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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:


SkipDeLirio's Worst Ever Gig : A novel by Charly Taylor


Caesar’s army has returned from the long campaign in Gaul and the enemy has been all but defeated. Some of Pompey’s army, however, remains in Africa. Together with straggling Roman rebels and the local king Juba, they are gathering forces to prepare one last attack on what is now Caesar’s Rome. But there is one problem – a descendant of Scipio Africanus is fighting on the side of the Africans. And without a Scipio of their own, the superstitious Romans refuse to go to Africa to fight.


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Until now.


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