Greek is the official language of Greece, which is also called the Hellenic Republic, and is also one of the official languages of the Republic of Cyprus. There are big Greek and Cypriot communities in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, South Africa and Russia, but also in neighbouring countries, such as Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
It’s estimated that around 30% of the English vocabulary consists, directly and indirectly, of words of Classical Greek origin. Most of them are technical and scientific terms.
Words of Greek origin are often used at the beginning of a word, such as:
aero from ἀήρ [aeer], air
auto from αὐτός [aftos], self
cata from κατά [kata], down
hyper from ὑπέρ [yper], over
It’s fairly easy to learn to read Greek as most letters and sounds already exist in English. The Greek language has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, so the word the is written in three ways: ο [o] for masculine, η [ee] for feminine, το [to] for neuter. Moreover, the word the is also used before place names, for example το Λονδίνο [to Lonthino], literally the London, or a person’s name, for example η Μαρία [ee Maria], the Mary.
Greek is one of the oldest Indo European languages and forms an independent branch of the Indo European language family. Like Latin, Greek has influenced other languages around the world, so learning Greek might help you recognise and understand a number of words in other European and non European languages.
However, while the Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in the past, with the introduction of new technologies and the globalisation of the media industry, there has been an influx, in recent decades, of English or Hellenised English words into the Greek vocabulary.
Most ancient Greek personalities, such as philosophers and politicians, have left no writings of their own and thus any knowledge about their teachings or opinions comes primarily from other sources such as ancient authors who quote them or refer to them in their own work.
Eν οίδα ότι ουδέν οίδα
[En eetha otee outhen eetha]
I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.
This is one of the most well-known quotes attributed to Socrates (469-399 BC), the ancient Greek philosopher and teacher of Plato and Xenophon.
Οι σοφοί άνδρες μιλούν επειδή έχουν να πουν κάτι. Οι ανόητοι επειδή κάτι πρέπει να πουν
[Ee sophee anthres meeloun epeethee ekhoun na poun katee. Ee anoitee epeethee katee prepeee na poun].
Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.
Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC) Greek philosopher and mathematician
Cheek kissing, one on each cheek, is almost obligatory when greeting friends but it’s quite uncommon between male friends. Try an informal handshake or a pat on the shoulder instead.