Friday, July 8, 2011
A Gift from the Greek Gods, et al
There are many mythologies in the world. Each culture has its own brand of mythology which helped explain the world around them.
Mythologies serve an important purpose. Apart from explaining why there’s rain, snow, thunder, volcanic eruptions and other occurrences, mythologies influenced how the people once lived. Of all the mythologies in the world, it is the Greek mythology that is probably closest to the people today. Why? Because Greek mythology is prominently felt in one of the most used and spoken language in the world – English.
Yes, Greek mythology is present in the English language. When you try to discover the origins of some English words, you might be surprised to find that they originated from the names of gods, goddesses, demi-gods and other characters in Greek mythology.
Below is just a sampling of words derived from the names found in the mythology of Greece.
Arachnid, which refers to a class of insects with 8 legs, comes from Arachne. She was not a god but a mortal who was talented at weaving. Eventually she was turned into a spider by a jealous goddess.
Atlas is the book of maps. It comes from the name Atlas, the man who was tasked to carry the world on his shoulders.
Cereal, a type of food derived from grains, comes from the name of the goddess of agriculture, Ceres.
Chronology is the order of previous events in sequence. Cronos, the time keeper, is the source of this word.
Cloth is a fabric made by weaving. This word stems from the name of one of the Fates, Clotho. The Fates were responsible for spinning the thread of the life.
Erotic, strongly affected by the desires of the flesh (sexual), comes from Eros. He was the god of love, son of the mighty Aphrodite.
Fortune comes from the name Fortuna who was the Greek goddess of luck.
Herculean, which means immense difficulty, size or power, can only come from the name of Zeus’ love child, Hercules.
Hypnosis is an artificially induced sleep-like state. The god of sleep, Hypnos, lends his name to this word.
Morphine, a drug that induces sleep, takes its name from the god of sleep, Morpheus.
Musical refers to music. The name Muses is the origin of the word music and musical. There were nine muses who were considered the goddesses of the arts as well as of science.
Narcissism or extreme self love comes from the name of the vain god Narcissus. He was the god who, when he saw his reflection in water, fell in love with himself.
Phobia comes from the name Phobos who as the son of Ares, the god of war. Phobia means irrational fear of something.
Typhoon is a type of violent weather condition. This word originated from the Greek god and monster Typhon.
If you go beyond the mythology of Greece, you will find that the Greek language itself heavily influenced many English words that are used today. For example, energy comes from the Greek word energeia. The word abyss comes from abyssos, and hymn from imnos.
There are far too many English words that owe their origins to the Greek language. Greece not only influenced the world of politics, philosophy, science, culture and the arts; it also influenced the English language. Names and words from Greek mythology and from the Greek language overall can be found hiding in everyday English words. Can you spot them?