Four English Words of Greek Origin to Sound Like an Intellectual

Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world and, as a result, it has influenced many others oven the years. It is estimated that there are over 150.000 thousand English words of Greek origin; you already know philanthropy, architecture, economy, politics, phobia, encyclopedia, idol, and many other words that have modern and ancient Greek roots. Philanthropy for example (φιλανθρωπία) derives from the verb «φιλώ» (to love, to befriend) and the noun «άνθρωπος» (human). It means to love people and show it through acts of kindness. However, these are quite well-known terms; here are some words that will broaden your vocabulary and make you sound smarter.

English Words of Greek Origin

Euphemism

Euphemism or «ευφημισμός» in Greek derives from the words «ευ» (good) and «φήμη» (reputation). It describes words of polite or vague nature that are used in the place of words that have a negative connotation. It can be used to show politeness, to avoid causing panic and fear, and, in some cases, to influence people into believing that a negative change is actually… not that bad.

For example, when reading about someone’s death in the newspapers, you might see a prevalence of the use “passed away” instead of “die”. The use of “passed away” in this case is a euphemism. Another example is when you join a meeting and your boss uses the term “downsizing” instead of “cuts”. This is a euphemism.

Sycophant/ Sycophancy

A sycophant (συκοφάντης) is a litigant who brings unjustified prosecutions. In other words, a slanderer. The term was coined in Classical Athens, one of the greatest eras of the ancient world, that was also characterized by frequent trials, often unjustified.

Today, in the English language, the term is often used to describe insincere flatterers. Sycophancy is the practice of insincere flattery to gain advantage. The meaning is far from the original one, however, it still describes immoral, passive-aggressive behavior.

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Antidote

An antidote (αντίδοτο) is a substance than counteracts a form of poisoning. It is often used instead of “remedy”. It derives from the Greek «αντί» (opposed to) and «δίνω» (to give) and such substances were used as reversal agents since ancient times.

In modern English, the term is often used metaphorically; to describe a solution to something. For example, “reading is an antidote to stupidity”, meaning that it can cure you from being “stupid”. Stupidity is not a disease, but you get the whole point.

Antipode

Many English speakers tend to mix “antidote” with “antipode”. Antipode derives again from «αντί» and «πόδι» (leg). It is used to describe as something that is the exact opposite of something else or to indicate a place’s direct opposite location.

In geography, the antipode of any spot on Earth is the point on Earth’s surface diametrically opposite to it. It is estimated that the antipodal point of Athens, Greece, is Moerai in French Polynesia. However, you can also use this word metaphorically to describe two opposites. Happiness and sadness are antipodes.

So, what is the difference between “antipode” and “antidote”?

The first means “opposite” the second means “cure/reverse agent”. For example, happiness is the antipode of sadness but not its antidote. Meaning that happiness is the direct opposite of sadness but not its cure.

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