What role did the Greek language have in the development of English?

The famous saying “It’s all Greek to me” might be the most wrongfully chosen expression there is. Because each of us speaks a little Greek every day. There are over 150.000 English words that originate from the Ancient Greek language. Architect, base, and chaos are just a few examples.

How has the Greek language influenced language?

The Greek language has had a profound and lasting impact on the development of many languages throughout history, including English. Here is an overview of how the ancient Greek language is secretly the most spoken in the world.  

The alphabet

The Greek language has contributed to the development of the English alphabet. The ancient Greeks were the first to establish a true alphabet, around the 8th century B.C.. Later, this alphabet was adopted by the Romans who, in turn, passed it on to Western Europe. The modern English alphabet is based on the Roman alphabet and contains many of the same letters as the ancient Greek alphabet did. Moreover, even the name alphabet shows the Greek influence, as the first two letters of the Greek alphabet are Alpha and Bet(a).

Greek words in English

One of the most obvious ways in which Greek has influenced English is through the many words that have been borrowed from the Greek language. These words (often passed on through Latin) have become an integral part of the English vocabulary. For example, words such as “philosophy,” “democracy,” “telephone,” and “typhoon” are all of Greek origin. Greek has also contributed to the technical vocabulary of English, with words such as “mathematics,” “biology,” “geography,” and “psychology” being derived from Greek roots.

Grammar

In addition to the borrowed words, Greek has also had a significant impact on the grammar and syntax of English. The Greek language has an inflected structure. This means that the grammatical function of a word is indicated by its ending rather than by its position in the sentence. This structure has influenced the way in which English forms its verb tenses and noun declensions.

Mythology

Furthermore, Greek mythology and literature have had a major influence on Western culture. Many words and phrases from Greek mythology have become part of the English language. For example, words such as “nemesis,” “hubris,” and “eureka” come from Greek mythology and are used in English to convey specific meanings. Also, the Greek epic poem “Iliad” and “Odyssey” were considered the foundation of Western literature, and many phrases and idioms from these works, such as “Achilles heel” and “Trojan horse,” have been passed down through the generations and are still in use today.

Science and medicine

Moreover, Greek has also played a crucial role in the field of science and medicine. Many scientific and medical terms in English have derived from Greek roots. For instance, words such as “anatomy,” “physiology,” and “pathology” come from Greek roots and are commonly used in the medical field. Additionally, the Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine,” has had a profound impact on the development of the medical field. His teachings are still widely studied today.

English words you probably didn’t think were Greek

Did you ever watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? In this movie, there are multiple scenes in which a Greek father explains how every English word derives from a Greek word. Although these scenes add to the level of comedy of the movie, there is actually some truth in it as well. Here is an overview of English words secretly derived from the Greek language.

  • Cemetery
    The word cemetery seems far from Greek. However, it originates from the Greek word koimitirion, which you pronounce as kee-mee-tee-rion. This Greek word describes the place you sleep, and as death is seen as an endless sleep, the cemetery is this place.
  • Dynasty
    The word dynasty comes from the Greek word dinami which means strength or power.
  • Enthusiasm
    In ancient Greece, there was a word made up of en, (in), heós (god), and usía (essence). Enthousiasmós meant something like possed by a god or inspired by the divine. This word then went through Latin and French until it entered the English language with the meaning of excitement.
  • Jealous
    The word jealous comes from the Greek word zêlos.
  • Dinosaur
    Dinosaur comes from a combination of two Greek words. The first is dinos, meaning terrible or fearful. Saûros means lizard. Put these two together and you have the fearful creatures that used to wander our world.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

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Stereotypes & Culture. My Big Fat Greek Family

Twenty years ago, in 2002, the Greek-Canadian actress, Nia Vardalos, became famous with her movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. As both actress and writer, Vardalos won many awards for this romantic comedy, which she based on her own experience of being Greek. Although the movie is full of extravagant Greek stereotypes as an expression of the Greek culture, being in a similar situation myself, I can only say Vardalos was able to capture the actual experience of being with a Greek. Keep reading to find out why!

The movie

My Big Fat Greek Wedding tells the story of (Fo)Toula Portokalos, which translates into the orange light of God. Toula is a thirty-year-old member of a large Greek family living in the U.S. Against her family’s will, she leaves her father’s restaurant and starts college. With her independence comes self-esteem and a new look. Then, she meets Ian, the American man she starts dating. Secretly at first, but as their relationship progresses, the Greek family gets increasingly involved.

