Roots of English Words Found in Greek Mythology

The Greek language, and specifically Greek mythology has had a tremendous influence on the English language. In our everyday lives we use Greek root words and definitions all the time.

English Words from Greek Mythology

The names of the Greek gods live on through their stories and language. Many English words have Greek roots and a lot of them come straight from the names of gods and mythological figures.

Here are some English words that are firmly rooted in Greek mythology. They are presented in this order: the Greek word or name (followed by a description) > the English word derived from the Greek (followed by a definition).

  • Atlas (a Titan who was condemned to carry the heavens upon his shoulders) > atlas (book of maps)

  • Clotho (the youngest of the Three Fates who spun the thread of life) > cloth (material made by weaving)

  • Chronos (god of time) > chronology (events in order of time)

  • Erôs (god of love and sexual desire) > erotic (sexual in nature)

  • Hypnos (god of sleep) > hypnosis (a sleep-like state of consciousness)

  • Hêlios (god of the sun) > heliotrope (plant that turns towards the sun)

  • Khaos (the void from which all life sprang) > chaos (confusion, disorder)

  • Muses (goddesses of the arts and science) > musical (of or like music)

  • Narcissus (a beautiful man who fell in love with his own reflection) > narcissism (extreme love of self)

  • Nectar (drink of the gods) > nectar, nectarine (sweet plant secretion, fruit)

  • Ôkeanos (God of the river Oceanus, the source of the Earth's fresh water) > ocean (large body of water)

  • Typhon (known as the storm giant and father of all monsters) > typhoon (huge rotating tropical storm)

  • Zephyrus (god of the west wind) > zephyr (gentle west wind)

Ancient Greek Words Used in English Today

Many English words are derived from other ancient Greek words. Here is a short list of some of them. The Greek word is listed first; the English word is second, followed by the definition:

  • Bios > bio - life

  • Gigas > gigantic - giant, enormous

  • Glossa > gloss - tongue, language

  • Logos > logo - thought, word

  • Meter > meter - measurement

  • Phobos > phobia - fear or dread of something

  • Phōnē > phone - voice

  • Pseudo > pseudo - false

  • Therapeia > therapy - curing, healing

  • Thermos > thermal - heat

  • Toxikon > toxic - poison

  • Zōnē > zone - belt

We may not always notice these root words and their definitions because we are so used to them being a part of our everyday language.

Common Greek Root Words

There are also a host Greek roots used in English as the foundation for further words. Here are some common Greek roots (and their definitions) we use in English.

  • Arche - ruler, ancient

  • Auto - referring to the self

  • Bibl - pertaining to a book

  • Cosm - order or world

  • Cracy - government, authority

  • Dec(a) - ten

  • Dem - pertaining people

  • Derm - referring to the skin

  • Ethn - race or nation

  • Gastr - pertaining to the stomach

  • Geo - pertaining to the earth

  • Hydr - pertaining to water

  • Hypn - pertaining to sleep

  • Iso - equal, alike or identical

  • Kilo - thousand

  • Lith - referring to stone

  • Mania - pertaining to madness

  • Mega - large or powerful

  • Mono - pertaining to one

  • Neuron - pertaining to the nerve

  • Nomo - law, arrangement

  • Oct - eight

  • Pan - pertaining to all or every

  • Phon - referring to sound or speaking

  • Psych - pertaining to the soul or the mind

  • Scop - to spy, watch or see

  • Tele - referring to something far off

  • Zoon - pertaining to animals

A clue to the meaning of a word can often be found by looking at the meaning of the root or base of the word. In many English words, these roots are Greek in origin.

Roots of English Words Found in Greek MythologyRoots of English Words Found in Greek Mythology

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