Our Everyday Greek: Greek you already know. The wind, αέρας and the rough sea, τρικυμία

June 17, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou

Ο αέρας is the Greek word for the air. The relation between the Greek and the English word is quite clear.
The words το κύμα and η τρικυμία first occur in the Homeric epic, and are close related. “H τρικυμία” is a compound word from the number τρία and κύμα > τρί (α) + κύμα. Τρία means three. It is found in English words as tri+angular, tri+chotomy etc. Many ancient Greeks have spent their lives sailing and they have observed that there is a rhythm in the waves sequence, when the sea is rough. Three bigger waves in a row are followed by smaller ones. Therefore, they have given the rough sea the name τρικυμία. Το κύμα is of neuter grammatical gender, because the word refers to an object, while η τρικυμία the rough sea, which is a condition, is of feminine grammatical gender, as are most feminine grammatical gender nouns that describe conditions.
In Greek we say «η θάλασσα έχει κύμα», “the sea has wave,” using the singular number of the word wave -not the plural-, without the article.
A very common phrase is «η θάλασσα είναι λάδι», «the sea is like oil”, which means that the sea is as calm as the olive oil in the bottle.

If the sea would be a person, would you imagine it as a man or a woman? For different cultures the answer is different.
In Greek the sea, η θάλασσα, is of feminine grammatical gender, while in French it is a noun of masculine grammatical gender. For the Greek sailors the sea was like a woman, who deceived them with her beauty. Like a Siren she calls men to travel and to embrace them in her waters. Yet, she is dangerous and hides sufferings under her temporary calmness.
In Slavic and in German the sea is of neuter grammatical gender. Do the proximity of a country to the sea and the degree to which its history has been dominated by its nautical actions play a role in the personification of the sea? Most probably yes, it does.

Μαρία, πώς είναι η θάλασσα σήμερα;
maREEa POS EEne EE THalasa SEEmera?
Maria, how is the sea today?
Σήμερα έχει αέρα και η θάλασσα έχει κύμα.
SEEmera Ehi aEra KE EE THAlasa Ehi KEEma.
Today it is windy and the sea (has waves) is rough.
Η θάλασσα σήμερα έχει τρικυμία.
EE THAlasa SEEmera Ehi trikiMEEa.
The sea today is rough.
Η θάλασσα σήμερα είναι ήσυχη.
EE THAlasa SEEmera EEne EEsihi.
The sea today is calm.
Η θάλασσα σήμερα είναι λάδι.
EE THAlasa SEEmera EEne LAdi.
The sea today is calm (like olive oil in a bottle).

Greek word Pronunciation Meaning
Η θάλασσα EE THAlasa the sea
Σήμερα SEEmera today
Πώς POS? how?
Είναι EEne is
Έχει Ehi has
Δεν DEN not, doesn’t
Ο αέρας O aEras the air, the wind
Το κύμα TO KEEma the wave
Η τρικυμία EE trikiMEEA the rough sea
Ήσυχη EEsihi calm
Το λάδι TO LAdi the olive oil

Πώς είναι η θάλασσα σήμερα; How is the sea today?
Try to give your answer by building whole sentences, like in the given example. In each sentence use the words given below.
Example: Αέρας, λάδι.
Σήμερα δεν έχει αέρα και η θάλασσα είναι λάδι.

1. Αέρας, ήσυχη.
2. Λάδι.
3. Αέρας, κύμα.
4. Αέρας, τρικυμία.

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


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