Skip to content

February 8, 2013


So, did you know you can speak Greek?

Today’s blog post is written by Konstantia Sotiropoulou, who’s been helping us to translate and record our Maths apps in Greek.

I bumped into the picture below a while ago and I thought this should be interesting. Undoubtedly, Greek is one of the richest languages in the world and is distinguished by an extensive vocabulary. In the past, the Guinness Book of Records ranked the Greek language as the richest in the world with 5 million words and 70 million word types!

You speak Greek, You just don't know it

The front cover of You speak Greek, You just don't know it, a book by Annie Stefanides (Ianos, 2010)

Well, many of these words have been widely borrowed into other languages, including English. Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages, especially in the sciences and medicine. Mathematics, physics, astronomy, democracy, philosophy, athletics, theatre, rhetoric, baptism and hundreds of other words are Greek. Moreover, Greek words and word elements continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology, photography, telephony, isomer, biomechanics, cinematography, etc. and form, with Latin words, the foundation of international scientific and technical vocabulary, e.g. all words ending with –logy (“discourse”). Interestingly, an estimated 12% of the English vocabulary has Greek origin. Greek has contributed to English in several ways, including direct borrowings from Greek and indirectly through other languages (mainly Latin or French).

In a typical 80,000-word English dictionary, about 5% of the words are directly borrowed from Greek; this is about equivalent to the vocabulary of an educated speaker of English (for example, “phenomenon” is a Greek word and even obeys Greek grammar rules as the plural is “phenomena”). However, around 25% are borrowed indirectly. This is because there were many Greek words borrowed in Latin originally, which then filtered down into English because English borrowed so many words from Latin (for example, “elaiwa” in Greek evolved into the Latin “oliva”, which in turn became “olive” in English).

Greek and Latin are the predominant sources of the international scientific vocabulary. Greek is often used in coining very specialized technical or scientific words, however, so the percentage of words borrowed from Greek rises much higher when considering highly scientific vocabulary (for example, “oxytetracycline” is a medical term that has several Greek roots).

In education, an excellent way to build vocabulary is teaching students how to find roots in words. Since many words have their base in the Greek language, beginning with the roots from this ancient language is a good place to start. This list of English words with Greek origin will give students a basis for further exploration into the roots of the English language.

Now you that you have seen how many Greek words you know, I am going to teach you some more common ones like “kalimera” which means “good morning”, “Ya sou” which means “hi”, “Me lene” which means “my name is” and “efharisto” which means “thank you”. And if you are interested in learning more and discovering how many you already know, try EuroTalk’s uTalk Greek app.

And who am I to be talking about the Greek language? I am the Greek intern of EuroTalk, who translated and recorded into Greek their new Maths apps for young children. An interesting and fun experience for a young translator like me. I have to say that I really enjoyed working in this office, which gives you the sense of a family home. People here are calm and friendly, the kitchen is fully equipped with all kinds of snacks and during the day we get to listen to nice music while working! How amazing is that?

Maths, age 3-5 and Maths, age 4-6 - the apps I translated and recorded during my time at EuroTalk

I started towards the end of January by translating the scripts of the app and soon after I recorded the first topics. I caught myself playing the app more than I needed to, as the games are really fun! I am sure young kids will truly enjoy it while learning basic Mathematics rules. And I know that my three-year-old niece, who will be playing the app in a few weeks, will at least have a constructive and educational first contact with technology!

So, whether you want to take up a new language or help your child have a nice start with Maths, you know that EuroTalk is here for you!

* There is an interesting video on YouTube that explains the History of English and the influence that it had from other languages!


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jayce
    Mar 23 2015

    I am trying to learn ancient greek.
    Ive found some sayings differ from source to source.
    I’ve seen the “me lene” my name is, first, but i see more commonly “onoma” more often for name.

    So, why do I see two different words for one word and which should I use?

    • Ζωή
      Apr 8 2015

      It’s not the same thing! Onoma is a noun, me lene is a verb. So Onoma means name but you can use both. they have the same meaning but it’s not exactly the same thing. You can either say me lene… Or to onoma mou einai….
      You will see many other words that in greek differ and in English mean the same thing. That’s because the greek language is very different from any other language and it wil take you time to actually realize when to use what word. What you’re doing is very difficult but also very interesting and it will teach you a lot about why things have the name that they have ( etymology) so good luck and study hard :)

    • spyros
      Mar 21 2016

      Me lene – is equivalent to ” They call me”.

      it is less formal that To onoma mou einai – “My name is”

  2. Σνούπος
    Dec 3 2015

    As a Greek I have yet to see the validity of those ridiculous claims of people assuming “Greek is one of the richest.” and all I admit is that Modern Greek is NOT even particulary rich. and this articleis biased.

    I mean how it is EVEN rich? Because it has 1 million words or so according to claims? Big deal. Most of these words are utterly worthless and actually the same EXACT concepts like “μάθηση”(learning) and “εκμάθηση”(learning) repeated reduntantly a thousand times. That IS the so-called “richness” of Greek language… useless overepeated words with no purpose.

    Oh, you said “aeroplane”? Did you know that Old English name for “air” is “loft”? You can make something as “loftboard” and you are done. “Chemistry”, you say? Wow, really? Big fucking deal. Just take “juice” and make “Juician” or “Juictry” or smth. Actually, you can pretty much make all the Greek-devirative scientific names with purr English Anglo-Saxon words… no big deal. No one wil bat an eye.

    For a language that doesn’t have an exact word for “actually” and the phrase “in fact” that are essential to scientific thought, Greek takes a hella LOT of credit.

