the building of a pejorative sense of demagogue. Today, that word usually indicates a political leader who strives to public support using popular prejudges and making false claims and promises.
Pedagogue - pedagogy
The noun pedagogue has undergone a similar transformation from once positive to now negative meaning. Its second part -agogue is identical with the one in demagogue and had the same root – the verb "ago" (ἄγω) – "to lead". The first part of the word derived from "pais, paidos" (παῖς, παιδός) – "child".
"Paidagogos" (παιδαγωγός) was called a special slave whose duties were to escort children from home to school in ancient Greece. In Rome, his name was "paedagogus", and he performed the same activity. With the time, the meaning of the word broadened and started to indicate everyone who dealt with children’s education. Today, pedagogue has assumed a negative sense in English depicting a formal, pedantic teacher. In other languages though, like French, Italian, Spanish and some Slavic languages, the word does not have a pejorative meaning and is used to describe a professional in teaching.
Pedagogy – the art and science of teaching also kept its positive notion (in English and other languages). It is considered as a respectable subject that examines the children and the methods and approaches to their education.
The name of the Jewish religious building synagogue also has the Greek verb "ago" (ἄγω) in its form. The literal meaning of the word is a "meeting place". The prefix "syn" (συν) signifies "with". Added to "ago" – "to lead", it produced the meaning of "driving all, going all together at a certain point". Hence, synagogue denotes a place where all are gathered together.
Other words in –agogue
There is a tendency in medicine for nominating various agents that expel something from the human body with compound words ending in –agogue. An agent that helps discharging stones is called "lithagogue" (from "lithos" (λίθος) – "stone"). Other, that promotes the flow of blood is named "haemagogue" (from "haima" (αἷμα) – "blood").