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Interesting Etymologies 49.2 : Greek

"Hello again Word Lovers!"

We plough on with Greek and start with types of people and relations between people:

Aner: (andros, anthropos) meaning man - words such as androgynous, philander and philanthropy

Gyne is the corresponding prefix for woman -for example misogyny and if we combine gyne and logia (study) we get the word gynaecology

Pais, pados: child giving us pedagogue pais + agogos "guide" (originally a slave who accompanied the child to school).

Gamos - marriage: monogamy with one, bigamy - with two polygamy -with many

Genos - family, race. This is seen in gentle, engender. We see this emerge in Spanish as well with gente meaning people. Gentile to mean of high rank or noble birth comes into Latin too. Gentleman can be seen as following this root. This is also seen in

Ethnos - race, ethnicity, ethnic

Demos - a people: democracy, epidemic, demographics

Archos - a word for chief but also old or primative - archais, archaeology, arch-enemy, archbishop


Monos - one, alone : monoplane, monotone

Dis or di - two or twice or double : dichromatic, digraph

Amphi - (Latin ambi) about, around or both: ambidextrous, amphitheatre

Treis - three: triangle, trigonometry

Tetra - Four: Tetrahedron combined with hedra for seat, base or chair

Other numbers come through Latin including:

Deca - ten: decimate, decalogue, decimal, decibel

Greek fades from our number system although a thousand in Greek is Chilioi which we still see in kilogram or kilowatt for example


Academia was in fact a place, a grove where philosophers talked. The garden of the public gym in Athens

Philos - love of - Philosopher (Philos and Sophia) love of wisdom, bibliophile, love of books, Philadelphia the city of brotherly love (Philos - love and Adelphos - Brother)

Logos - word or study to create many words in English : theology, dialogue

Nomos - laws, science : astronomy, gastronomy, economy

Grapho - write: telegraph, lithograph

Hydor - water: hydraulics, hydrophobia, hydrant

Morph - form: metamorphosis -to change form, amorphous - to not have form (a - is no or none from Greek)

Neos - new, young, neolithic, (new stone age - lithos is stone) neophyte neo fascist

Pathos - suffering: allopathy, pathology, sympathy, empathy

Phaino - show, be visible: diaphanous, phenomenon, epiphany, fantastic

Phobos - for fear. The list of phobes is enormous but contrasts with phile for love. Check out our article on philes and their unusual obsessions

Phone - sound: telephone (sound from far away) symphony (all sounding together)

Phos - light: phosphorous, photograph

Physis - nature: physiognomy, physiology

Plasma - Form, cataplasm, protoplasm

Polis - city: policy, politics, metropolitan

Bios - life: biology, autobiography and amphibious (both kinds of life as a literal adaptation from the Greek prefix and suffix)

Ge - is earth: geography, geometry

Gramma - writing: monogram, grammar

Techne - art: technology, architect

Zoon - animal: zoology, protozoa, zodiac

Tithenai/Thesis - a place, placing or arrangement: Thesis, epithet, hypothesis, anathema

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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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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