Our Everyday Greek: REVIEW: Roots of English words in «Χρόνια πολλά», «Χριστούγεννα»

January 2, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou

Can you imagine how many English words have roots in our common wish «Χρόνια πολλά» and in the second compound of the word Χριστούγεννα?

Verbatim «Χρόνια πολλά» means «Many years». What is the etymological connection?


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 compound in English words, chrono-. Ο χρόνος, the time had been personified in the deity Cronus, ο Κρόνος, in ancient Greek mythology.

English word Greek word Pronunciation

Cronus ο Κρόνος     o KROnos

The chronology η χρονολογία       ee hronoloYEEa

The chronometer το χρονόμετρο  to hroNOmetro

Chronic ο χρόνιος    o HROnios

The chronicle το χρονικό    to hroniKO


Πολλά means many in Greek and is the plural, neuter grammatical gender of the adjective ο πολύς, η πολλή, το πολύ, whose declination is irregular. The word πολλά is familiar to you from the prefix poly-, which derives from the above Greek adjective and occurs in many English words.

English word Greek word   Pronunciation

Polychromy   η πολυχρωμία          ee polihroMEEa

-chromy         το χρώμα       to HROma

Polyclinic       η πολυκλινική           ee 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


Χριστούγεννα is a composite word from the genitive case of the name Χριστός (του Χριστού= Christ’s) and the noun η γέννα (=the birth). It is the birth of Christ, therefore Χριστούγεννα means the day, when Christ was born.


The prefix of many English words gen- and the suffix -gen come from the Greek root γεν-, which means becoming, give birth to.

English word Greek word   Pronunciation

gene το γονίδιο        to yoNEEdio

gender           το γένος         to YEnos

genealogical ο γενεαλογικός         o yenealoyiKOS

genealogy η γενεαλογία                  ee yenealoYEEa

genesis η γένεσις     ee YEnesis

genetic           ο γενετικός    o yenetiKOS

genetically γενετικά yenetiKA

genetics η Γενετική  ee yenetiKEE

genotype       ο γονότυπος o yoNOtipos

genius ο ιδιοφυής    o idiofiEES

oxygen           το οξυγόνο    to oxiYOno

hydrogen       το υδρογόνο to idroYOno




In ancient and modern Greek too, we have two different verbs which etymologically come from the root γεν-. The verbs γίγνομαι and γεννάω. The first, γίγνομαι in ancient Greek and γίνομαι (YEEnome) in modern Greek expresses the process of existence, a becoming. From this verb derives the word genesis, η γένεσις in ancient Greek, η γένεση (ee YEnesi) in modern Greek. The second verb γεννάω, (yeNAo) expresses the act of engendering, of giving birth to something, of bringing something into being. From the verb γεννάω derive the words η γέννα (ee YEna), η γέννηση (ee YEnisi). Philologists haven’t reached a conclusion why η γένεση is written with one ν and η γέννηση with two.



Η γέννηση του Χριστού. (EE YEnisi too hriSTOO). The birth of Christ.

Η γένεση του κόσμου. (EE YEnesi too KOsmoo). The genesis (creation) of the world.

Η μαμά μου γέννησε εμένα. (EE maMA moo YEnise eMEna). My mother gave birth to me.

Η μαμά μου γέννησε την αδελφή μου /τον αδελφό μου. (EE maMA moo YEnise teen adelFEE moo /ton adeLFO moo). My mother gave birth to my sister /to my brother.



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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