The Arts: World Wide Greek Words

With over 3,400 years of documented history, the Greek language has heavily influenced all western languages. English is no exception, as to this day it uses the root of Greek words to coin new terms. Greeks were one of the first peoples to touch upon medical, mathematical and philosophical concepts gifting in this way a plethora of words that are used in these fields until today. The Greek language didn’t stop, however, in the scientific and natural world. It conquered many other fields like the arts and lent words to many languages to help them describe concepts in literature, music, architecture, and the fine arts. Here are some words that were coined in Greek for the field of the arts and are used in English every day whether you work in an orchestra or a supermarket, whether you study Business or Opera.    

  1. Metaphor. A word mostly used in literature. However, we have all used it at some point to assign a characteristic of one object to another, to describe something different but resembling. Like when we say “laughter is the music of the soul.” Metaphora means a “transfer” in Greek, so the literal translation would be a “carrying over” that transfers characteristics of one concept to another.  
  2. Anthem. You might not be a musician but you have definitely used the word anthem. We do say the “national anthem” of a country after all. The definition of anthem is “a composition sung in alternate parts.” Its origins can be found in the ancient Greek word antiphona, meaning verse responses.  
  3. Poet. What’s your favorite poet? You are such a poet! A word we use every day for sure. You probably already knew that this one was Greek. From the ancient Greek word “poetes” that means a maker, an author from the verb “poiein” that meant to create. A great word that perfectly describes the creative essence of poetry. 
  4. Dialogue. Are there any words in the performing arts that come from Greek? To be honest there are too many. Comedy, chorus, tragedy, drama. The list is endless. Dialogue is one of them and is used in English all the time. “Dia” meaning across, between and logos from legein which means to speak are used together in Greek to signify a conversation between two or more people. Do you like dialogues or are you more of a monologue kind of person?
  5. Aesthetics is a widely used term in all the arts that most people understand without consulting a dictionary. It comes from the Greek word aisthitikos to describe something perceived by the senses. In English it relates to taste and the appreciation of beauty. 

So, what do you think? Did you know you could already speak Greek? 

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