The English word abyss comes from the ancient Greek word abyssos, which comes from the Assyrian word apsu, which in turn comes from the Sumerian word abzu, meaning the fresh water ocean the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth—the source of all creation. In the Sumerian city of Eridu, built some 8,000 years ago, the temple to the founder-god Enki was constructed next to a marsh and was called “Abzu,” since the god was said to dwell in the waters below.
There is something extraordinarily poetic and profound about the fact that the word in our language with the deepest etymology is abyss. That when we use that word, we are using a word and idea passed down to us through the long ages from the earliest of civilizations. That when we speak those two beautiful syllables, we are invoking the name of the temple of the founding god of the first human city.