This is where the fun part of the movie starts. The differences between the American and Greek families create hilarious scenes. As the Greeks are with too many, too loud, and stuck in their own beliefs and traditions. Real Greeks.

Watch it in Greece

Until I went to Greece to meet my boyfriend’s family, I had never watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. However, when I was there and expressed my family-based cultural shock to friends and cousins, they all told me the same thing. Watch that movie!

During my third week in Greece, I decided it was time to do so. Surrounded by my boyfriend’s relatives, I watched the movie. And the only thing I could say was: Shit! I live in this movie!

Stereotypical Greeks

The movie is full of well-chosen Greek stereotypes that express the culture. The women are over-emotional, the men overly-stubborn, and the whole family, in general, over-involved. Dinners are with too many. There is always too much food. And the family cheers so many times you are happy when you only get tipsy at the end of a night.

Observing all these stereotypical Greek habits, it is clear that Vardalos is, herself, raised by a Real Greek family. Or at least a family very similar to the Greek ones I know. The funny thing about the movie is that for non-Greeks, it seems just a comedy with exaggerated stereotypes. The Real Greeks, however, know that there is a truth in this exaggeration.

I believe the best thing about the movie is how Vardalos captures what a Greek family feels like for a non-Greek. With just the right amount of exaggeration, she is able to reveal the experience of a cultural shock.

My cultural shock. The more I started getting used to my boyfriend’s family, the less the movie resembled my idea of a Greek family. However, when I met them for the first time, it showed exactly how I felt.

My first week in Greece

During my first week with the Greek family, I encountered almost every aspect of the movie. We had family dinners with over 20 family members who all shared a similar name and called the same woman yiayia, grandmother. The family covered all the stereotypes of the Greek culture. And their volume: Loud and Louder. Just like in the movie.

Food was the most important thing. Everyone wanted me to eat continuously, even when I was not hungry. Not eating was me being shy and could not have had anything to do with the three full plates I already finished. 

The women of the family were the first ones to accept me. Part of this meant me being hugged, kissed, held, and stroked. But on the other hand, being a part of them meant that I was supposed to listen to them complaining. That is what Greek women do when they are together. Complain about everything they are tired of, but continue either way because it makes them happy. 

Then there were the men of the family. They all worked in the family business, but their most important job was to educate me about the history of the Greeks. How happy I should be to be with a Real Greek, a member of the greatest civilization in this world. And they all wanted to know if I was a good girl, the most important question to ask a person.

Appreciate the differences

My Big Fat Greek Wedding starts as being quite negative about the Greek way of life. Toula is tired of her over-involved and controlling Greek parents. She wants to be less Greek and more normal. She starts with summing up all the stereotypes of the Greek culture. However, as the movie, and her relationship, progresses, she gets more respect for the Greek way. 

A similar change is visible with her parents. First, they are against Toula’s relationship with Ian. He is a xeno, a foreigner, and should not be allowed to date their Greek daughter. But as he is willing to change to fit into their family, they learn to accept him.

For me, this change feels real. At first, I felt overwhelmed every time I was with my boyfriend’s family. But the more I got to know them, the more I understood them and started to see the beauty in their way of life. My initial cultural shock evolved into an appreciation of Greek culture. And today, I even miss the Greeks when I spend too much time in my own country.

Give it time

Being with someone from a different culture can be difficult at first. Maybe you manage to find a life beyond your own culture together. But as soon as family gets involved, cultural differences become painfully clear. Often you will be far away from home, your family, and your daily life when you meet them. Your partner’s family will not put a filter on their culture, and you will be with them 24/7. Of course, this can be extremely confronting.

But don’t let this first encounter scare you. The cultural shock can be hard at first, but it will pass. Remember that your partner was raised in this family but still turned out to be the man or woman you have fallen in love with. It might be that a part of this strange culture is what made you love your partner in the first place. But it takes time to reach this level of understanding.

We’re all just people

In the end, we’re all just people. We might have been raised with different beliefs about family, work, and love. But these ways do not have to be limited to one country or culture. 

As a Dutch, I learned to be private and organized. However, I also have ADHD, which goes completely against those two things. The Greek culture taught me that I do not have to try to fit into my own culture if that is not who I am. I can be myself, and as a person, I do fit in somewhere. 

Every culture might have a shocking stereotype like the Greek culture in the movie. But there is a truth in this stereotype for everyone. Maybe you are not Greek but very stubborn, part of a huge family, eating too much, or cheering too often. There is a part of the Greeks in all of us. And every Greek has a part that can belong in any other culture. We are all just people. Culture is not more than what surrounded us when we grew up. And as adults, we can choose our own culture.

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The 12 most common Greek names and their meaning

The traditions regarding the naming of newborns in Greece are still in practice today. Sons get the name of their grandfathers and daughters are named after their grandmothers. As a result, not only cousins share the same name, but many unrelated Greeks do as well. Here is an overview of the twelve most common Greek names, their meaning, and names days.

Giorgos or Giorgia

Giorgos, or George in English, is the most common Greek name, with 10 percent of Greek men carrying this name. The name is a combination of Gi, the earth, and Ergo, work. Giorgos simply means farmer. The fact that many Georges work behind a desk today, shows the importance of the Greek traditions. Giorgos is celebrated on the 23th of April.

Yiannis or Yianna

Yiannis means gracious, or more specifically, God is gracious. His English counterpart is John and derives from Saint John. In the northwest of the Greek mainland, there is a city devoted to this saint, Ioannina, or Yannena. Saint John is celebrated in Greece on the 7th of January.

Dimitris or Dimitra

Dimitris means born from mother earth and refers to the goddess Demeter, the ancient Greek goddess of the harvest. She was the protector of trees, plants, and grains. During Roman times, she evolved into Saint Dimitria, the saint of agriculture. Today the name Dimitris still means devoted to Demeter. October 26th is the day she is celebrated.

Nikolas or Nikoletta

The name Nikolas has something to do with a popular modern brand we all know, Nike. Both the name and the brand derive from the Greek word Niki, which means victory. The ending of the name, Laos mean people, so conqueror of people. Nikolas is associated with the Greek god Nike, as well as Saint Nikolas, the protector of schoolchildren and travelers. Saint Nikolas is still celebrated today. As Santa Claus in the U.S, or Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, he brings presents to children from all over the world.

In Greece, however, Saint Nikolas is not the present-giving Saint all children love. He is honored on the 6th of December, but only the Greek Nikolasses and Nikoletta’s get presents during this day.

Konstantinos or Konstantina

The name Konstantinos derives from the Latin word Constantia, which means constant, stable, or loyal. The English version is Constantine, Kostas, or Gus. The name originates from Constantine the Great. He was a Roman Emperor of Greek descendent in the 4th century, who founded Constantinople.

Konstantinos is honored on the 21st May together with Saint Eleni, the mother of the Great Constantine. The name is one of the most popular names in Greece. Many emperors, kings, and modern politicians have carried this name.

Vassilis or Vissiliki

Vassilis in Greek means king. The name comes from Agios Vasileios, a Saint who lived in the 4th century AD and is known for his generosity to the poor. Saint Vassilis is the Greek Santa Claus. For the Orthodox Greeks, Saint Nicolas is not the Saint who brings presents during Christmas. Instead, on New Years’ day, Saint Vassilis brings gifts to the Greek children.

Vassilis also has a New Years’ cake and tradition named after him, the Vassilopita. Every year, the Greeks bake this simple cake with a coin hidden inside. According to tradition, the pie is cut into equal pieces, one for each member of the family. The pieces are then handed out from oldest to youngest. Whoever gets the hidden coin, will have good luck, health, and happiness for the year to come.

Christos or Christina

Christos and Christina derive from Jesus Christ. However, in ancient Greek, Christos meant useful. The meaning later changed to righteous, virtuous and the anointed. Like Jesus Christ himself, Christos and Christina are celebrated on Christmas. Their English counterparts are Christine, Christopher, or Chris.

Maria

While the previous male names have a female counterpart, the most common Greek female names do not translate into male. Maria is the first, deriving from the Virgin Mary. Since the Orthodox church is very important in Greece, almost 10 percent of Greek women are called Maria. Her names-day is on the 15th of August, a day of celebration for the whole country. Funny is that Mary’s birthday, on the 8th of September, is also celebrated in the country, but does not count as the name day of the Greek Maria’s.

Eleni

The name Eleni means light, or sun ray. Her name derives from the famous Helen of Troy. Helen was known as the most beautiful woman in ancient Greece. This daughter of Zeus, caused the Troyan war when she left her husband to move to Troy, for love. The war, as well as Helen, have been the subject of many tv-shows and movies. Her names-day is on the 21st of May.

Katerina

Katerina derives from the Greek word Katharós, which means clean, clear or pure. Although this word can be used for both female (h thallasa einai kathari, the sea is clear) and male (o skilos einai katharos, the dog is clean) objects, the name only occurs in as female. The English counterpart is Catherine or even Katie. All Greek Katerina’s are celebrated on the 25th of November.

Sophia

Sophia in Greek means wisdom, and derives from Saint Sophia. She appears in the Bible as the female personification of wisdom. Sophia is not only a popular name in Greece. She is in the top-five of female names in the U.S. as well. However, she is celebrated only Greece on the 17th of September.

Angeliki

Angeliki comes from the Greek word Angelos. In ancient Greek, this meant messenger, but in modern Greek it translates into angle-like. Angeliki’s name is celebrated in Greece on November 8th. According to the Greek Orthodox church, this is when the assembly of the Archangels occurred. Her English counterparts are Angela, Angelina, or even Kelly.

Does your name mean something in your language? Or curious about the meaning of other Greek names? Leave a comment below! 

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Beyond crosswords : Greek gods

Ancient Greek mythology influences modern life around the world. Video games, comic books, movies, and modern brands refer to the stories that where told over 2.000 years ago. Did you know that the name cereals, for example, comes from Ceres, the god of grain? Or that the Olympic games started as a way to honor Zeus? The Greek gods are everywhere, also in our crosswords.

If you are a crosswords lover but wonder what the Greek gods you keep fitting into your puzzles actually stand for, keep reading below! To help you with you puzzle, they are ordered by the amount of letters their names have.

3 letters

  • NYX
    Nyx is the goddess of the night. Mother to sleep (Hypnos), death (Thanatos), and darkness (Erebus). She can control the movement and rotation of the planets. End the day, and start the night. Nyx might sound like an evil and dark goddess, but she is far from that. Although other gods feared her, she is seen as a motherly and warm goddess by her family.
  • PAN
    Pan’s homeland is Arcadia, in Peloponnese. He is the God of the wild, the shepherds, and rustic music. That is why he is part goat and part man. Like Peter Pan, he enjoyed playing the pan flute. Which he invented. However, the word panic also derives from this God. Who could make us, humans, flee in uncontrollable fear.

4 letters

  • GAIA
    Gaia is the personification of earth. Mother earth. Gaia and Ouranos (sky or heaven) are the beginning of all Greek gods. She is the mother of the Titans, and grandmother to the Olympian Gods. Gaia in modern Greek still means earth.
  • ZEUS
    Zeus is not only one of the Greek gods that is most used in modern crosswords. Zeus is the Greek god, the king, the father of all gods and humans. He is technically the youngest son of the Titans Rhea and Cronos. However, his siblings ended up in their father’s stomach not long after birth. Because Cronos was afraid to be defeated by one of his children. Zeus, however, escaped this faith. He was brought up by a nymph and a goat in Crete. When he was strong enough, he defeated his father, after which his siblings were born again, this time from their father’s belly. Zeus became the king of the Greek gods.
  • ARES
    Ares is one of Zeus’ children. He is the god of war, the despicable characteristics of brutal warfare and slaughter. However, Ares is also known for his numerous love affairs. His main love was war, but he also fell for the married Aphrodite. Supposedly due to an arrow of the next man on this list.
  • EROS
    Eros is the god of love and appreciation. He was much like (the Roman) Cupid and used an arrow to the heart to make people fall in love. Eros’ origin is unknown. He is either the son of Aphrodite and Aros, the child of Nyx, or simply the fourth God. His name, however, is the origin of the terms erotic and erogenous.

5 letters

  • CHAOS
    We all know the word chaos, but do we know the God as well? Chaos is the personification of absolute nothingness. She was the first God, before the creation of the earth. Chaos is a void, but also a powerful energy from which everything is created.
  • HADES
    The oldest brother of Zeus (or youngest after Zeus freed his siblings from his father’s belly) is Hades, the god of the underworld. Hades likes to live in the dark and shadowed land of death. He owns a guard dog, with not two, but three heads. This dog helped Hades with his main tasks, protecting and keeping the souls of the dead.

