Etymological Dictionary of words (including names)

with Greek origins

Etymology is the study of the origin and history of words i.e.

Where does the word come from?

What does it mean, and why?

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Abacus

Comes from the Greek word abax, which means, ‘sand tray.’ Originally, columns of pebbles were laid out on the sand for purposes of counting.

Agatha

Means ‘good’.

Alexander

Means ‘defender of men’.

Allegory

From Greek allos meaning ‘other’ and agora meaning gathering place (especially the marketplace). In times past, it was common to do one's chatting at the marketplace. Some of the topics discussed were secret in nature and when people spoke about them, for fear of being punished, they would speak indirectly. That is to say, they would speak about one thing but mean something else. Eventually the words joined and became associated with the act of speaking about one thing while meaning another.

Ambrose

Means ‘of the immortals’, or ‘divine’.

Andrew

Means ‘manly’.

Angela

Means ‘angel’, or ‘messenger’.

Anthea

Means ‘flowery’.

Anti-

Prefix meaning opposed to, against, opposite or reverse.

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Barbara

Means ‘foreign’ or ‘stranger’.

Basil

Means ‘kingly’.

Barbarian

From the Greek ‘barbaroi,’ meaning ‘babblers,’ used to mean non-Greeks, i.e., people who didn't speak Greek; from the sound that the Greeks thought they were making: ‘bar bar bar bar...’

Bucolic

From the Greek ‘boukolos,’ meaning ‘herdsman,’ from ‘bous,’ meaning ‘ox.’

Bulimia

From the Greek ‘bous’ meaning ‘ox’ and ‘limos,’ meaning, ‘hunger.’ One with Bulimia has the ‘appetite of an ox.’

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Chaos and Chasm

From the Greek ‘chainein,’ meaning, ‘to yawn’; chaos was thus the ‘original yawning abyss’ outside of the ordered universe we know.

Charis

Meaning ‘grace’.

Cheers

From the Greek ‘Kara’ for ‘face,’ via the Latin ‘Cara,’ and Old French ‘Chiere’ for the same. So ‘Be of good cheer,’ means, ‘Put on a happy face.’

Chloe

Means ‘a green shoot’.

Christobel

Means ‘anointed’.

Christopher

Means ‘carrying Christ’.

Cider

Comes from the Greek sikera, which came from the ancient Hebrew shekar, meaning ‘any intoxicating drink other than wine made by the fermentation of fruit juice.’

Corinne/Corinna

Means ‘maiden’.

Cynthia

Means ‘of Mount Cynthus’.

Cyril

Means ‘lordly’.

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Damian

Means ‘to tame’.

Daphne

Means ‘laurel’.

Delia

Means ‘of the island of Delos’.

Demon

From the Greek, ‘Daimon,’ for ‘angel,’ without any negative connotations.

Dia-

Prefix meaning through, across, during or composed of.

Diagonal

Through the non-adjacent corners. From the Greek ‘dia’ meaning ‘through’ and ‘gonia’ meaning ‘a corner.’

Diagram

A drawn plan meant to explain something. From the Greek ‘dia’ meaning ‘round’ and ‘graphein’ meaning ‘to write.’

Diameter

A straight line passing through the centre of a circle. From ‘dia’ meaning ‘through’ and ‘metron’ meaning ‘measure.’

Dorcas

Means ‘gazelle’.

Doris

is the name of a sea-nymph.

Dorothy

Means ‘gift of God’.

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Erasmus

Means ‘lovely, deserving love’.

Erastus/Rastus

Means ‘lovely’.

Erica

associated with ‘heath’ or ‘heather’.

Eugene

Means ‘well-born’.

Eulalia

Means ‘fair speech’.

Eunice

Means ‘happy victory’.

Eustace

Means ‘rich in corn’.

Evangeline

Means ‘bringer of good news’.

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Geography

Study of the earth. From the Greek, ‘Geographia,’ or ‘writing about the earth’; ‘ge’ meaning ‘earth’ and ‘graphein’ meaning ‘to write’.

George

Means ‘farmer’.

Graph/graphy

Prefix/Suffix meaning ‘to write’ from the Greek, ‘graphein’.

Gregory

Means ‘watcher’.

Gymnasium ,

Greek for a place where you train to keep fit.

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Hector

Means ‘holding fast’.

Helen

Means ‘bright’.

Heresy

Greek for ‘Choice.’

Hermione

a derivative of Hermes the Greek god.

Hyacinth

from the flower Hyacinth. (Male name in Greek)

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Ianthe

violet flower and name of a sea nymph

Idea, Ideal, Idol

All from the Greek ‘idein,’ for ‘to see’; Links to the Sanskrit ‘vid’ (to know) and Latin ‘videre’ (to see) and the English ‘wise.’ The W/V sound from the Indo-European root was lost in ancient Greek.

Iris

Iris (plant) or ‘rainbow’. Name of the Greek goddess Hera’s messenger.

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Jason

Means ‘a healer’.

Jerome

holy name.

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Lois

Means ‘good’.

-logy

Suffix meaning ‘study’, ‘science’ or ‘theory’. From the Greek ‘logos’ meaning ‘word’. For example ‘biology’ is the ‘study of life,’ ‘bio’ meaning ‘life’

Lydia

Means ‘Lydian woman’.

