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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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7 Counting

Another type of Greek word that occurs frequently in English are numbers. You may recognise them from English words like ‘pentagon’ (‘five corners’), ‘heptathlon’ (‘seven contests’) or ‘octopus’ (‘eight feet’).

Read through the numbers from 1 to 10. Some numbers, like the definite article, have more than one form.

  • Some Greek numbers:
  • one       εἷς, μία, ἕν
  • two        δύο
  • three        τρεῖς, τρία
  • four          τέσσαρες, τέσσερα
  • five           πέντε
  • six          ἕξ
  • seven       ἑπτά
  • eight         ὀκτώ
  • nine        ἐννέα
  • ten          δέκα
  • one hundred   ἑκατόν
  • one thousand  χίλιοι
  • ten thousand   μυρίοι

In English, words related to ‘one’ are usually derived from μόνος (‘only’) and πρῶτος (‘first’) rather than from εἷς. For example:

  • monarchy – rule by a single individual
  • monogamy – marriage to one person
  • proton – literally, ‘first thing’; a primary substance
  • prototype – a first sketch or model

Activity 10 Test your learning – numbers

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Part 1

Use the list of numbers to answer the following questions:

In the early Christian church, how many patriarchs ruled the pentarchy?

a. 

4


b. 

5


c. 

6


The correct answer is b.

How many kingdoms formed the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy?

a. 

7


b. 

8


c. 

9


The correct answer is a.

How many sides are there in a tessera (a piece of glass or stone used in a mosaic)?

a. 

3


b. 

4


c. 

5


The correct answer is b.

How many fluorine atoms are there in hexafluoride?

a. 

3


b. 

6


c. 

9


The correct answer is b.

How many sides does an enneahedron have?

a. 

6


b. 

8


c. 

9


The correct answer is c.

Part 2

If καί means ‘and’, what are the following numbers?

πεντεκαίδεκα

a. 

13


b. 

15


c. 

17


The correct answer is b.

ὁκτωκαίδεκα

a. 

17


b. 

18


c. 

19


The correct answer is b.

ἑπτακαίδεκα

a. 

14


b. 

17


c. 

18


The correct answer is b.

Part 3

Some final number-based questions:

What is triskaidekaphobia?

From which Greek number does the English word ‘myriad’ (‘innumerable’) derive?

Using the English word ‘hemisphere’, can you work out what ἥμισυς means? (σφαῖρα is a ‘ball’ or ‘globe’)

Answer

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.

Myriad derives from μυρίοι, meaning 10,000 or, simply, ‘countless’.

ἥμισυς means half (a Greek hero or demi-god is a ἡμίθεος).