Maths: World Wide Greek Words

Maths World Wide Greek Words

Remember the feeling of being in class, listening to your Maths teacher explaining this rule and that rule, equations and trigonometry and feeling puzzled and confused? Do you remember struggling with the Pythagorean Theorem? Well, we all did! However, do you think Maths would have been easier to understand if you knew the root meaning of all these complicated words that caused you anxiety? What if we told you that you already do. Because like we have said before Greek is a lot easier to learn than you think because you already know it. Maybe you know it instinctively because of your Greek roots. Or maybe you do because you already use Greek words without knowing it. And in Maths you definitely use Greek words.

  1. First of all, you do not need to go any deeper that the most basic word you will come across in maths. Mathematics. A very interesting word that now describes the abstract science of number, quantity and space. Then, however, when languages started borrowing it from Ancient Greek it came from μάθημα (mathema) which literally means what one learns. The etymology and meaning of Maths in ancient Greek is telling of the importance of this science to Greeks. 
  2. Did you maybe prefer geometry? From the words γη (ge) and μέτρον (metron) that mean land and measure. See? Just knowing that you get a much faster grasp of the concept of geometry the science that deals with the measurement of surfaces, solids, lines and angles.   
  3. You must have heard of the phrase “the dichotomy between theory and practice.” The word dichotomy is a highly used word in Maths that we also use in everyday life. From the ancient Greek διχοτόμος (dichotomos) of the words δις (two) and τομή (cut), it is either used to describe a line that cuts an angle into two equal ones or to generally describe a division between two parts. A contradiction. Like the one between theory and practice. 
  4. Parallel. Παρά (para) and αλλήλοις (allelois), meaning beside one another. In geometry it is used to signify lines “lying in the same plane but never meeting in either direction.” In popular Greek love songs it is used to signify your never ending disappointment because the person you love wants different things.   
  5. Can you solve a Rubik’s Cube? Maybe you could if you knew the etymology of the Greek word cube and all its faces, sides and angles. A cube is a geometric body with six square faces. From the word κύβος (kybos) that meant a six-sided die, used metaphorically of dice-like blocks of any sort.    

Whether you are good at maths or not that great. Whether you loved it as a student or not. Whether you need it in your professional life or not so much, it is certain that you use mathematical terms that derive from Greek everyday. Why? Because Greek is everywhere! Even in Maths. 

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