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The 70 Most Common Greek Words in English Language

Updated on May 12, 2017

Shall We?

It’s very fascinating how old some words are and they still are in use. For example the word Ipa (είπα) (means I said) is alive for almost 3000 years. I think this is the real treasure of Greece. Parthenon is an incredible monument. But still, it is a monument. The word Ipa is older than Parthenon and it didn’t have stop being in use! I am getting excited when I think that I use something which was used by Ancient people. If you clean your mind and think about it carefully, you will understand.

What is more magic than that is some of the Ancient Greek’s words are in use in foreign languages. This journey of the words really amazes me.

Let’s take a word-trip… (Some of them are in ordinary usage)

English
Modern Greek
Athlete
Athlitis
Academy
Acadimia
Analysis
Analysi
Air
Aeras
Anatomy
Anatomia
Angel
Angelos
Aroma
Aroma
Atmosphere
Atmosphera
Base
Vasi
Biology
Viologia
Chaos
Chaos
Character
Charactiras
Comedy
Comodia
Cosmos
Cosmos
Cube
Cyvos
Cycle
Cyclos
Decade
Decaetia
Democracy
Democratia
Dialogue
Dialogos
Diet
Dieta
Diploma
Diploma
Drama
Drama
Dynasty
Dynastia
Ecology
Ecologia
Economy
Economia
Ecstasy
Ecstasy
Electric
Electricos
Energy
Energia
Enthusiasm
Enthusiasmos
Episode
Episodio
Erotic
Eroticos
Fantasy
Fantasia
Galaxy
Galaxia
Geography
Geographia
Geometry
Geometria
Guitar
Kithara
Harmony
Armonia
Hero
Eroas
History
Istoria
Hour
Ora
Idea
Idea
Irony
Ironia
Logic
Logiki
Magic
Magico
Mania
Mania
Mathematics
Mathematica
Melody
Melodia
Method
Methodos
Museum
Musio
Music
Musici
Mystery
Mystirio
Myth
Mythos
Ocean
Oceanos
Oxygen
Oxygono
Paradise
Paradisos
Patriot
Patriotis
Period
Periodos
Philosophy
Philosophia
Physic
Physici
Planet
Planitis
Program
Programma
Psychology
Psychologia
Rhythm
Rhythmos
School
Scholio
Strategy
Stratigiki
System
Systima
Talent
Talento
Theatre
Theatro
Theme
Thema
Theory
Theoria

Notes

The above list contains some of them most common Greek words that are in use in English language. The given Greek words are written with latinisation form. Few of them are pronounced the same but more of them not.

Except these words you can find some prefixes that are come from Greek language. Some of them are: “anti-“, “arch” and “bibli-”. Also you can find some suffixes. Some of them are: “-ology” and “-graphy”.

Explanation

The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in five main ways:

  • vernacular borrowings
  • learned borrowings from classical Greek
  • a few borrowings via Arabic scientific and philosophical writing
  • coinages in post-classical Latin or modern languages using classical Greek root
  • direct borrowings from Modern Greek

They All Speak Greek

English language isn’t the only one though. There are lots of languages that use some Greeks words. The most common Greek words that are used in many languages are about medicine. This is totally understood. The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, was an ancient Greek after all.

Greek words can be found in words about art. Even the word “art” have roots in ancient Greek language. “Ceramic”, “Architecture” and "Cinema" are some of them.

Of course, all those words might not exist in Asian or African languages. Ancient Greece affected the Western Civilization...

Plato and Aristotle
Plato and Aristotle

Creation...

The creation of some ancient Greek words is also interesting. For example “democracy” derives from “demos” and “cratos”. That means in free translation “people’s power”. So the way of ancient Greeks’ thoughts is understandable.

But how did they manage to create words which explain the unexplainable? For example, the words “psyche” or “logic”? The interesting thing about “psyche” is that derives from the verbs “physo” and “pneo” which mean “to blow” and “to breath”… Literally “psyche” means “cold breathing” which means the ultimate sign of a living being. So this is what they thought of this.

Even more interesting is why they wanted to name something that they had never seen, touched or heard of. What could they have been thinking? It makes me wonder…

Greek language has come from...

The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean Greek, the subsequent ancient Greek dialects (Attic, Ionic, Aeolic, Doric, Ancient Macedonian and Arcadocypriot) and Koine, Byzantine and Modern Greek.

On the other hand, Old English is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages

Using the Greek words

One more interesting thing: the largest Greek contribution to English vocabulary is the huge number of scientific, medical, and technical neologisms that have been coined by compounding Greek roots and affixes to produce novel words which never existed in the Greek language.

Some of them are photography, zoology and utopia.


Our Treasure

I think that languages are our treasure. There are words that are in use till this day. It's the only thing that really connects us with our ancestors. Pyramids, Parthenon, Colosseum or Great Wall of China are significant monuments of the world. But now we admire them because of their beauty and we study them because of their great importance. But still we don’t really use them.

The only thing we still use is our languages. So keep your ears open to understand what their ancestors were trying to say…

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