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!

8 Confusing Greek words

Every one of us speaks a little Greek. In English, it is even impossible to spend one day without using at least one word of Greek origin. Architect, astronaut, acrobat.…

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…

10 useful Greek words you should know

Greeks love it when a foreigner tries to speak some Greek words. This is what get’s you invited into the real Greek culture. And although the Greek language is far…

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!

8 Confusing Greek words

Every one of us speaks a little Greek. In English, it is even impossible to spend one day without using at least one word of Greek origin. Architect, astronaut, acrobat. Base, bible, biology. Centre, chaos, comedy. There are over 150.000 English words that originate from the Ancient Greek language. But don’t trust too much on your English when you hear some real Greeks talking. Here is a list of 8 confusing Greek words that sound like English, but actually mean something completely different.

  1. Nai

    Ναι
    Unlike no in English, nee in Dutch, nein in German, nièt in Russian and non in French. The word that is pronounced like nè means yes in Greek! This is extremely confusing, especially when you’re new to Greece. The real Greek no is ochi.

  2. Erotisie

    Ερώτηση
    When someone tells you: I have an erotisie for you. He does not mean something erotic, not does he mean he has feelings for you. The word erotisie simply means that this person wants to ask you a question. To make things confusing, erotic in Greek is erotikos, while love translates into eros or erotas. Even in Greek every question sounds erotic.

  3. Teras

    Τέρας
    Overhearing a Greek group of friends talking about a Teras you might think their topic of conversation in the best terraces in the city or something. But this word as well is not what it sounds like. In Greek Teras means monster, a freak or something really big, like the terabyte.

  4. Klapse

    Κλαψε
    This one got me confused when a friend of mine said to her baby: min klapse. Don’t clap is what I thought I heard, strange to say to a child right? Well, I was wrong. Klapse in greek means cry. Saying don’t cry makes so much more sense.

  5. Tipos

    Τύπος
    Oreos tipos, a beautiful mistake in writing? And even if they are not talking about typeo’s, shouldn’t they at least say what kind of type they find so beautiful? In Greek tipos does mean type but there is more. A tipos used in this way refers to a man while the female version tipissa means a woman. Tipos is used as a kind of slang, meaning guy or gal for the female version.

  6. Notio

    Νότιο
    When asking for directions in Greek there are four orientations to expect. Dysi, Anatoli, Vorros and Notos. Dysi means West, Anatoli is East, but what about the other two? North and South? Turns out that the Greeks see the world from the opposite side. Although Notos sounds like our North, they actually mean South. Leaving Vorros to translate into North.

  7. Kabana

    Καμπάνα
    Kabana literally is the same as cabana or cabin. Hearing this word you would assume some kind of structure. But not in Greek, kabana’s are much smaller in this language. The word means a bell or a gong.

  8. Echo

    Έχω
    In the Greek language, there are many words that sound the same but mean something different. In this case, there are ego, echo and exo. Not of them however, have anything to do with the echo we know. Instead, ego means I, echo is I have and exo is outside.

Do you know more confusing Greek words that do not mean what they sound like in English? Please leave them in the comments below

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!

Greek time

Whoever believes that time in Greece is EET, Eastern European Time, is wrong. Although the Greek clock may tick according to EET, real Greek time is a totally different concept.…

Going for coffee in Greece

I guess I was dating my Greek boyfriend for about a week or two when it was ten o’clock on a Saturday night and he asked me if I wanted…

S’agapo. Greek family love

Greeks are very loving people. And especially with their family and friends Greeks are not afraid to express their love for each other. Moms refer to their children with agapie mou, my love. And whenever friends leave after just hanging out, they will say bye to each other with filakia. Little kisses. I love you in Greece is not just limited to the most intimate relationships. Especially children, parents and yiayia’s express their love with everyone who might say it back. So don’t be surprised when a Greek tells you these three words. Well, two in Greek.

The (lack of) love I know

When I started learning Greek, I was very happy to learn ways to express my love for my boyfriend to him in his own language. Often I would tell him to kiss me or how much I adored him in Greek. For me it felt like the most special thing between us. Coming from a Dutch family I learned that love is only for the ones most close to you. And for my parents, that was not me, meaning that s’ayago might have been the first verbal expression of my love.

But then I went to Greece. And to be honest, discovering the Greek love was quite overwhelming.

The Greek warmth

It started with observing how much the whole family loved my boyfriend. And I mean everyone from the family! Parents, sister and yiayia where waiting to tell him how much they loved him. Uncles, aunts and cousins followed. And then came the two-and-something year old nephew, that could not even have remembered seeing my boyfriend ever before in his life. Over twenty people, all saying the words that had seemed so special to me.

But although all the love did not really make sense to me, I did feel like I was entering a warm family, or culture even. I imagined my own future kids growing up around so many people to care for them. It should feel extremely safe to have so many relatives around. If only I had a family like my boyfriend’s…

Well, I did get a family like his, very quickly.

I guess it was within the first few days that yiayia expressed her love for me, s’agapo koritsi mou. I love you my girl. Soon after this mother and father followed, then nona. Within the first week the whole family expressed their love for me. Sweet, but also overwhelming. I mean, I literally just met them!

Is it love?

In the beginning I was really struggling with their openness and feelings towards me. The practical Dutch in me kept saying that loving someone so soon is simply impossible. Love takes time right? On the other hand, I knew that I did felt something for this family. They were so kind and warm. Even if it wasn’t the love I knew, I was definitely very fond of these loving people I now lived so close with.