6 letters

  • TITANS
    A Titan is not one god but instead the name of all the first-generation gods that came after Gaia (earth) and Ouranos (heaven or sky). However, together with the Olympics they are often the answers in crosswords on Greek gods. There are a total of twelve Titans in Greek mythology, six female and six male. Two siblings, Rhea and Cronos, are the parents of the Olympian Gods.
  • APOLLO
    Apollo is the god of light, music, poetry, healing, and prophecy. He is the only god that has the same name in Greek and Roman mythology. Visiting Greece today, you can visit no less than five temples dedicated to Apollo, all around the country.
  • HERMES
    A half-brother of Apollo is Hermes. The god of wealth, trade, thieves, and travelers. Hermes is often described as the messenger of the gods and the guide of the souls of the newly deceased. Hermes’ head was commonly used in a strange sculpture, a herm. A head on a tall square pillar, with male genitals at a height that fits human proportions. 

7 letters

  • DEMETER
    The first sister of Zeus in this list is Demeter. The goddess of agriculture and protector of trees, plants, and grains. She is one of the few Olympian gods that survived Roman times. She evolved into Saint Dimitria, the saint of agriculture. Today the name Demetrius still means devoted to Demeter. 
  • ARTEMIS
    Artemis is the goddess of hunting, wild animals, wilderness, and the twin sister of Apollo. Her father, Zeus, gave her eternal virginity. This allowed her to live without the disturbance of love, men, and marriage. Instead, she had sixty nymphs for friends, who all needed to remain virgins as well. Although Artemis did not have any children of her own, she protected women during pregnancy and childbirth.

8 letters

  • OLYMPIAN
    The twelve Titans, where followed by the next generation of Greek gods, the Olympians. Again this category contains 12 gods, of which the most powerful are Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Their home was Mount Olympus.
  • POSEIDON
    Poseidon is the god of the sea, horses, and earthquakes. His nickname is the earth-shaker and his Roman alter-ego is Neptune. Poseidon created the island of Paxoi with his trident. Although Poseidon himself is human, his offspring is interesting. From a half-fish to a flying horse.
  • DIONYSUS
    Dionysus is a demi-god, someone half-human (his princess mother), and part god (his father is Zeus). Dionysus is the god of wine, viticulture ritual madness, and religious ecstasy. However, it is believed that this was his second self. In mythology, Dionysus is born twice, the first time he was a bearded old man. The second time as a youthful boy who loves to get drunk. 

9 letters

  • APHRODITE
    Aphrodite is the beautiful goddess of sexual love and beauty. She had many lovers and many children. The name Aphrodite means risen from the foam. Why? According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite was created from the foam that arose from the genitals of Uranus after he was thrown into the sea.

10 letters

  • HEPHAESTUS
    Where Aphrodite was created by her father’s genitals, Hephaestus has only a mother, Hera. This made him so ugly and deformed that he was banned from mount Olympus. Hephaestus grew up with mortals on the island of Lemnos. He became the god of fire and blacksmiths after he trapped his mother on a self-built golden throne for revanche.

Want to know more about Greek mythology

The English comedian Stephan Fry wrote a book about ancient Greek mythology. Mythos is a hilarious, understandable, and easy to read retelling of a selection of Greek myths.

I can recommend this book to anyone. Whether you’re interested in mythology or just want to enjoy a good story. And if you decide to buy this book through the link on the left, you support me to keep writing!

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

How to cook like a Greek yiayia, grandmother?

I finally attended cooking classes with yiayia, my boyfriend’s grandmother. Her generation of Greek women cooks the most delicious meals. Tasty and seasonal, with local products gathered from friends and family who live close by. And one of the goals I had set for this year was to learn how to cook like her. 

Entering yiayia’s kitchen is not easy

My yiayia is from a time in which women did not have a paid job. Instead, her work has always been to care for the family and the household. Cooking, cleaning, and being there for her children. That is what she has done all her life. Now, she is 80 years old and did not retire yet, nor will she in the coming years. As long as she is able to, she will keep her job as the perfect mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. And the way to express her love to her family is by cooking. 

Yiayia’s food is the tastiest I have ever eaten. There is no mousaka, piroski, or kotopita like hers. I want to learn how to cook like her, but it is not easy to make a Greek grandmother allow you, her guest, into the kitchen. Greek women of this generation want to make the family happy with their food. They will cook all day, get tired, and complain, but they will never allow you to help them. 

