Greek Influence in English Literature

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Greek Influence in English Literature:

The Greek influence on the English language is very closely bound up with the Latin as it is through Latin or in Latinized forms that Greek words have found their way into the English language.


Almost all Greek terms have found their way into English through learned technical or scientific usage. Moreover, certain Greek elements have become acclimatized in the English language for technical terms such as graph meaning writing, phone meaning sound and so on. New terms such as a telephone (tele = far and phone = spund), phonograph (sound writing) have also been coined. Some of the Greek technical terms that are now used commonly are atom, chorus, Acrobat, cycle and so on.

Greek was the European language which developed the expression of philosophical ideas and so it is quite conceivable that philosophical and related terms were founded upon Classical Greek originals. For example, ‘peripatetic’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘peripetatikos’ and ‘phenomenon’ from Greek ‘phainomenon’.

Before the close of the Middle Ages, English acquired from Greek words such as Academy, atom, Bible, harmony, nymph, tragedy, tyrant, theatre. The 16th-century Greek loans comprise of irony, alphabet, drama, elegy, dilemma, caustic, chorus, pathos, epic, theory and so on. The 17th-century adaptations consist of orchestra, pandemonium, museum, hyphen, dogma, clinic and that of 18th century comprises of bathos and philanders. The 19th century saw the coinage or adaptation of phase, pylon, Acrobat, therm and agnostic.

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Greek words are used for new formations in English with Greek words plus English prefixes or suffixes and English words plus Greek prefixes or suffixes. Examples of words formed with Greek affixes added to English core words are – unpropitious, humaneness and concurrently. Examples of words formed with English affixes added to Greek core words are anti-British, hyper sensitive, amoral and so on. The Greek element –ology is often added to words of Latin English origin, for example, sociology.

Medical science has borrowed a large number of words from Greek and coined new words on Greek models such as – psychology from psyche which means mind in Greek; neurology from ‘neura’ which means nerve; Hepatic from ‘hepata’ meaning liver and much more.

Latin during the time of the Renaissance was a revitalizing linguistic force and an enlargement of an already well-used source whereas Greek was a new impulse. The rediscovery of ancient classical Greek brought a new way of looking at life in England.  This influence brought with it a host of new ideas and the coinage of a lot of new words for expression.                                      

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