After my mental fight, I started being more open about love. The Greek love. I figured that s’agapo might have a different meaning than what it translates into. For me today, greek love is a way to tell my Greek family that I appreciate them. That I accept them as a part of my life, that I accept them as people I can open up to and value for who they are. I believe this is the real Greek translation for s’agapo.

Did this article trigger your curiosity about the Greek culture? Leave your email below and discover the Real Greeks!

Why I fell in love with Greece

I guess most of you know Greece as an ideal holiday destination. The combination of beautiful and unique beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, tasty fresh food, countless ancient ruins, and idyllic…

The tradition of Names Day in Greece

Every culture has its own unique customs and traditions, and the Greeks are no exception. One of the most celebrated traditions in Greece is the celebration of Names Day. They…

Driving in Greece. The basics

No western driving school can prepare you for driving in the chaos that is the Greek traffic. However, I can truly recommend exploring this amazing country by car, since other…

Everyone is a child in Greece

The meaning of the word child in Greek is unlike its translation into any other language. While for most of us, a child is a young human being. Either below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority. In Greece, everyone can be called a child.

Let’s do a quiz!

Question nr. 1

Imagine a Greek family hanging out at the house. There are three generations, your parents, you and your boyfriend, your sister with her husband and their children. When lunch is ready, your mother says: éla, paidia! Come, children!
Who is she calling?

You!

Question nr. 2

Now your sister is calling with her friends about going out that evening after lunch. At one point she says: the paidia are at my parents!
What does she mean?

I would translate this into let’s go out! My parents are taking care of the kids tonight so I finally have some free time to do what I want. But not in Greece. Again you are the child and it means that she will stay in with the family.

Question nr. 3

To make things even more complicated. Now your sister goes home to get her children and while she is away your mother says to you: the paidia are coming tonight!

Now your mother is not talking about you, nor is she talking about the children of your sister. Instead, the sister that just called you a child is now being referred to as the child as is her husband. Everyone is a child in Greece.

Question nr. 4

Let’s move to a different setting. You are thirty years old and just reached your hotel somewhere in Greece. When you drive up to the parking you pass a swimming pool and playground, both packed with children. Suddenly a woman pops up in front and says: edw, paidia! Here, children!
What does she mean?

Off course she is not the mother of some of the playing kids you just passed, calling them inside for whatever. No. It’s Greece! This woman in the owner of the hotel, telling you to follow her to the parking lot.

Question nr. 5

Last one! You’re with a group of friends, having dinner at a tavern. Dessert is finished, the bill is paid and you want to leave to go to a bar for a drink.
What do you say?

Probably you get the idea now, pame paidia! Let’s go children! Is the correct answer.

No one ever grows up. Everyone is a child in Greece.

Going for coffee in Greece

I guess I was dating my Greek boyfriend for about a week or two when it was ten o’clock on a Saturday night and he asked me if I wanted to meet him for coffee. I was shocked. Coffee on a Saturday night? I wanted to go out for beers, wine, cocktails, maybe a coke but not coffee, did I meet the most boring Greek alive?

I replied telling him that I had some nice beers at my place and he was welcome to join me for one, or coffee if he really wanted that. Strangely, he came over and we drank my beers together, he did not mention coffee at any point that night. Strange. And from then on, every week he would invite me to have coffee with him.

Greeks go for coffee all the time

I started thinking that coffee was maybe code for a date. Maybe he did not want to call it that and instead just wanted to call it the most boring thing we could do together. But then I met his friends. My boyfriend was also going for a coffee with them, without drinking any coffee. He never drank coffee. And later his friends would tell me to come for a coffee and usually it had nothing to do with coffee, nor was it a romantic date. I slowly started to understand that going for coffee in Greece just means meeting each other.

The funny thing is that when my parents tell me they will come over for a coffee, they will literally have two cups each and leave afterward. So for me, especially in the beginning, I really did not understand that coffee in Greece just means meeting up and doing whatever. But after seeing my father-in-law in his daily life in Greece, I suddenly understood that going for coffee is a very charming part of the Greek culture.

What coffee actually means

My father-in-law lives in a small city in the north of Greece. Every afternoon he goes out for coffee. And I mean, he goes to the main square of the city and does whatever seems interesting at that point. There are days that he will meet friends and sit down for a coffee. Or beers, or lunch, or dinner, talking about the most interesting topics in the news that day.

But there are also days that he enters the new shop that opened on the main street. Just to check who the owner is. Discover what he sells, and how they can be any help to each other business-wise.

There are days that he will not even reach the square. Instead, he finds his brother in need of help in the village house. So he takes his car to drive up there and helps. Or he doesn’t even leave the building but instead spends the afternoon with the neighbor or at his office.

Greeks love their coffee. But what they love even more are their friends and families. They love meeting people, they love being outside and being aware of what is happening in the world around them. Even if Greeks do meet for coffee they love to discuss, argue and gossip with each other more than they love the coffee itself.

I have learned to love the Greek going for coffee. It taught me to meet the people I like without having to stick to a certain activity or specific drink. It’s funny how naming everything the same actually created a lot of flexibility in my life. And although my parents still get their two cups whenever we meet for coffee, I will order dinner and never limit myself again.

Did this article trigger your curiosity about the Greek culture? Leave your email below and discover the Real Greeks!