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Margaret

Means ‘pearl’.

Melanie

Means ‘black’.

Melissa

Means ‘bee’.

Moira

Means ‘a fate’.

Monica

Means ‘alone’ or ‘solitary’.

Museum, Mosaic

Both from the Greek Muse (museum is Latin for ‘Place inhabited by the Muses’; mosaic is from the Greek mouseios, ‘related to the Muses’)

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Nicholas

Means ‘victory of the people’.

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Octo-

Prefix meaning eight. From the Greek ‘okto’.

Octopod/octopus

Having eight feet, arms or limbs. From the Greek ‘okto’ meaning ‘eight’ and ‘podos’ meaning ‘foot.’

Ophelia

Means ‘help’.

Ostracize

‘Ostron’ is a Greek word for pottery. The Greeks would hold an election to determine if someone was a danger to their community. Everyone would write their votes on broken pieces of pottery (‘ostron’) and if the vote was successful, the person was banished or ‘ostracized.’

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Penelope

Means ‘weaver’.

Peri-

Prefix from the Greek meaning ‘around’ or ‘near.’

Perimeter

The boundary of, or distance round a plane figure. From the Greek ‘peri’ meaning ‘around’ and ‘meter’ from ‘metron’ meaning ‘measure’.

Peter

Means ‘rock’.

Philip

Means ‘lover of horses’.

Philomena

Means ‘I am loved’.

Phoebe

Means ‘shining’.

Photo-

Prefix, from the Greek ‘phos’ or ‘photos’ meaning ‘light’.

Photosynthesis

The process by which a plant makes its own food, using light. From the Greek ‘photo’ meaning ‘light’; ‘syn’ meaning ‘with’ or ‘together’; and ‘thesis’ meaning ‘to put’.

Phyllis

Means ‘a leafy shoot’.

Planet

From the Greek ‘Planasthai’ for ‘to wander.’

Poly-

Prefix meaning ‘many’ from the Greek ‘polys’ meaning ‘much’.

Polygon

A plane figure with many straight sides (and therefore many angles) from the Greek ‘polys’ meaning ‘much’ and ‘gonia’ meaning ‘angles’.

Pseudo-

From the Greek ‘Pseudos,’ meaning, ‘false.’

Psych(o)

Prefix from the Greek ‘Psyche’ meaning ‘soul’ or ‘butterfly’.

Psychology

Study of the mind. From the Greek ‘Psyche’ meaning ‘soul’, and ‘ology’ meaning ‘study of.’

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Rhoda

Means ‘rose’.

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Search; Circus

From ‘Circus,’ which is from the Greek ‘Krikos’ or ‘Kirkos,’ which was a hawk or falcon which flies in circles, and later just a circle or ring.

Selina

From ‘selene’ meaning moon.

Simon

Means ‘snub-nosed’.

Sophie

Means ‘wisdom’.

Stephen

Means ‘crown’.

Sugar; Candy; Caramel

All come from the Greek saccharon and the Roman saccharum, which are both distortions of the Sanskrit sarkara. Around the year 1000, after conquering a good portion of the southern Mediterranean, the Arabs installed the first ‘industrial’ sugar refinery on the island of Crete, which they renamed Qandi, which in Arabic means ‘crystallized sugar.’ This is how the word ‘candy’ made its way into English. Shortly thereafter, the Arabs also invented ‘caramel,’ which comes from the Arabic phrase kurat al milh and means ‘ball of sweet salt.’

Sycophant

From the Greek ‘sykon,’ meaning ‘fig’; a sycophant was thus originally someone who makes figs appear. There are a few suggested etymologies: fig smuggling was illegal in ancient Greece, so a sycophant could have been a telltale for a reward; or, it could be from the shaking of a fig-tree, which moved the figs from the hidden heights to the ground where all could see it; or, it could be from ‘the sign of the fig,’ which is the gesture of making a fist with the thumb in-between the index and middle fingers used to indicate an accusation of wrong-doing.

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Tele-

Suffix, from the Greek meaning ‘far off’.

Telephone

From the Greek ‘tele’ meaning ‘far off’ and ‘phone’ meaning ‘a sound’.

Telescope

From the Greek ‘tele’ meaning ‘far off’ and ‘skopeein’ meaning ‘to see’.

Thea

Goddess

Thelma

Means ‘will’.

Theodore

Means ‘gift of God’.

Thermostat

‘Therma’ (hot) is from the Greek city of Therma, known for its hot springs.

Thesis

From the Greek of the same, meaning, ‘to put, place, set.’

Tri-

Prefix meaning ‘three’. From the Greek ‘treis’ or ‘tria’.

Triceratops

Three-horned-face. From the Greek ‘tria’ meaning three; ‘keras’ meaning ‘horn,’ and ‘ops’ meaning ‘face.’

Tyranny

From the Greek, ‘tyrannos,’ for ‘absolute ruler’.

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Utopia

Greek for ‘no where.’

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Wine

Comes from the Greek word for wine, oinos (in Crete), which itself was taken from the name of the Greek god who was supposed to have first revealed the secret of wine to the ancient Cretans, Dionysus (Pronounce it without the ‘Di.’).

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Zoe

Means ‘life’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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