Lesson 4: Easy vocabulary

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You will be amazed how many Greek words you already know. Greek words turn up all over English, especially in scientific and technical terms. In this lesson we’ll learn some vocabulary - some of it even potentially useful - and for each word we’ll see an associated word in English that will help you remember it. Sometimes the English word might be an obscure one; but then you’ve learnt a new English word too!

We’ll start from καλο'ς, which, you’ll rememeber, means ‘nice’.

Greek word Meaning How do I remember that?
γρα'φω I write calligraphy=nice writing
γη earth geography=writing about the earth
λο'γος reason geology=reasoning about the earth
βι'ος life biology=reasoning about life
μικρο'ς small microbe=small life
φωνη' voice microphone=small voice
πολυ' much polyphony=many voices
κακο'ς bad cacophony=bad voice
κρα'τος political state kakistocracy=rule by the worst
δη'μος people democracy=rule by the people
γρα'φω I write demography=writing about people
δυ'ο two digraph=two (symbols) written together
χρω'μα colour dichromatic=having two colours
μο'νο only monochromatic=having only (one) colour
λι'θος stone monolith=single stone
με'γας big megalith=big stone
πο'λη city megalopolis=big city
μητε'ρα mother metropolis=mother city
ο'νομα name metronymic=named after the mother
πατε'ρα father patronymic=named after the father
αρχη' authority patriarchy=authority of the father
λι'γος, ολι'γος few oligarchy=authority of the few
πουλω' I sell oligopoly=situation of few sellers
δυ'ο two duopoly=situation of two sellers

With a decent English dictionary - one that includes etymologies - you can construct your own lists like the ones above. A warning, however: usually, English words are based on ancient Greek rather than the modern language. As you might expect, things have changed a bit over 2000 years or so, and there’s a chance you’ll hit a word that’s fallen out of use. For example, you might guess, on the basis of words like ‘hippodrome’, ‘hippology’, ‘hippiatric’ ‘hippopotamus’ etc. that the Greek for ‘horse’ was ι'ππος. You’d be right, after a fashion, and be understood, but you might get laughed at if you used it in everyday speech; however, if your concern over being laughed at overrides your desire to communicate perhaps you’d best not bother learning a foreign language! (The word ι'ππος is still used for ‘horsepower’ when describing car engines and the like, but the usual word for ‘horse’ is now α'λογο, which means ‘thing without [power of] reason’ - see λο'γος above. Ancient Greeks did not have a high opinion of the intellectual capacity of their horses).

This page most recently updated Fri 5 Jan 10:25:34 GMT 2024
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