It’s All Greek to Me…
Every week, The Greek Vibe features a Greek word. Visit this page to add one more word to your vocabulary. By the time your Greece adventure begins, you’ll be ready to communicate in Greek!
“Ελπίδα” or “elpida” means “hope” or the anticipation (or as a negative connotation “expectation”) that something better will come along. The ancient Greek word “elpis” is derived from myth where Elpis – a young girl carrying flowers – was the spirit of hope and abundance. According to myth, Elpida (hope) was the only thing left in Pandora’s Box after Pandora opened it and unknowingly released all evils into the world. This however has created controversy: is hope a good thing, signifying acceptance and a comforting thought? Or is it bad, representing expectations that others will be responsible for any change we wish to see. In Greek Orthodox texts, Elpida is the daughter – together with Pisti (Faith) and Agapi (Love) – of Saint Sophia (Wisdom) – all four celebrated on September 17. There is also a saying among the Greeks that “elpida (hope) dies last”. Elpida today is also a popular girl’s name.
“Θεός” or “theos” means “god” in Greek. The Greek philosopher Plato believed the word came from the ancient Greek verb “thein” (θέειν) which means “in circular motion” as were the sun and the planets that revolve and return to themselves. This is of course only one of the many explanations of the word. Another theory has it that the word “theos” comes from the verb “theomai” which means “to see all” or from the verb “theo” which means “omnipresent”. We can use its adjective “theiko” to describe something that is divine.
“Ραστώνη” or “rastoni” is a beautiful Greek word expressing how time passes during a lazy summer day. It’s more of a feeling of repose and is best conveyed in the famous jazz tune “Summertime… and the livin’ is easy…”. The word is ancient Greek and literally means stopping all activity – just like “diakopes” which means “vacation”. We’ve all feel it when we stretch out on a beach or at home with the windows open taking a nap here and there practicing the absolute art of doing nothing.
“Έξωκαρδιά” or “Exo Kardia” literally means “open hearted”, outgoing, carefree, and fun to be with. It’s very much the same with the word “anoichtokardos”. The term is used to describe someone who is most likely the life of the party. It also refers to a person who doesn’t take things “to heart” (or “katakarda”) and remains unattached and optimistic.
Παρέα or “parea” means to be “in the company of friends” or to do something “together”. “Parea” is a loan word from the Spanish “pareja”, which means “partner”. In Greece, when we refer to our “parea”, we’re referring to our closest friends – ‘partners in crime’, one could lovingly say. The word is commonly used and is an integral part of Greek life and culture as everything Greeks do usually involve a “parea”. The word can become a compound depending on the word added: for instance: “trello-parea” (crazy group of friends); “gynaiko-parea” (women-only), “antro-parea” (men-only). The “parea” is of such importance to the Greeks that we even have a song praising it: Dionysis Savvopoulos says in one of his 1983 songs: “parees make history”. True indeed! It’s always about sharing.
Ήλιος or “elios” means “sun” in Greek. The Greeks also had a sun god named Helios, derived from the Homeric word for sun – helius – and which is also the base word for the chemical gas known as “helium”.
In Greek mythology, the Sun god drove his horse-drawn chariot through the sky every day at dawn and dusk “pulling in and out the rays of light”
The son of Titans, Helios was the brother of the goddesses Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the dawn).
In Plato’s work “The Republic”, “elios” referred to as “alios”, alludes to the one who rises bringing the light to one and all, uniting all humans under the sun. He believed – like many spiritual teachers who followed – that one ray of light can disperse all darkness as it “sheds light” on knowledge so that we can see access true reality with the “mind’s eye“. Socrates, his teacher, referred to sun as the “child of goodness” as it illuminates the truth.
Νοσταλγία or “Nostalgia” reflects an inner longing for one’s homeland. A common word among the Greeks who emigrated, “nostalgia” is a compound word derived from joining of the ancient Greek words “nostos” which means “return or homecoming” and “algos” which means “pain or grief”. The term “nostalgia” was actually used in the late 1600s to describe a medical condition where one became obsessed (and depressed) to the point of illness (some times fatally), plagued by bittersweet memories of one’s homeland and the inability to return. It later came to represent the same feeling: a yearning for the return to a loved one or to a pleasant situation, particularly to carefree childhood.
Καλοκαίρι or “kalokeri” means “summer” and is a Medieval compound word derived from the ancient Greek words “kalo” which means “good” and “kairos” which means “season” or “time” and which came to mean summertime… when the living is easy. The ancient Greek word for summer is the word “theros” that’s why we say “therino cinema” referring to open-air summer cinemas. Kalo Kalokairi to all!
Αρμονία or “armonia” means “harmony” and is derived from the verb “aro” which is the root for the Greek word “areti” or “virtue”. “Armonia” therefore is a virtue in that it brings all things together to create a healthy whole: a oneness. This “whole” or “unity” means to be in tune and in union with the source – the universal laws . In Greek mythology, Harmonia was a deity – the daughter of two gods: Ares (of war) and Aphrodite (of love).
