Discover the connection between protagonist and agony. As Olivia Colman won an Oscar for her role in Greek Director Lanthimos’ movie The Favourite, we will dedicate this month’s topic to Greek words in the English performing arts vocabulary. You will easily enrich your Greek vocabulary by realizing that you already know many more Greek words than you may think, and by discovering the etymological connections between English and Greek words.
Protagonist and deuteragonist are both Greek words, coming from the ancient Greek theatrical plays’ vocabulary. They are compound words from the numerical adjective πρώτος (=first), δεύτερος (=second) + αγώνας. The theatrical performances were then called αγώνες. Ο αγών in ancient Greek, ο αγώνας in modern Greek, means labor, competition, and the plural is αγώνες. The word αγών is familiar to you from the transliterated agony (αγωνία), which expresses the feeling during a competition. Isn’t etymology amazing?
ΑΓΩΝΑΣ AND GAMES
During the so-called Dionysia Celebrations, a theatrical competition took place in Athens where the lyric poets, who were producers as well (as Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus) competed for the best drama tetralogy. They had to present a trilogy of tragedies and one satirical drama. Today we use the word αγώνας for football, soccer, basketball, volley ball etc. games as well. We say ποδοσφαιρικός αγώνας, αγώνας μπάσκετ, αγώνας βόλεϊ.
NUMERICAL ADJECTIVES YOU ALREADY KNOW
Πρώτος is a numerical adjective, which means first, δεύτερος means second, τρίτος means third and τέταρτος means fourth. It is easy to remember these Greek words, if you refer to the first compound of relevant English ones: prot+agonist, deuter+agonist, tri+logy, tetra+logy.
The adjectives in Greek have 3 grammatical genders. Τhe masculine grammatical gender of the numerical adjectives ends in -ος, the feminine in -η, and the neuter in -ο: Ο πρώτ-ος, η πρώτ-η, το πρώτ-ο; o δεύτερ-ος, η δεύτερ-η, το δεύτερ-ο; o τρίτος, η τρίτη, το τρίτο; o τέταρτος, η τέταρτη, το τέταρτο.
NUMERICAL ADJECTIVES AND THE WEEKDAYS
In Greek we have named the week days after numerical adjectives. Δευτέρα is the second after the first day of the week, Sunday, Κυριακή, which is dedicated to Κύριος, our Lord, God. Τρίτη, Tuesday, is the third after the Sunday. Τετάρτη is the fourth, Wednesday, and Πέμπτη, Thursday, is the fifth day of the week. Note the slight difference in the ending and the accented syllable between δεύτερη, the second, and Δευτέρα, Monday; and in the accented syllable between τέταρτη, the fourth and Τετάρτη, Wednesday.
Greek word Pronunciation Meaning
Ο πρωταγωνιστής O protayoniSTEES the protagonist (male)
Η πρωταγωνίστρια EE protayonEEstria the protagonist (female)
Ο πρώτος, -η, -ο O PROtos, -i, -o the first
Ο αγώνας aYOnas the competition, labor
Η αγωνία EE ayoNEEa the agony
Ο ποδοσφαιρικός αγώνας O podosferiKOS aYOnas the soccer game
Ο δεύτερος, -η, -ο O DEfteros the second
Η Δευτέρα EE defTEra Monday
Ο δευτεραγωνιστής O defterayoniSTEES the deuteragonist
Ο τρίτος, -η, -ο O TREEtos the third
Η Τρίτη EE TREEti Tuesday
Η τριλογία EE triloYEEa the trilogy
Ο τέταρτος, -η, -ο O TEtartos the fourth
Η Τετάρτη EE teTArti Wednesday
Η τετραλογία EE tetraloYEEA the tetralogy
Ο πέμπτος, -η, -ο O PEmptos the fifth
Η Πέμπτη EE PEmpti Thursday
Η Κυριακή EE kiriaKEE Sunday
Can you translate into English? (έχω =have, έχει =has, είχε =had)
- Ο Λάνθιμος είχε αγωνία για το Όσκαρ.
- Η τριλογία έχει 3 τραγωδίες.
- Έχω αγωνία για τον ποδοσφαιρικό αγώνα Ελλάδας– Γερμανίας.
i (idiom), ee (bee), e (energy), o (organism), oo (boot), y (yes), h (helium), th (theory), d (the). The capitalized syllables are accented.