In the past year, I have been continuously asking yiayia to let me help her in the kitchen or at least allow me to be there when she cooks. Until now, I did not get further than receiving recipes from her. However, a Greek grandmother’s instructions do not include all the information you need to cook. Yiayia would tell me to use a bit of salt and add a lot of flour, but with this information, I never recreated the taste of her dishes. I had to see it, and luckily the previous days, I was finally allowed to enter yiayia’s kitchen. 

Cooking starts early

We were going to make kotopita, a pie stuffed with a chicken from the village, inside a crispy homemade filo dough. Yiayia’s most tasty recipe and I immediately understood why. It takes yiayia two days to cook this dish! On the first morning, she makes the filo, which she then puts in the freezer till the evening. When the filo is ready to be moved into the fridge, it is time to prepare the chicken. And on day two, everything is combined into the most delicious pita or pie.

To cook with yiayia, I had to get up early in the morning. Greece is hot in the summer, and Greek life is adjusted to the temperatures. Early in the morning, it is time for work, followed by the time to swim. In the afternoon, the family eats lunch together and goes for a nap after that. And in the evening, there is again time for swimming, chores, and socializing. Yiayia knows this schedule well, and cooking in the morning can start as early as six o’clock, so, my alarm woke me up at 5.30.

When I entered yiayia’s kitchen at 6, she told me we had to hurry because there was a lot to do. Well, she had to hurry, because, for me, she put a chair in the kitchen to observe her cooking. That was not my plan! Refusing to sit, she soon understood that an extra pair of hands might come in handy when making filo dough. And I finally started learning how to cook like a Greek grandmother.

When yiayia says ligo, a little, she means a lot

The first thing I learned from yiayia is that when she says to put a little of something, she usually means you have to put a lot. Ligo alati, salt, is about a handful. Ligo olive oil in Greece apparently means to add about 7 or 8 spoons. However, when she says add ligo xidi, vinegar, a little is actually what she means.

I understood immediately why my attempts of recreating yiayia’s food with only her recipe did not turn out great. Her ligo can mean anything, from a little bit, till a lot for me. She did not learn to cook from a recipe, but instead looked at her mother when she was young. Who probably also told her to put a little of everything.

Everything has a unique technique

Using a rolling pin, cutting vegetables, or knitting dough, everything in yiayia’s kitchen has a particular way of doing it. Some recipes require medium-sized pieces of onions, and others require slightly smaller ones. There is dough that you open with your fingers open, and dough that you open with your fingers closed. There is a special technique for everything and only yiayia knows when to use which.

Yiayia’s food always has a story

The ingredients of a good home-cooked Greek meal always have a story. Especially in summer, no meal is cooked using only things from the supermarket. Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers always come from either the family or a friend. But even meat is often something from close by. 

Yiayia knows many farmers. If she wants a goat, for example, she will call a friend, and the next day a man will ring the doorbell with a package, containing her goat. For chicken and lamb, yiayia calls a different person, but always the meat comes from close and is fresh. Something we should all try to do.

Cooking is combined with other jobs

As I mentioned earlier, cooking Greek food like a grandmother, is not done within an hour. When working with dough, you need time for the yeast to work, and with mousaka, you slowly bake layer after layer in the oven. 

Cooking is a continuous alternation between hard work and waiting, but Greek grandmothers are not familiar with the definition of waiting for something. When yiayia and I finished knitting the dough for the filo, she said it was time to go to the market, do laundry, and clean the house. I found out this translates into waiting half an hour to three hours to open the filo.

Cooking means hard work

For yiayia, a good recipe requires effort, especially when working with homemade dough. When a Greek (grand)mother cooks, she gets tired, sweats, and trains her muscles. And that is what it should be according to her. Yiayia even told me to be careful when helping her, afraid it would be too hard for me. “Tell me if you’re tired, I will take over!”

It is impressive to see an 80-year-old woman still work hard, knitting a big piece of dough for 20 minutes. When I tried, my muscles pained quickly, but for yiayia, it is a normal daily job. She showed me how strong a Greek housewife is, and how hard her work at home used to be. 

I admire her even more after spending time in her kitchen.

Yiayia’s recipes (more coming soon!)

