Ελπίδα comes from the ancient Greek word ἐλπίς – the personification and spirit of hope in Greek mythology, often depicted as a young woman carrying flowers or a cornucopia. Today, Ελπίδα is a popular name for women.
Meaning ‘friend to the stranger”, φιλοξενία – in a broader sense – refers to hospitality and a welcoming and ‘what’s mine is yours’ attitude. A term with a long history, Homer’s Iliad and the Bible both refer to φιλοξενία. In ancient Greek culture, great emphasis was placed on hospitality, and showing generosity to those who are far from home was held as a high virtue.
Υγεία is connected to Hygeia, the goddess of good health, cleanliness and sanitation; the term ‘hygiene’ is derived from it. Before it became a colloquial greeting, the Modern Greek phrase ‘Γεια σουor Γεια σας’ – which means ‘your health’ – was used to wish someone well.
Ψυχή, from which the English word ‘psyche’ is derived, comes from the ancient Greek verb ψῡ́χω ( to blow) and means ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’. It is connected to Psyche, the heroine of the myth Cupid and Psyche (second century), in which the two lovers must overcome a series of obstacles standing in the way of their union. The story has often been interpreted as an allegory for the soul redeeming itself through love.
This word comprises the root ευ-, which means good, and τύχη meaning ‘luck’ or ‘good fortune’. It can also be translated as ‘contentment’, which some might say is the truest and most consistent form of happiness.
νοσταλγία nostalgia, homesickness
Nostalgia – from which the English ‘nostalgia’ and ‘nostalgic’ derive – combines the ancient Greek term nostos (which means return home or homecoming) and algos (a Homeric Greek literary term meaning ‘ache’ or ‘pain’). Algos serves as the root for the English word ‘analgesic’, which is formed with the root an– (without) and algos.
φιλότιμο honour and self-sacrifice
Another word that’s hard to translate is filotimo, which encompasses an array of virtues: honour, self-sacrifice, duty, courage, pride and integrity. Meaning ‘friend of honour’ or ‘love of honour’, filotimo refers to doing sometime honourable and righteous, even if it is not in your own interest. Though long considered among the highest of Greek virtues, in the earliest writings, it carried negative connotations; in The Republic (c. 375 BC) for example, Plato used it in an ironic sense to mean someone who was conceited and coveted honour.
Meaning ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’, ελευθερία refers particularly to a state of freedom from slavery. In Ancient Greece, ελευθερία was an attribute of the goddess Artemis. Today, you can see the word in the Greek national motto – Eleftheria i thanatos (‘Freedom or death’) – which originated in the songs of Greek resistance against Ottoman rule.
You can also read:10 English Words With Origins in Greek Mythology
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