Why do most of the words have Greek origins

Surprising etymology: 14 German words of Greek origin

The Greek Alphabet in Modern Everyday Life - An illustration by Charlotte Ager.

Ancient Greek doesn't seem particularly relevant to most of us these days - that's what dead languages ​​are like. If we are already devoting ourselves to learning dead languages, then Latin is usually the top priority, because it has developed into widespread, lively Romance languages ​​such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Greek, on the other hand, belongs to the Indo-European languages, but represents a branch of its own within this language family, which does not necessarily make Modern Greek a favorite to learn. Nevertheless, the Greek language does not only have an impact on our lives when we go on vacation.

Graecisms - German words with a Greek origin

Because the German language has a surprising number of Graecisms, i.e. words that were borrowed from Greek. The borrowing mostly took place from ancient Greek - no surprise, because this is the language that famous philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates or Plato spoke or at least still wrote. Other Graecisms came into the German language via a Latin detour, whereby the spelling was often Latinized. But there are also educational neologisms that were only formed in German on the basis of Greek words or word modules.

We look at German words of Greek origin that have to do with our favorite topic - language.

Α, α how acronym

An acronym is a special case of the abbreviation in which words or phrases are shortened to their initial components. The word comes from the ancient Greek word ἄκρος (ákros) - "Point, Edge" in connection with ὄνυμα (ónyma - "Surname").

Β, β how Barbarian

This word for an uncultivated, coarse person was a term used in ancient Greece for all those who did not speak Greek or spoke it poorly. A βάρβαρος (barbaros) is a "bar-bar-teller", "stammer" or "stutterer".

Δ, δ how dialect

The word dialect came into the German language through Latin in the 16th century. The Latin worddialectos in turn goes to the Greek word διάλεκτος (diálektos), so "conversation", "speech", "dialect" back.

Ε, ε how etymology

The word etymology derives from the ancient Greek components ἔτυμος (étymos "True", "real", "really") and λόγος (lógos - "word"). So it means something like "explanation of the truth inherent in a word". And by now you know the etymology of etymology!

Γ, γ how grammar

Even the grammar that [τέχνη] γραμματική ([technē] grammarē - "The art of writing" started out small: The Greek word Γράμμα (gramma) means "written" or even smaller "letter".

H, η how hieroglyph

In the 18th century the word hieroglyph from the French hieroglyph borrowed, which in turn is based on the Greekἱερογλυφικὰ γράμματα (hieroglyphikà grámmata - “holy characters”).

Κ, κ how calligraphy

The word calligraphy is composed καλός (kalós - "beautiful") and the suffix-γραφή (-graphē) or -γραφία (-graphía), derived from the Greek verb γράφειν (gráphein - "write", "draw") comes from.

Λ, λ how Speech therapy

This term is made up of the Greek terms λόγος (lógos - "Word") and παιδεύειν (paideuein - "educate") together. So it comes from the transferred concept Language education very close.

Μ, μ how metaphor

The stylistic device of the metaphor literally means “transfer” and comes from the Greek μεταφορά (metaphorá) back.

Ο, ο how spelling

The spelling comes from ancient Greekὀρθός (orthós) what Means "upright" or "right". The suffix -graphy goes, as already mentioned, to the verb γράφειν (gráphein - “write”, “draw”).

Π, π how palindrome

A palindrome is a string of characters (this can be a word or even a whole sentence) that is read both forward and backward. A famous example is that Relief pillars. The term comes from ancient GreekΠαλίνδρομος (palíndromos), in German "running backwards".

Ρ, ρ how rhetoric

With all Greek thinkers, it is not surprising that we have adopted from them not only many principles of rhetoric, but also the word itself. It comes from ancient Greek ῥητορική [τέχνη] (rhētorikḗ [téchnē]) - "Oratory".

Σ, σ how synonym

The word synonym was changed from Latin at the end of the 15th century synōnymum borrowed from the ancient Greek συνώνυμος (synōnymos - "same name") goes back. συνώνυμος itself consists of συν (syn - "together") and ὄνυμα (ónyma -"Surname").

Τ, τ how phone

The term phone was coined by the German inventor Philipp Reis. It comes from ancient Greek τῆλε (tēle - "far") and φωνή (phōnē - "Loud", "Sound", "Voice", "Speech"). The phone made it onto this list not only because you can talk to it, but also because you can learn great languages ​​on your (cellular) phone!

A short addendum on the subject of language purism

Some of the translations in this list may not have been a big revelation for you because we have German words that are either very close to the translations or are identical to them.

The German variants are often the result of German language purism. This term is understood to mean efforts to free the German language from foreign and loan words by replacing them with German words that appear appropriate or by creating new German words. The first German language society that wanted to counteract foreign words was the Fruitful society, which was founded in 1617. Only one of its members, the writer Philipp von Zesen, made German transmissions such as library (For Library or Liberey), dialect (For dialect) and spelling, orthography (For orthography).

Efforts towards language purism still exist today, but mostly they are directed against the influence of English. Attentive readers will have noticed why it is a little nonsense instead of the "foreign language" word mobile the German" Cellular phone to use …