Greek word origins

As I think I have mentioned before, one of the interesting things about learning Modern Greek is that my tutor, Maria, helps me remember words better when I come across them by explaining their etymology.

So there’s the Ancient Greek verb fio to give birth, grow, which is at the root of several Greek words which have also come across to English; fisi (nature) from which we get physics; fito (a plant) from which we get phyto- in plant compound names. Then there’s fimi which mean to speak in Ancient Greek and from which we get our word famous.

The word for God/god is theos which comes from an Ancient Grek verb meaning to look at something high up and is linked to directly to the word for a view (thea). I find that rather engaging and can understand that this makes sense in Greece where the home of the gods was believed to be a mountain (Mt Olympos) and temples were often built in high places.

Recently we came across the word for devil (diavolos or diaolos). Maria explained that this is a Greek word, not one that has been adopted into Greek and that it comes from a verb in Ancient Greek diavallo which means to slander. I was suddenly curious at what the Greek version of the Lord’s Prayer uses in the final line ‘But deliver us from evil’. In the Russian version (A izbavi nas ot Lukavogo), it translates as ‘Deliver us from the Evil [or Cunning] One’. The Greek version is the same as the Russian one:  alla risai imas apo tou ponirou. 

It strikes me as odd the difference in this one word between the old eastern and western churches. The western churches uses the abstract word evil (also in Latin sed libera nos a malo), whereas the eastern churches use more of a personification of evil.


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