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Interesting Etymologies 49.1 : Greek

"Hello again Word Lovers!"

In this instalment we finally arrive at Greek, Ancient Greek. It has been a long journey to this point, we have looked at Latin, we have investigated Norse and Germanic roots and the other fundamental pillar of our language is the Greek that was spoken around 1,000 B.C.

An important point to note before we begin, whereas Charly likes to trace a word back as far as possible, as far as Proto Indo European roots, for this investigation we will simply stop at Greek, not only because life is short, but often, the PIE root is similar to the Greek root. An example :

Paranormal - Para : to mean "beside". "near" "issuing from" "against". The PIE is prea from the root per meaning forward, toward, near or against.

Some further examples of paired opposites:

Heteros & Homos:

Homos: meaning same, from the Greek homos - one and the same or belonging to two or more - homosexual, homonym, homeopathy. This can be traced to the PIE somo, from root sem meaning one, as one, together with.

Heteros: meaning other, (heterodox, heterogeneous, heterosexual) actually from the same PIE root sem.

Anodes & Cathodes

Ana - up, again (anatomy, Anabaptist)

Cata - down (catalepsy, cataclysm)

What may be apparent already is how Greek is immersed in English as part of word construction, giving us a wealth of prefixes and suffixes.

Epi - upon, giving us epicentre, epidemic, epithet, epode, ephemeral

A or an to mean no or not - aseptic, anarchy

Dia - through, across: diameter, dialogue. Remember dialogue means conversation among many people, two speakers is a duologue.

Anti - against, opposite: antidote, antiphonal, antagonist.

Autos - self: Autograph, automatic, autobiography, authentic. (Ed: Charly discusses the self prefix in Russian which is a rabbit hole I will leave to your delight without writing up here, but he does bring it back to English with a reference to self published underground political tracts, go discover this delight for yourself in the podcast, I am making an autoedit here!)

Two confusing prefixes to watch out for:

Hyper & Hypo: They can sound the same but:

Hyper - over, extremely: hypercritical, hyperbolic

Hypo - under, smaller : hypodermic, hypophosphate.

Isos - equal: isosceles, isotherm

Meta - after, over: metaphysics, metaphor

Orthos - right: Orthodox

Peri - around: Periscope

Pas, pan - all: diapason, panacea, pantheism

Tele - far off, distant: telepathy, telescope

Syn - together: synthesis, synopsis, sympathy

Pro - before: proboscis, prophet

Polys - many: polyandry, polychrome, polysyllable

Protos - first: protoplasm, prototype, proto-fascist etc.

Pseudes - false: pseudonym, pseudo-classic

Parts of the body

Cheir - hand: chiropody, chirurgical (surgical)

Pous, pados - foot: octopus (8 footed) chiropodist

Neuron - nerve: neuralgia, neurotic

Derma - skin: epidermis, taxidermist

Osteon - bone: osteopathy, periosteum

Haima - blood: h(a)ematite. h(a)emorrhage, an(a)emia

Opsis - sight : synopsis, optician

Psyche - breath, soul: psychology, psychopathy

Pneuma - breath, air: pneumatic, pneumonia

Explore the full Interesting Etymologies series archive here

As well as being the host of our Interesting Etymologies series, Charly Taylor is a stand up comedian and author. His latest offering is available now:

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