The post-classical coinages are by far the most numerous of these.
Since the living Greek and English languages were not in direct contact until modern times, borrowings were necessarily indirect, coming either through Latin (through texts or various vernaculars), or from Ancient Greek texts, not the living spoken language.
Some Greek words were borrowed into Latin and its descendants, the Romance languages. English often received these words from French. Some have remained very close to the Greek original, e.g. lamp (Latin: lampas; Greek: λαμπάς). In others, the phonetic and orthographic form has changed considerably. For instance, place was borrowed both by Old English and by French from Latin platea, itself borrowed from Greek πλατεία (ὁδός), 'broad (street)'; the Italian piazza and Spanish plaza have the same origin, and have been borrowed into English in parallel.
The word olive comes through the Romance from the Latin olīva, which in turn comes from the Greek elaíwā (ἐλαίϝᾱ). A later Greek word, boútȳron (βούτυρον), becomes Latin butyrum and eventually English butter. A large group of early borrowings, again transmitted first through Latin, then through various vernaculars, comes from Christian vocabulary:
In some cases, the orthography of these words was later changed to reflect the Greek—and Latin—spelling: e.g., quire was respelled as choir in the 17th century. Sometimes this was done incorrectly: ache is from a Germanic root; the spelling ache reflects Samuel Johnson's incorrect etymology from Greek ἄχος.
Many more words were borrowed by scholars writing in Medieval and Renaissance Latin. Some words were borrowed in essentially their original meaning, often transmitted through Classical Latin: topic, type, physics, iambic, eta, necromancy, cosmopolite. A few result from scribal errors: encyclopedia < Greek: ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία, 'the circle of learning' (not a compound in Greek); acne < ἀκνή (erroneous) < ἀκμή, 'high point, acme'. Some kept their Latin form, e.g., podium < Greek πόδιον.
Others were borrowed unchanged as technical terms, but with specific, novel meanings:
But by far the largest Greek contribution to English vocabulary is the huge number of scientific, medical, and technical neologisms that have been coined by compounding Greek roots and affixes to produce novel words which never existed in the Greek language:
So it is really the combining forms of Greek roots and affixes that are borrowed, not the words. Such terms are coined in all the European languages, and spread to the others freely—including to Modern Greek as reborrowings. Traditionally, these coinages were constructed using only Greek morphemes, e.g., metamathematics, but increasingly, Greek, Latin, and other morphemes are combined. These hybrid words were formerly considered to be 'barbarisms', such as:
Some derivations are idiosyncratic, for example:
Many Greek affixes such as anti- and -ic have become productive in English, combining with arbitrary English words: antichoice, Fascistic. Some portmanteau words in English have led to suffixes based on Greek words, but which are not suffixes in Greek, e.g., -athon or -a-thon (walkathon, from walk + (mar)athon) and -nomics (Reaganomics, from Reagan + (eco)nomics).
However, others are popular:
A few words took other routes:
Other doublets come from differentiation in the borrowing languages:
Finally, with the growth of tourism and emigration, some words reflecting modern Greek culture have been borrowed into English—many of them originally borrowings into Greek themselves:
Many Greek words, especially those borrowed through the literary tradition, are recognizable as such from their spelling. Latin had standard orthographies for Greek borrowings, including, but not limited to:
These conventions, which originally reflected pronunciation, have carried over into English and other languages with historical orthography, like French. They make it possible to recognize words of Greek origin, and give hints as to their pronunciation and inflection.
The ligatures have largely fallen out of use worldwide; the digraphs are uncommon in American usage, but remain common in British usage. The spelling depends mostly on the variety of English, not on the particular word. Examples include: encyclopaedia / encyclopædia / encyclopedia; haemoglobin / hæmoglobin / hemoglobin; and oedema / œdema / edema. Some words are almost always written with the digraph or ligature: amoeba / amœba, rarely ameba; Oedipus / Œdipus, rarely Edipus; others are almost always written with the single letter: sphære and hæresie were obsolete by 1700; phænomenon by 1800; phænotype and phænol by 1930. The verbal ending -ίζω is spelled -ize in American English, and -ise or -ize in British English.
Since the 19th century, a few learned words were introduced using a direct transliteration of Ancient Greek and including the Greek endings, rather than the traditional Latin-based spelling: nous (νοῦς), koine (κοινή), hoi polloi (οἱ πολλοί), kudos (κύδος), moron (μωρόν), kubernetes (κυβερνήτης). For this reason, the Ancient Greek digraph ει is rendered differently in different words—as i, following the standard Latin form: idol < εἴδωλον; or as ei, transliterating the Greek directly: eidetic (< εἰδητικός), deixis, seismic. Most plurals of words ending in -is are -es, using the regular Latin plural rather than the Greek -εις: crises, analyses, bases, with only a few didactic words having English plurals in -eis: poleis, necropoleis, and acropoleis (though acropolises is by far the most common English plural).
Most learned borrowings and coinages follow the Latin system, but there are some irregularities:
Some words whose spelling in French and Middle English did not reflect their Greco-Latin origins were refashioned with etymological spellings in the 16th and 17th centuries: caracter became character and quire became choir.
In some cases, a word's spelling clearly shows its Greek origin:
Other exceptions include:
In clusters such as ps-, pn-, and gn- which are not allowed by English phonotactics, the usual English pronunciation drops the first consonant (e.g., psychology) at the start of a word; compare gnostic [nɒstɪk] and agnostic [ægnɒstɪk]; there are a few exceptions: tmesis [t(ə)miːsɪs].
Initial x- is pronounced z. Ch is pronounced like k rather than as in "church": e.g., character, chaos. The consecutive vowel letters 'ea' are generally pronounced separately rather than forming a single vowel sound when transcribing a Greek εα, which was not a digraph, but simply a sequence of two vowels with hiatus, as in genealogy or pancreas (cf., however, ocean, ωκεανός); the 'ea' in zeal comes irregularly from the η in ζήλος.
The stress on borrowings via Latin which keep their Latin form generally follows the traditional English pronunciation of Latin, which depends on the syllable structure in Latin, not in Greek. For example, in Greek, both ὑπόθεσις (hypothesis) and ἐξήγησις (exegesis) are accented on the antepenult, and indeed the penult has a long vowel in exegesis; but because the penult of Latin exegēsis is heavy by Latin rules, the accent falls on the penult in Latin and therefore in English.
Though many English words derived from Greek through the literary route drop the inflectional endings (tripod, zoology, pentagon) or use Latin endings (papyrus, mausoleum), some preserve the Greek endings:
In cases like scene, zone, fame, though the Greek words ended in -η, the silent English e is not derived from it.
In the case of Greek endings, the plurals sometimes follow the Greek rules: phenomenon, phenomena; tetrahedron, tetrahedra; crisis, crises; hypothesis, hypotheses; polis, poleis; stigma, stigmata; topos, topoi; cyclops, cyclopes; but often do not: colon, colons not *cola (except for the very rare technical term of rhetoric); pentathlon, pentathlons not *pentathla; demon, demons not *demones; climaxes, not *climaces.
Usage is mixed in some cases: schema, schemas or schemata; lexicon, lexicons or lexica; helix, helixes or helices; sphinx, sphinges or sphinxes; clitoris, clitorises or clitorides. And there are misleading cases: pentagon comes from Greek pentagonon, so its plural cannot be *pentaga; it is pentagons—the Greek form would be *pentagona (cf. Plurals from Latin and Greek).
A few dozen English verbs are derived from the corresponding Greek verbs; examples are baptize, blame and blaspheme, stigmatize, ostracize, and cauterize. In addition, the Greek verbal suffix -ize is productive in Latin, the Romance languages, and English: words like metabolize, though composed of a Greek root and a Greek suffix, are modern compounds. A few of these also existed in Ancient Greek, such as crystallize, characterize, and democratize, but were probably coined independently in modern languages. This is particularly clear in cases like allegorize and synergize, where the Greek verbs ἀλληγορεῖν and συνεργεῖν do not end in -ize at all. Some English verbs with ultimate Greek etymologies, like pause and cycle, were formed as denominal verbs in English, even though there are corresponding Greek verbs, παῦειν/παυσ- and κυκλεῖν.
Greek and English share many Indo-European cognates. In some cases, the cognates can be confused with borrowings. For example, the English mouse is cognate with Greek μῦς /mys/ and Latin mūs, all from an Indo-European word *mūs; they are not borrowings. Similarly, acre is cognate to Latin ager and Greek αγρός, but not a borrowing; the prefix agro- is a borrowing from Greek, and the prefix agri- a borrowing from Latin.
Many Latin phrases are used verbatim in English texts—et cetera (etc.), ad nauseam, modus operandi (M.O.), ad hoc, in flagrante delicto, mea culpa, and so on—but this is rarer for Greek phrases or expressions:
Greek phrases were also calqued in Latin, then borrowed or translated into English:
The Greek word εὐαγγέλιον has come into English both in borrowed forms like evangelical and the form gospel, an English calque (Old English: gód spel, 'good tidings') of Latin bona adnuntiatio, itself a calque of the Greek.
The contribution of Greek to the English vocabulary can be quantified in two ways, type and token frequencies: type frequency is the proportion of distinct words; token frequency is the proportion of words in actual texts.
Since most words of Greek origin are specialized technical and scientific coinages, the type frequency is considerably higher than the token frequency. And the type frequency in a large word list will be larger than that in a small word list. In a typical English dictionary of 80,000 words, which corresponds very roughly to the vocabulary of an educated English speaker, about 5% of the words are borrowed from Greek.
Of the 500 most common words in English, 18 are of Greek origin: place (rank 115), problem (121), school (147), system (180), program (241), idea (252), story (307), base (328), center (335), period (383), history (386), type (390), music (393), political (395), policy (400), paper (426), phone (480), economic (494).
|For a list of words relating to with Ancient Greek language origins, see the English terms derived from Ancient Greek category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|For a list of words relating to with Greek language origins, see the English terms derived from Greek category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|