Our Everyday Greek: «Χρόνια πολλά»: chrono- and poly- in English words

December 17, 2018
Dimitra Pontoporou

The Christmas and holiday – including name day – greeting in Greek is: «Χρόνια πολλά». Both words are familiar to you from many English words, which derive from Greek ones and from Greek Mythology names and begin with chrono- and poly-. What is the etymological connection? Verbatim «Χρόνια πολλά» means “Many years.” Χρόνια, or τα χρόνια means the years. The Greek word ο χρόνος means the time, and the year, one year. It is found as the first element in compound English words (chrono-), like the chono-logy, the chrono-meter, the cron-icle.

Ο χρόνος, the time, had been personified in the deity Cronus, ο Κρόνος, in ancient Greek mythology. It is interesting that the element of time in Greek Mythology is closely connected to the universe and to planet earth: Cronus was the son of Uranus, the Sky, and of Gaia, the Earth. He was additionally the father of many Olympian gods and above all of Zeus, their leader, but he is also the one who tries to eat his children, the gods. The time versus the immortality of the gods. In the end, the gods triumphed.

Chronology, chronometer, chronic, chronicle come from the Greek word ο χρόνος, which means time and year. The chrono+logy (= χρόνος + λόγος) verbatim is talking about the time, defining it, therefore, the chronology is the date. The chrono+meter (= χρόνος + μέτρο) is a timing device of high accuracy used when exact and accurate measurement of time is required. Το μέτρο is the meter and the measure. We call chronic a disease which continues for a long time. A chronicle is a description of events in the order they happened. The chronogram is an inscription in which specific letters, interpreted as numerals, stand for a particular date when rearranged. The word, meaning “time writing”, derives from the Greek words chronos (χρόνος = time) and gramma (γράμμα = letter). The chronograph (=χρόνος + γράφω), which verbatim means writing the time, is a specific type of watch that is used as a stopwatch combined with a display watch.

English word Greek word Pronunciation
Chrono- Ο χρόνος O HROnos
Cronus Ο Κρόνος O KROnos
The chronology Η χρονολογία EE hronoloYEEa
Chronological χρονολογικός hronologiKOS
The chronometer Το χρονόμετρο TO hroNOmetro
Chronic Ο χρόνιος O HROnios
The chronicle Το χρονικό TO hroniKO
The chronogram το χρονόγραμμα TO hroNOgramma
The chronograph ο χρονογράφος o hronoGRAfos

Πολλά means many in Greek. The word is familiar to you from the prefix poly-, which occurs in many English words. For instance, poly-chromy means with many colors, poly-clinic is a clinic with many departments, poly-gamy is the marriage with many partners, polygon is the geometrical shape with many corners, polyhedron is the geometrical shape with many sides, polymorphic is something that changes forms and Polyphemus is the one-eye giant from the Greek Mythology, Cyclops. His name means the one who is known to many, who has a wide reputation.
English word Greek word Pronunciation
Polychromy η πολυχρωμία EE polihroMEEa
-chromy το χρώμα TO HROma
Polyclinic η πολυκλινική ΕΕ poliklinikEE
clinic η κλινική EE kliniKEE
Polygamy η πολυγαμία EE polEEyamia
-gamy ο γάμος O YAmos
Polygon το πολύγωνο TO poLEEyono
-gon η γωνία EE yoNEEa
Polyhedron το πολύεδρο TO polEEedron
-edron η έδρα EE Edra
Polymorphic ο πολυμορφικός O polimorfiKOS
-morphic η μορφή EE morPHEE
Polyphemus ο Πολύφημος O poLEEphimos
phemus η φήμη EE FEEmi

i (idiom), ee (needle), e (energy), o (organism), oo (boot), y (yes), h (helium), th (theory), d (the). The capitalized syllables are accented.


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