Etymology, or an Ode to the Greek Language

deriving from the Greek for 'true' (eteos/etymos) and 'word' (logos)

Curious about the origin of a word or term? Send it to us and we shall go forth and investigate.

For a Greek speaker, it's so wonderfully easy to answer geometry/phobia trivia at lunch that it's almost cheating.

An example: what's a polygon (poly - many; gonia - angle) with 12 sides? When a desperate English-speaking-only mind draws the blank of shame and defeat, a nimble Greek mind adds dodeka (twelve) to gon and gets an easy two points. In fact, a speaker of Greek can with great ease name pretty much every single polygon (pente, exi, efta, ochto, ennea, deka, and so on) with very little knowledge of geometry. Beware of Greeks playing trivia, even if you are an editor.

Some more examples:

Catharsis? Greek to clean: katharizo.

Dendrophobia? Greek for tree: dentro.

Spider? Arachni.

Zoo? Animal.

Mega: big.

Omega: the big o (?, ?) of the Greek alphabet.

Micro: small.

Omicron: the small o (?, ?) of the Greek alphabet (yes, there are two o's, but no b, c or j).

Choreography: horeuo means to dance.

The Bible: vivlio means book.

Kimono? Greek for winter: heimonas. (Okay, no. That one is actually an old joke.)

Photograph? Fos (light), and grafo (to write).

Funny story about photograph: the word itself was invented in Britain in 1839 and chosen over other options including heliograph (ilios - sun). Sun-picture and sunprint, would you believe, were the words initially preferred by some Anglophones (also, obviously, derived from Greek).

Speaking of the sun, another cool thing about Greek: whereas most languages (and all European ones as far as I'm aware) borrow their planets' names from the gods of Rome, Greece to this day happily sticks with her own gods. In order from closest to the ilios, we have Hermes (Mercury), Afroditi (Venus), Ares (Mars), Zeus (Jupiter), Kronos (the Titan god of time and, kronologically, the second leader of the gods; a watch manufacturer; Saturn), Ouranos (also meaning sky/heaven in modern Greek, the original father of the gods, who met an unfortunate end when Kronos was given a sickle by Mother Earth ... never mind); and, last but not least, Poseidonas (Neptune). I am tempted to mention Plouton (the god of the underworld, originally named Hades), but apparently it's no longer a proper planet. Shame.

On the topic of time and space, here's an interesting geographical fact: anatoli in Greek means east, so Anatolia is the land to the east, of Greece. Speaking of Anatolia, Istanbul is still referred to as Konstantinoupoli by the Greeks, or just Poli, meaning city. Let's go further. The Arctic? Arktos: bear. Philadelphia? Brotherly love, from filos (friend) and aderfos (brother). Philadelphia Cream Cheese? The cream cheese of brotherly love.

Have you noticed I've refrained from making 'it's all Greek to me' jokes? Kudos to me, you say? It's ancient Greek for glory.

Maja Vatri?