10 Words That Originated With the Ancient Greeks

Written by ross garner
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10 Words That Originated With the Ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece is the origin for much of our own society. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Much of the English language originated with the ancient Greeks, and while some words have mutated over the centuries, others remain virtually unchanged. Many of these words have also filtered into other languages, and an appreciation of this reveals the impact the Greeks have had on the world today.

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The "Academy" was a public garden in the suburbs of ancient Athens where Plato would gather his students to deliver lectures. Today the same word is used in much the same way, although it now refers to many places of learning, as opposed to the place where Plato taught.


In ancient Greece the "cosmos" was the ordered universe, full of Gods, and existed above water. As our understanding of the universe has deepened, the word "cosmos" has remained. The Gods are gone, but the order of the cosmos still remains in the way that planetary bodies interact with one another.


The Greeks used the word "Daemon" to refer to evil spirits, and the word survives today in the slightly shorter form "demon."


In Greek mythology Echo was a beautiful but overly talkative nymph who was stripped of her ability to speak and could only reply. Her name continues today as the word for reflected sound.


The word "Iota" is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet, and today means "something small" as in "I don't care an iota."


Nemesis was the Greek god of retribution, and her name survives today to mean "enemy."


One of the most famous Greek words, today it means "a long journey," but has its origin in Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey," about a long journey.


The Greeks would share stories of sirens, beautiful women who lured sailors into the sea to face certain death, and the word is still used today.


Tantalus was condemned to stand in water for all eternity but was never able to reach it, such that his thirst tortured him. Today the word lives on as "tantalise," to torment or tease.


The word "typhoon" today means a large hurricane, but has its origin in the Greek monster Typhon, who could command the winds.

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