Cooking with Yiayia : Traditional Greek Phyllo

Phyllo, or filo, is a dough, used in the Greek kitchen to create the most delicious sweet and savory pitas, the Greek pies. There is nothing more tasty than a…

Cooking with Yiayia : Kotopita

Greek pitas, or pies, come in various shapes and tastes. From a quick snack that fits in your hands, to an oven dish that feeds the whole family. As a…

Cooking with Yiayia : Greek Potato Piroshki

I was in quarantine in Greece, during the COVID pandemic, at an isolated beach house last year. Yiayia had left enough food in front of the door to survive for…

Greeting in Greek, kaliméra, kalispéra and kaliníchta

Are you traveling through Greece and wondering how to greet the locals in this beautiful country? Or maybe you already learned about Kaliméra before, but notice that the Greeks reply to you saying something different? Unfortunately, there are many ways of greeting in Greek. Here is an overview of the most important ones. Combined with how to pronounce them, as well as how to use them properly.

Kaliméra, kalispéra and kaliníchta. 

Meaning

In Greek, kali means good. Opposite to kako, which means bad. You pronounce kali with an “a” like in the one in already. The “i” is more like the ee in see. Ka – lee.

Méra, spéra, and níchta are the different parts of the day. Respectively, morning, evening, and night. In Greek, there is no distinguishment between morning and afternoon when it comes to greetings. Basically, you use méra when it is light outside, and in the dark, you use spéra. 

Good to know is that greeting someone in Greek with kaliníchta is not done. While this word is super close to the other two, it is only solely used to end the night. Good night, and sleep well.

Pronunciation.

In kaliméra and kalispéra, the “e” is like the ones in here or ever. The tone on top means these letters are emphasized when pronouncing the whole world. In Greek, however, this does not mean the e-sound becomes different. You kind of have to say the part of the word that has the tone more slowly than the rest of the letter. Saying it slightly louder might also work.

The “a” in both spéra and méra, is again like the one in kali. Ka-lee-ME-ra, and Ka-lee-SPE-ra. In which the “me” is not like the English me, but much shorter.

Kaliníchta is slightly more difficult to pronounce. Nicht is like night, with an “i” like the ee in see, and a g-sound that is not known in the English language. The sound is like Bach, the father of music. Whose name is continuously mispronounced as well. Ka-lee-NEE-chta.

The easy way of greeting is Yia

Meaning

Don’t want to make things complicated during your holiday but still want to try out some Greek greeting words? Use Yia sas!

Yia sas means hello, and is used for either greeting many people, or greeting a single person politely. There is no distinguishment between the times of the day, and to make it even more friendly for foreigners, yia sas also be used when you leave a store or tavern. Hello, goodbye, and thank you all combined in one word!

The only situation in which yia sas can not be used as a way to greet a Greek is when you say hi to a single person you know. In this case, sas is either replaced with sou or completely left out. However, as a tourist who visits Greece for a holiday, this situation is rare. 

Pronunciation.

Yia sas is not only easy to use, but it is also easy to pronounce. Yia is like “jah” in jahoo. And have you watched Outlander? The first part of Sassenach perfectly matches the pronunciation of sas. Jah-sas. Remember this one!

Curious about more easy Greek words to use during your stay in Greece? Check out our 10 Greek words you should know when traveling in Greece. Or leave a comment below!

Frequently asked questions

How do you say hello in Greek?

Yia sas, or Jah-sas is used to greet multiple people in Greek or politely greeting a single one. For a friend or other person you know well, yia sou is used. Yia sas can also be used to say goodbye or thank you, although it is better to use antio or eufharisto.

What is the difference between kaliméra and kalispéra?

Méra means day, and spéra means evening. Kaliméra is used to greet the Greeks during the day, between sunrise and sunset. Kalispéra is a way to greet each other in de dark.

When do you use kaliníchta?

Unlike good morning and good evening, kaliníchta, good night, is not used as a way to great people. Kaliníchta is used to end the night, like sleep well.

Is it easy to learn Greek?

The Greek language is not easy to learn for foreigners. In fact, Greek is one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers. The first struggle is the Greek alphabet, but also the grammar makes it very difficult to speak correctly. Luckily, the Greeks are friendly enough to award you for trying. Even the easiest Greek words are appreciated by the locals, making learning the language really rewarding.

How do you say I don’t speak Greek?

Then meelao Ellinika. Greece in Greek is Ellada, or Hellas, and has had this name since ancient times. Greece is the name that the Romans gave to Hellada. Why? This is something that remains unknown today.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

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