    • EuroTalk
      Dec 3 2015

      Thanks for your comment. Our post, as you know, was written by someone from Greece, so she probably is a bit biased! – but even so, her observation that Greek is the richest language was based on it being ranked as such by the Guinness Book of Records back in 1990. But of course this is only one opinion, and we appreciate you taking the time to offer an alternative view.

      • Σνούπος
        Dec 26 2015

        We have to admit the “research” back in 1990 was poorly done. And it had holes. “Word forms” are not strictly words also. Most American had this notion back then that Greek was some kind of super duper language.

        Most Greeks today who are idiots and autistic think this way, that their language is “dah richest”, I don’t. I logically question things. I mean the dictionary said English has more or less 400.000 words… And that’s a lie. English has actually far FAR than that in fact 1 million or more.

        Of course I don’t take any alternate “view” because as you said her view is wrong and I am simply correct. If there is any actual proof then I will consider changing my “view” which in in fact logic and fact-acceptance. I just admit reality.

        I am not saying Greek is not rich, I think it’s richer..hmm… than Spanish, Albanian and Serbian for example. It’s a pretty decent language on its own if it wasn’t for Modern Greeks to ruin it and defy even it’s modern basic grammar.

    • Μιχάλης
      Dec 30 2015

      I’d say this comment is biased and furthermore uneducated.

      Ι’ll try to give you a hint without getting into loads of linguistic details.

      Greek words(even modern greek)often have a deeper meaning about things and their state of being.Most words don’t just mean something,instead they resemble a whole complex of ideals behind them.They have philosophical extensions and furthermore they define the meaning of a particular word with 100% accuracy.
      In this regard we can not say “loftboard”(loft + board) instead of aeroplane [αεροπλάνο(aeroplano in greek) = ἀήρ + πλανῶμαι]and deliver the exact same meaning.We would be inconsistent if we’d choose to do so.

      Another great example is the greek word “τέλος”(telos).In english we use the word “end” which phenomenically means the same thing BUT,the greek word telos actually delivers a much more richer meaning.The greek word telos refers to intelligently designed ends, that is, ends which serve a purpose(Telos of the Cosmos didn’t simply mean the end of the universe for ancient Greeks,rather than Cosmos serving its purpose according to the Logos,or the divine plan if you like)- hence the word “teleology” we use in english is unique in its meaning and can not be said otherwise.

      There are tons of words which through the study of etymology would further validate the main article’s statements.

  3. Dimitri
    Dec 31 2015

    I am responding to the comment before Mihalis. I can not make his name …. Snoupos, Svoupos, whatever. People don”t have signs on their foreheads saying “I am an idiot”, other people realize that from what they say and what they do. Firstly, you have no right to write anything in public because from your comment”s syntactical and grammatical errors one can safely extrapolate how uneducated you are. Adding to that the unsubstantiated ability, on your part, to compare two languages of whom you are master of none, gives the rest of us a pretty good idea of what a self-proclaimed, know-it-all ignorant person would be. Sorry if I used any words you might not know, they are in a book called ‘Dictionary’.

    • Evi
      Jan 2 2016

      The fact that Snoupos is ignorant is obvious when he claims that μάθηση (learning) and εκμάθηση (mastering that skill) are EXACT the same concepts! For his information -as he seems to distinguish between ancient and modern Greek (and for sure he has no idea of ancient Greek, otherwise he would be able to understand the difference between the 2 words he mentioned), there are 2 different verbs in ancient Greek: μανθάνω/ἐκμανθάνω…and he has a long way to go from the first to the second!

      • Demetri
        Jan 7 2016

        we have a saying,
        στού κουφού τήν πόρτα, όσο θέλεις βρόντα.

        Snoupos, that i assume is the male form for Snoopy, seems to have been outwitted in linguistics by Snoopy.

        i am pretty sure that he would even argue that the word “Theory” does not mean “Fact”.

        further, dear Snoopy,

        had you been this expert that you claim you are, you would have known that όντως pronounced (ontos/odos) is the phrase “in fact”

        see, 1 word for 2 English ones.

        then, πραγματικά (pragmatika) = “actually” you are indeed unable to use a lexicon

        to be a Greek and to be a Hellene are not really one and the

        • Evi
          Jan 9 2016

          Dimitri, let’s not be judgmental. He is that much concerned about scientific thought that I hope he will know that “Theory” means fact in science. Being a native Greek speaker doesn’t mean that one can evaluate the treasure of this superb language and in my opinion, one must study it by analogy with another great language: Latin. Only then it becomes clear what Μιχάλης above was trying to point out: Greek is not just a language, it is a philosophical system hidden behind words, absolutely unique in the European territory.
          The investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of education – Antisthenes (ἀρχὴ παιδεύσεως ἡ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπίσκεψις). Start from here, dear Snoupos, and maybe you will consider changing your “view”.

      • Μιχάλης
        Feb 18 2016

        To bolster even more what you’re trying to point out regarding the difference of these words (μάθηση,εκμάθηση)i’d like to mention that greek language does not have ANY synonyms.There are simply no synonyms whatsoever.Greeks may use tons of different words to express the same thing but that is just a modernisation.Each word has a different meaning.I’ll bring an example..modern Greeks often use the words παιδεία ( education) and εκπαίδευση (education, training).It becomes clear the fundamental difference that even a dog can be trained (εκπαιδευτεί),but only man can be educated (παιδεία).

  4. solomontas
    Mar 5 2016

    greeks are a real bridge that bring the ancient egypt and israel into modern world. that’s what civilization is


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Something Borrowed: when one language just isn’t enough | EuroTalk Blog
  2. Scire linguas: Why knowing your Latin can help your language skills | EuroTalk Blog
  3. It’s all Greek to you? or isn’t it? | The Travel Company

Leave a comment


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

%d bloggers like this: