Philotimo (also spelled filotimo; Greek: φιλότιμο) is a Greek noun translating to "love of honor". However, philotimo is almost impossible to translate sufficiently as it describes a complex array of virtues.
The word is used in early writings, sometimes in a bad sense; Plato's Republic uses philotimon (φιλότιμον) ironically: "covetous of honor"; other writers use philotimeomai (φιλοτιμέομαι) in the sense of "lavish upon". However, later uses develop the word in its more noble senses. By the beginning of the Christian era, the word was firmly a positive and its use in the Bible probably cemented its use in modern Greek culture.
The word philotimon is used extensively in Hellenistic period literature.
The word appears three times in the text of letters written by the Apostle Paul. Paul was a fluent Greek speaker and, by his writing, shows he was well educated in Hellene literature. His letters were originally written in Greek and therefore the choice of the word was deliberate and the sophisticated choice of an educated man.
It is a difficult word to translate into English and is rendered variously depending on the Bible translation. Valid alternatives include; ambition, endeavour earnestly, aspire, being zealous, strive eagerly, desire very strongly or study. In each case Paul is conveying a desire to do a good thing and his choice of word gives this honourable pursuit extra emphasis.
In 1st Thessalonians 4:11 he uses it to describe the sort of ambition believers should have to conduct their lives with philotimo: - a life above reproach, well regarded by their community for their kindness.
Philotimo is considered to be the highest of all Greek virtues, the standards for family and social living; the core concept is that of respect and walking in right paths. In its simplest form, the term means "doing good", actions that ensure that one's behavior be exemplary and demonstrate one's personality and the manner in which one was raised. Philotimo to a Greek is essentially a way of life.
Children are said to display philotimo when they display unconditional love and respect towards their parents, grandparents and friends, even though small actions such as expressions of gratitude for small gifts or random acts of kindness. It extends to include appreciation and admiration for heritage and ancestors. The concept was used to embody the assistance rendered to Allied soldiers on Crete after the Axis invasion of the island; locals felt driven by philotimo to hide Australians and Britons despite the death penalty for sheltering soldiers.