Καλημέρα – or “Kalimera” literally means “good day” – καλή = good and μέρα = day. We use it mainly in the mornings to wish the others good morning.
Ευχαριστώ – or “Efharisto” means “thank you” – ευ = good and χάρις = blessing. I suggest using it to others and to yourselves. It creates a better world. In the Christian sense, Efcharist, was used by Jesus in the Last Supper as he offered bread to his disciples expressing thanks and gratitude for that day.
Χρόνια Πολλά – or “Hronia Polla” which literally means “Many Years (of Health to You)”. The wish is used on all holidays, birthdays, and namedays. However, according to Greek Orthodox tradition, for the wish of “Hronia Polla” to mean something more it must be accompanied by a specific reason, which this week is “Καλά Χριστούγεννα” (Kala Christougenna) – meaning Merry Christmas!
Καλή Χρονιά – or “Kali Hronia” – literally means “Good Year”. Greeks say “Kali Xronia” at the start of the new year extending wishes of a yeαr full of health, love and prosperity. It is believed that wishes for the new year are meant to inspire and to motivate; a good word for the celebration of a new chance to be better versions of ourselves, as well as positive energy from one to the other. This said, ‘Kali Hronia’ to all of you filled with Love, Kindness, and Compassion.
Γλυκό του κουταλιού – or “glyko to koutaliou” literally means “spoon sweet”, which was a very popular treats (kerasma) in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. This was mainly because they could keep for months without needing to be refrigerated. As of late, the traditional Greek spoon sweet has made a strong comeback as it is a healthier choice for those midnight cravings.
Φιλοξενία – “Filoxenia” means “hospitality” in Greek – literally broken down to mean “friend” (filos) of the “foreigner” (xenos). Extending hospitality to the traveler or stranger has been among the top virtues in Greek culture ever since antiquity. There are dozens of myths dedicated to the art of hospitality telling the tales of humble wanderers seeking shelter and food who were actually gods in disguise.
Καλό μήνα or “Kalo Mina” means “Good Month” in Greek. It is actually a wish and a blessing which we share with loved ones and friends at the start of each month.
Αγάπη or “agape” vs “Έρωτας” or “erotas” – Two words very much tied with the mood of the week. Agape is the unconditional love for someone or for the divine. Erotas or “eros” is a form of intimate love accompanied by all that entails: passion, sex, pleasure and it is from this that have the word “erotic”. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. In Greece, Agios Yakinthos is the saint that protects the enamored or those “in love” celebrated on July 3.
Ευχαριστώ or “efcharisto” means thank you and is used to express gratitude. The word is derived from “eu” + “charis” which literally mean “in the favor of grace”. It is from this word that we have “Eucharist” which in the Catholic tradition refers to Holy Communion – an action of thanksgiving to God. Additionally, we accent “echaristo” at the end, but if you place the accent on the -a- Efchάristo – then the word means pleasant.
Διακοπές or “Diakopes” means “vacation” in Greek. It is actually the plural of the verb “diakopto” which means “stopping something” or “interrupting”. And that’s exactly what “diakopes” is all about: interrupting whatever you do all year round, and doing something different.
Θάλασσα or “Thalassa” means “sea” and is an ancient Greek word used over thousands of years with the very same meaning. A phrase we Greeks love and I know you will too? “Pame thalassa!”, or “Let’s hit the beach”.
Υγεία or “hygieia” means “health of both body and mind” or the “absence of illness”. It is from this word that we have the word “hygiene”. In ancient Greek mythology, Hygieia was the goddess of good health. Her father was god of medicine, Asclepius.
Άνοιξη or “Anixi” from the ancient Greek word “anixis” which means “to open”. In the Middle Ages, the word evolved to mean “spring” replacing “ear” and symbolizing the “opening” or improved weather and the “opening” of the flowers. Let’s add to that: the opening of our hearts. Kalo Mina! Kali Anixi!
Ανάσταση or “Anastasi” comes from the ancient Greek word which means “to rise”, “to emerge” or “to shift”. The word today means “resurrection” and denotes an inner shift toward a higher “arisen” (awakened) state. Greek Easter culminates with the resurrection of Christ and that is why we wish each other “Kali Anastasi” so that we may all follow His example and reach our highest spiritual state.
Κέφι or “Kefi” describes a state of the mind, a situation in which you feel passionate about something, it can describe a good mood or even the sense of euphoria (another Greek word) as a result of doing something fun and fulfilling. In Zorba the Greek – a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis – the lead character Zorbas best embodies the notion of “kefi”. To put it simply, ‘succumbing to kefi’ is putting your heart and soul’s best interest first. It’s doing what makes you feel in sync, in balance, in the here and now.