English words of Greek origin

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The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in five main ways:

The post-classical coinages are by far the most numerous of these.

Since the living Greek and English languages were not in direct contact until modern times, borrowings were necessarily indirect, coming either through Latin (through texts or various vernaculars), or from Ancient Greek texts, not the living language.

Some Greek words were borrowed into Latin and its descendants, the Romance languages. English often received these words from French. Their phonetic and orthographic form has sometimes changed considerably. For instance, place was borrowed both by Old English and by French from Latin platea, itself borrowed from Greek πλατεία (ὁδός) 'broad (street)'; the Italian piazza and Spanish plaza have the same origin, and have been borrowed into English in parallel. The word olive comes through the Romance from the Latin word olīva, which in turn comes from the Greek ἐλαίϝᾱ (elaíwā). A later Greek word, βούτυρον (boútȳron) becomes Latin butyrum and eventually English 'butter'. A large group of early borrowings, again transmitted first through Latin, then through various vernaculars, comes from Christian vocabulary: chair << καθέδρα (cf. 'cathedra'), bishop << ἐπίσκοπος (epískopos 'overseer'), priest << πρεσβύτερος (presbýteros 'elder'), and church < Old English cirice, circe < probably κυριακή (kȳriakḗ 'lord's '). In some cases, the orthography of these words was later changed to reflect the Greek – and Latin – spelling: e.g., quire was respelled as choir in the 17th century.

Many more words were borrowed by scholars writing in Medieval and Renaissance Latin. Some words were borrowed in essentially their original meaning, often transmitted through classical Latin: topic, type, physics, iambic, eta, necromancy. A few result from scribal errors: encyclopedia < ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία 'the circle of learning', not a compound in Greek; acne (skin condition) < erroneous ἀκνή < ἀκμή 'high point, acme'. Some kept their Latin form, e.g., podium < πόδιον.

Others were borrowed unchanged as technical terms, but with specific, novel meanings: telescope < τηλεσκόπος 'far-seeing' refers to an optical instrument for seeing far away rather than a person who can see far into the distance; phlogiston < φλογιστόν 'burnt thing' is a supposed fire-making potential rather than something which has been burned, or can be burned.

This page was last edited on 23 April 2018, at 18:08.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_words_of_Greek_origin under CC BY-SA license.

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