Playing with words

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By Teresa Saunderseducational journalist and children’s writer

Explore the Greek words that still appear in our language today

How many Greek words do you know? Before you start counting them on one hand, think again! Every day we use a great many words that have their roots in Ancient Greece. The Ancient Greeks lived a long time before electricity, telephones and microchips were invented, but each time we mention these marvels of modern life, we are using words based on their ancient language. The Romans brought these words to our shores more than 2000 years ago. They had previously conquered Greece and had absorbed a great many aspects of the country’s life into their own culture – the language in particular.

It is easy to recognise words derived from Greek; they appear regularly in prefixes and suffixes, such as poly or phone. Sometimes whole words comprise a Greek prefix and suffix joined together, such as telegram or telegraph. Strangely enough, it is in the modern sciences, medicine and technology, where we see a proliferation of these ancient words. The Greek word for study is ology – one of the best known of all suffixes. Many words with Greek origins surprise and impress us. Petra, meaning rock, is the basis for our word petroleum and also the boys name Peter. Elektron, meaning amber, is the root for our word electricity. This is because amber becomes charged with electricity when it is rubbed.

Ages 7-9

The clue’s in the word

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