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Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

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11.1 Words

The following activity will enable you to explore the links between some Greek and English words.

Activity 53

For each Greek word listed in Table 25 below think of an English word that derives from it. Use the box to jot down your answers.

Table 25 Greek words with English derivations
Greek words
βιβλίον (biblion) – ‘book’
γλῶσσα (glōssa) – ‘tongue’
γράφω, (graphō) – ‘write’, ‘paint’, ‘draw’
θεραπεύω (therapeuō) – ‘care’
μῦθος (mythos) – ‘tale’, ‘story’
στρατηγός (stratēgos) – ‘a general’
ὕπνος (hypnos) – ‘sleep’
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Here are some English derivations, although the list is by no means exhaustive. You may have found different examples.

Greek words with English derivations
Greek words English derivations
βιβλίον (biblion) – ‘book’ bible, bibliography
γλῶσσα (glōssa) – ‘tongue’ glossary
γράφω, (graphō) – ‘write’, ‘paint’, ‘draw’ graph, graphic
θεραπεύω (therapeuō) – ‘care’ therapy
μῦθος (mythos) – ‘tale’, ‘story’ myth
στρατηγός (stratēgos) – ‘a general’ strategy
ὕπνος (hypnos) – ‘sleep’ hypnotic

Activity 54

A number of English words derive from two Greek words in combination. Thus ‘rhododendron’ literally means ‘rose-tree’, from ῥόδον (rhodon), ‘rose’ and δένδρον (dendron), ‘tree’.

Try to match the English words below with their (translated) Greek ancestors.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. empty-tomb

  2. horse-river

  3. eight-foot

  4. against-expectation

  5. light-bringer

  6. flesh-eater

  • a.phosphorus

  • b.cenotaph

  • c.hippopotamus

  • d.sarcophagus

  • e.paradox

  • f.octopus

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = c
  • 3 = f
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = a
  • 6 = d

Some Greek words can be used to generate new English words almost indefinitely. The suffix ‘-logy’ from λόγος (logos), ‘word’, is used to denote fields of study, such as biology (the study of bios, life), epistemology (epistēmē, ‘knowledge’), theology (theos, ‘god’) and zoology (zōon, animal).

Likewise φοβία (phobia) and φιλία (philia) denoting respectively an irrational fear of something and a love of something, as in xenophobia (xenos, ‘stranger’) and bibliophile (biblion, ‘book’).

Activity 55

The suffix ‘-cracy’, from κράτος (kratos, ‘power’) is used to describe forms or styles of government. Try to match the words below with their definitions.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. rule by the best

  2. rule by the people

  3. rule by thieves

  4. rule by the mob

  5. rule by wealth

  6. rule by god

  • a.theocracy

  • b.democracy

  • c.plutocracy

  • d.kleptocracy

  • e.ochlocracy

  • f.aristocracy

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = f
  • 2 = b
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = c
  • 6 = a


In these examples ‘-cracy’ is combined with another Greek word. You might like to find some of these words in a Greek dictionary. An example using a non-Greek word is ‘bureaucracy’, from the French bureau (‘desk’).