Some words of (non-obvious) Greek origin

I am listing here more than 50 English words beginning with A and B with an origin that can be traced to a Greek word. I have deliberately excluded all words whose Greek origin is obvious, all scientific terms, as well as words that describe a specific Ancient Greek notion. Also excluded are most cases where the Greek origin is disputed –I have retained a few of those, and they are marked by an asterisk. Yes, some of the words are extremely infrequent, but perhaps they correspond to frequent words in other language(s). Note that I tried to exclude antique English words.

aam fr. Gk. άμη, thru Latin
Ger. Ohm comes from the same

abraxas fr. Gk. αβρασάξ thru Latin

also abracadabra

agate fr. Gk. αχάτης thru Fr.

agio fr. Gk.αλλάγιον thru It.

albatross fr. Gk. κάδος thru Arabic, Portuguese
alcatras, cognate to albatross

alcazar fr. Gk. κάστρον (which comes fr. Lat. castrum) thru Arabic

alchemy fr. Gk. χημεία thru Arabic

alembic fr. Gk. άμβιξ, thru Arabic and Spanish

almagest fr. Gk. μεγίστη thru Arabic

almanac fr. Gk. αλμενιχιακά (prob. Coptic) thru Latin

almond fr. Gk. αμυγδάλη thru Latin and VulgLatin

alms fr. Gk. ελεημοσύνη thru Latin

*amalgam fr. Gk. μάλαγμα thru Latin

ampulla fr. Gk. αμφορεύς thru Latin

*amulet fr. Gk. άμυλον thru Latin

*anchovy fr. Gk. αφύη thru VLatin, Genovese

anchor fr. Gk. άγκυρα thru Latin
also angora

antelope fr. MGk. ανθόλοψ thru Latin

anthem fr. Gk. αντίφωνα thru MLat.

apricot fr. Gk. πραικόκιον (which comes fr. Latin) thru Arabic

April, fr. Gk. Αφρώ, Αφροδίτη, thru (Etruscan and) Latin

arbalest, 2nd. part fr. Gk. βάλλειν thru Latin, French

archipelago fr. Gk. Αιγαίον Πέλαγος thru Italian

aria fr. Gk. αήρ thru Latin and Italian

asp fr. Gk. ασπίς thru Latin and French
aspic has the same origin

bain, bain-marie fr. Gk. βαλανείον thru Latin and French

baleen fr. Gk. φά(λ)λαινα thru Latin and French

ball fr. Gk. βαλλίζειν thru VulgLatin and French
ballad, ballet, ballerina, bayadere are of the same family

balm fr. Gk. βάλσαμον thru Latin and French
also embalm

baluster fr. Gk.βαλαύστιον thru Latin, Italian
also balustrade

banjo, also bandore fr. Gk. πανδούρα thru Lat., Port.

barge fr. Gk. βάρις thru Latin
also barque, embark etc.

barranca fr. Gk. φάραγξ thru VLatin and Spanish

barrator fr. Gk. πράττειν thru Latin and OFr.
barter most probably comes from the same, thru French

baston fr. Gk. βαστάζειν thru LateL and French
also bastinado, baton

beaker fr. Gk. βίκος thru VLatin

bezant fr. Gk. Βυζάντιον thru Latin

bishop fr. Gk. επίσκοπος thru Latin

bomb fr. Gk. βόμβος thru Latin

bombast fr. Gk. βαμβάκιον thru MLat.

bonanza fr. Gk. μαλακία thru Latin

*bottle, fr. Gk. πυτίνη thru LateL. and French
also butler

bourse fr. Gk. βύρσα thru LLat.
also purse

boutique fr. Gk. αποθήκη thru Provencal and French
also bodega, bottega

box (the tree) fr. Gk. πύξος thru Latin
box (case) also

boy fr. Gk. βοείαι (δοραί) thru Latin and OFrench

bracelet, brace fr. Gk. βραχίων thru Latin
also embrace etc.
also bretzel comes fr. the same thru German

bra(ssiere) fr. βραχίων thru Latin and French

brave fr. Gk. βάρβαρος thru Latin, Italian
also bravo, bravado, bravura etc.

*bridge (the game) fr. Gk. πυρρός thru Latin, Italian, Russian

*brilliant fr. Gk. βήρυλλος thru Latin and French

buffalo fr. Gk. βούβαλος thru Latin, Portuguese
also buffle

bulb fr. Gk. βολβός thru VLatin

buoy see boy
also buoyant

bureau prob. fr. Gk. πυρρός, thru Latin and OFrench

burnous fr. Gk. βίρρος (which comes from Latin) thru Arabic

burse, same as bourse (fr. Gk. βύρσα)
also reimburse, disburse etc.

butter fr. Gk. βούτυρον thru Latin
also the first part of butterfly

Nikos Sarantakos

© 1998
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