CLOSE
istock
istock

10 Ancient Greek Roots That Can Trip You Up in Modern Greek

istock
istock

Many English words today have roots from Greek, particularly in fields like medicine. Does that mean you can go from expert knowledge of classical Greek literature and scientific terminology directly to rapid fire dialogue with everyday Greeks in their native tongue? Well, you could try. But you’d probably come off as a bit of a neophyte (yes, that comes from Greek). Two thousand years is a long time. Words that originated in ancient Greek can evolve considerably, even if their English counterparts retained the original definition. Here are some often used Greek words that mean something completely different than you might have thought. 

1. ARCH- // AUTHORITY?

Or testicle. The Modern Greek word archídi (αρχίδι) sounds like it was derived from the Ancient Greek term for authority archí. In English it shows up in words for people who have authority (archduke, archbishop) or importance (archenemy, archangel). You might expect that archídi is some kind of authority figure, and indeed, archídon was a word once used for a lower ranked officer—but over time, its phonetic resemblance to the word for testicle (orchis) made it the slang term of choice for that instead.

2. EMPATH- // EMPATHY?

Or hatred. You might think that en- + pathos means "with passion." Or that it’s synonymous with “empathy.” But you'd be wrong. Starting with Medieval Greek, empátheia (εμπάθεια) began to take on a more negative connotation. It means "hatred" in Modern Greek. 

3. MOR- // MORON?

Or baby. While the word morós means moron and comes from the root mor-, for foolish, the word moró has the same root but is heard much more often ... as the word for baby.

4. TEKNO- // CHILD?

Or boy toy. Téknon is the ancient Greek word for child, and shows up in fancy words like philoteknos (“love of one’s children”) and teknonymy (naming the parent after the child, as in “hi Emma’s mommy!”) in English. It’s rarely used to mean child in modern Greek outside of formal settings, however. Today, teknó (τεκνό) is a slang term most concisely translated as “boy toy.” So, if you’re a man in Greece and you hear someone call you that (or even moró), you know what it means.

5. PALEO- // OLD?

Or bad. The prefix palio- (παλιο-) comes from paleo, which does mean old, but a version that substitutes the ‘e’ for an ‘i’ sound emerged in modern times. It evolved from meaning simply old, to tattered (palióroucha: tattered clothing) or even bad (e.g., paliocharaktíras: bad character).

6. -POÚLOS // CHILD OF?

Or penis. Greek last names are notoriously long and very often end in –poulos (πούλος). Some that immigrated to the U.S. even shortened theirs to just Poulos. Interestingly, the word is borrowed from the Latin word pullus, which is where the English word foal comes from and also means “young bird.” In the context of last names, it means “child of” whatever male name or occupation precedes it. The prolific reproductive habits of Orthodox priests is why Papadopoulos is the most common Greek last name (and also why just Poulos isn’t a last name that would originate in Greece proper). Outside of the last name context, however, the “young bird” meaning is where we get the modern Greek poulí, which is used interchangeably with poúlos as a slang term for penis.

7. XERO- // DRY?

Or know. Xeró means dry, and is found in English medical terms like xeroderma (dry skin) and the word xerography (dry printing, the inspiration for Xerox), but the word xerólas (ξερόλας) has nothing to with that. It’s an amalgamation of the words xéro + óla, which translates quite literally to “know-it-all.”

8. EULOGY // EULOGY?

Or smallpox. A small change in accent can make make evlogiá (ευλογιά) sound like evlogía, which comes from eu- and logos to mean eulogy or blessing. In fact, it's the word for smallpox, from ευφλογία (pronounced evflogía), where flogia is from phlég-, the word for heat or flame (hence phlegm), to describe the inflammation caused by the illness.

9. HEXAPOD // SIX-LEGGED?

Or an insult. Again, the accent here makes all the difference. Exapodó (εξαποδώ) is similar to exápodo, which would be the word for a six legged creature (hex + pod). However, it is a modern amalgamation of the three word phrase éxo apó 'do, which literally means “Mr. Out of Here”—a term for someone who is undesirable.

10. PHRENO- // MIND?

Or “slow it down.” Phréno is the ancient Greek word for mind. Think phrenology, frenetic, schizophrenia. However, modern Greek imported the Latin word frenum, which means bridle—and so fréno (φρένο) is used in the context of “putting on the brakes," where it is typically heard. It still lingers in modern Greek however through ancient expressions that persist, such as sóas tas frénas, which means “of sound mind.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
fun
'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
iStock
iStock

Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Words
25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
iStock
iStock

The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

seal on snow
iStock

Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

allee
iStock

Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

betta fish
iStock

Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
iStock

A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

Dressage
Adam Ihse, AFP/Getty Images

The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

man holding his nose because of terrible smell
iStock

To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

two people looking into a ravine
iStock

Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

gold chalice
iStock

GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

Shoemaker holding high heels
iStock

Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

cursing key on keyboard
iStock

If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

worker examining containers
iStock

INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

man defeating other man at video games
iStock

To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

tropical island
iStock

Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
iStock

A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

Salad in glass jars
iStock

A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

woman with megaphone mural
iStock

OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

outdoor staircase
iStock

A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

pig in pig pen
iStock

You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
iStock

Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

clay in hands
iStock

No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

balls of yarn
iStock

A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

man and woman crying in movie theater
iStock

While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

child wearing wellingtons
iStock

According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios