Chapter 19: Greek Adjectives and Adverbs

§120. Greek Adverbs

This topic can be dismissed even more summarily than it was on the Latin side (Part I, §30). Although Greek had no shortage of adverbs (verb modifiers), not many are important in English vocabulary. At this point in the course, we’ll pass over the adverb εὐ (“well”), since it will be treated later as a combining prefix (eu-). Two adverbs worth noticing are τηλε (tēle, “far”) and παλιν (palin, “back,” “again”). The first has the obvious derivatives telephone, telegraph, telepathy, and television. The second appears in the English words palindrome (a “running back”[1]) and palingenesis (“being born again”), a synonym for reincarnation (Latin) or metempyschosis (Greek). Palindromes are those ingenious sentences that read the same in both directions. Among the most familiar are “Madam, I’m Adam” (allegedly the first words spoken in the Garden of Eden[2]); Napoleon’s apocryphal “Able was I ere I saw Elba”; and that brilliant slogan devised for U.S. Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt: “A man, a plan, a canal—Panama!” The most incredible (and the most contrived) is attributed to the late British poet W. H. Auden: “T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet.”

  1. The -drome part of palindrome comes from Greek δρομος (“running,” “race-course”), which occurs also in hippodrome (ἱππος + δρομος, “race-course for horses”) and velodrome (< F < L velox, “swift”).
  2. To which the demure lady replied laconically (and palindromically): “Eve.”


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Greek and Latin Roots: Part II - Greek Copyright © 2016 by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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