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Ten English Words Whose Origins Are Deeper Than You Think

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Greece is not only one of the drawcards of Europe, it is the birthplace of ancient civilization where a plethora of the things we know today, stem from. From being home to the Olympians, picturesque islands, age-long traditions and captivating architectural ruins, it will not be totally out of place to say that Greece is the navel of the Earth.

One of the reasons why we love Greece is because a vast array of some words in English, have Greek origins. Some of these words can be directly traced to ancient Greeks. Here are 10 words that were coined from Ancient Greek personalities.


At one time or the other, we may have found something of interesting quite tantalizing. We refer to food as tantalizing when we realize that it tastes great and appetizing. While we may have become fascinated with this word which signifies being tempted without feeling satisfied, we have the Greek ancient personality “Tantalus” to thank for it.


Legend has it that Tantalus, a Greek mythical being was punished for eternity after he murdered his son, stole from the gods and exposed the secrets of the gods to his people. Tantalus’ punishment saw him standing in a body of water under a tree whose low hanging branches bore fruits. The fruits eluded his grasp whenever he tried to pluck them, and the water receded when he tried to take a drink.


Human beings have different levels of libidos, but some persons make efforts to boost their libido by taking enhancers which are called “Aphrodisiacs”. What is intriguing is that these love drugs as they are also called were named after “Aphrodite”, the goddess of love in Greek mythology. Aphrodite was also linked with sexuality, pleasure and passion, so when next you feel horny after consuming a libido enhancing drug be assured that your sex life has been blessed by Aphrodite.



It is said that your “Achilles heel” is your weakest point. The expression “Achilles Heel” was named after an ancient Trojan warrior; Achilles. Myth has it that when Achilles was born, his mother Thetis was told to submerge him into the River Styx for protection. Thetis held an infant Achilles by one of his heels and immersed him into the river.

Unknown to his mother, Achilles was invulnerable in every part of his body save his heel. Achilles was killed by Paris after he was shot with an arrow during the Trojan War. The next time someone tells you “this is your Achilles heel”, pray for the soul of Achilles.



Women in same-sex relationships are said to exhibited Sapphic love. In our world today where love has no boundaries and loving whomever we chose to love is paramount, one personality the LGBT community should give their immense gratitude to is Sapphos. Even the term “lesbian” has a direct link to the ancient poet.


Myth has it that Sapphos was a homosexual woman who advocated for same-sex relationships amongst women in ancient Greece. Sapphos organized taught the beautiful women subjects on art, literature, music and poetry. The story even gets more interesting! During her time, Sapphos lived in the idyllic island of Lesbos. For this reason, the female citizens of the island of Lesbos were referred to as lesbians.


An over-bloated feeling of importance is termed “Narcissism”. Narcissistic individuals tend to be self-absorbed, entitled, gratifying and proud. Usually, narcissism is ruled as a disorder and social problem, where its victims strive for perfectionism, while adopting an air superiority and arrogance about them. 

Narcissists are known to be shameless, jealous, exploitative, rude and high-thinking. And these were the traits of the person whom these traits were named after-Narcissus.


The term “Narcissism” was coined from the Greek’s mythical being “Narcissus” who was born by aof nymph and a river god. Narcissus was an extremely handsome hunter who was obsessed with his beauty.

After he was turned down by the nymph he favored, he spent hours admiring his image. The self-absorbed Narcissus often led some of his admirers, who were astonished                                                                                                                                                                      by his beauty to commit suicide. Narcissus went to have a drink from a pool of water and saw his reflection, which he fell in love with. In the bid to reach out to his twin in the pool of the water, he fell and drowned.


You can hear the “Echo” of your voice, when you speak in an empty room. Imagine being cursed with hearing your own echo for the rest of your existence. Well, this was the fate of “Echo”, a nymph in Greek mythology who was cursed by Hera for trying to protect Zeus. Folklore has it that Zeus’ partner, Hera, became jealous after she observed he was consorting with the nymphs.

Echo played a fast one on Hera by engaging her in a conversation which distracted her from the task at hand. A seemingly upset Hera who realized she had been deceived by Echo placed a curse on Echo. The curse? Echo could only repeat the words spoken by another person. As time went by, Echo passed on and the only thing about her that lives on is her voice.


Nemesis is karma for the offence you have committed. If persons who do bad are paid what is due to them, it is said that nemesis has caught up with them. In some occasions, nemesis might signify an arch-enemy. Have you ever paid dearly for your wrongdoing? If yes, it is safe to say that your nemesis has caught up with you.


The term “nemesis” originated from the Greek goddess “Nemesis” who was known for distributing both good and bad fortune in rightful proportionS to those deserving of them. The goddess with wings, is symbolized by objects such as a sword and a dagger, is said to be the mother of the famous Helen of Troy, the fair-maiden who was responsible for the Trojan War. The goddess Nemesis was bandied as an epitome of justice, who went to great lengths to avenge crimes. When next you think of faltering, think twice, else the dark-faced Nemesis might catch up with you.



If there is one thing we all wish for is to grow in health and strength into our old age. In common terms, old people especially those who are receiving medical care are popularly referred to as geriatric patients, and the reason why it is so is not far-fetched. The origin of the phrase “Geriatric” can be traced to the Greek god of old age “Geras”, who was portrayed as a quaint, aged man.





Hypnosis is a condition which involves inducing an individual into a trance-like state. Hypnosis is most times confused for sleep, but it differs from sleep because the person involved is alert throughout the process. It shouldn’t come as a shock to know that the term “hypnosis” was named after the Greek god of sleep “Hypnos”. Suffix to say, the next time someone feels hypnotize, it is safe to say the Greek god; Hypnos has visited the person.



The term “Music” was coined from the word “Muse”. In ancient Greece, there were 9 goddesses who were known for inspiring science, literature and the arts. They were praised for being the originators of songs, poetry and lyric that were communicated orally to people for many centuries.


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