5 July 2009

lexicon

some of my favourite Greek words (will keep adding to this, no doubt)


οικογένεια
: (ee-ko-ye-nia) family
-οίκος: (ee-koss) house, home, household
-γένος: (yeh-noss) kin, birth


άχρηστος: (ah-christoss) worthless, useless
-α: (prefix) without
-Χριστός: Christ (your savior)


εφημερίδα: (e-fee-meh-ri-tha) newspaper
εφήμερος - ephemeros, literally "lasting only one day
-μέρα: (meh-rra) day

I love this word because the thought of a newspaper is quite banal, but the word for it in Greek is what the English language uses as 'ephemeral'...not too shabby eh?



θησαυρός: (thi-sahv-rohss) treasure
meaning a collection of things which are of big importance or value
again, a thesaurus is quite ordinary, but the meaning of the word in Greek refers to a treasure. beautiful.


αναίσθητος (ahn-ess-thi-toss)
-αν; without
-αἲσθησις:
sensation
the origin of the English word 'anaesthetic' but also in Greek is used as a perjorative...for someone who is unfeeling/emotionless. A sophisticated insult!


νοσταλγία (noh-stal-yee-a)
-νόστος : returning home
-άλγος: pain

nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often idealised.

of course, this subject is something I think of almost on a daily basis, and it's a word quite close to my heart. I love that it still sounds the same in either language and the meaning, and nuance has (thankfully) survived into the English translation intact.



μελανχολία (meh-lan-cho-lee-a) melancholy:
(μέλας, melas, "black", + χολή, kholé, "bile"); a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition.



Palindrome (
from wikipedia)
palin (πάλιν; "back") and dromos (δρóμος; "way, direction")

The actual Greek phrase to describe the phenomenon is karkinikê epigrafê (καρκινική επιγραφή;
crab inscription), or simply karkiniêoi (καρκινιήοι; crabs), alluding to the backward movement of crabs, like an inscription which can be read backwards.

a wonderful Greek palindrome:

NIYON ANOMHMA MH MONAN OYIN
(Niyon anomima mi monan oyin)
'Wash your sins not only your face'

This is often inscribed on fountains, or baptismal fonts in Christian churches (famously at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and even in the United Kingdom too!) and has been around forever...love it!



συμφω
νία (sim-foh-nee-a)
meaning "agreement or concord of sound", "concert of vocal or instrumental music"

-συμ /συν: (prefix) meaning 'with' or 'together with'
-φωνή: sound

my heart stops when I hear this come up in everyday (Greek) conversation...someone asking another if they agree on something, to which (if they do) they reply: συμφωνώ (sim-foh-no)



that's just scratching the surface of this amazingly rich and complex language..hopefully you can begin to see why I love it so much.

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