Our Everyday Greek: Roots of the Greek New Years’ wishes in English words

January 6, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou


Greek phrase                                   Pronunciation           Meaning

Καλή χρονιά!                                     kaLEE hroniA!          (Have) a good year!

Καλή πρωτοχρονιά!                         kaLEE protohroniA! Happy New Year’s Day!

Ευτυχισμένο το έτος 2019!            eftihiSMEno to Etos 2019! Happy yea 2019!

Χαρούμενο το έτος 2019!               haROOmeno to Etos 2019!           Happy year 2019!

Χαρούμενη η νέα χρονιά!               haROOmeni ee NEa hroniA!         Happy New Year!

Ευτυχισμένη η νέα χρονιά!             eftihiSMeni ee NEa hroniA! Happy New Year!

Χαρούμενος ο νέος χρόνος!           haROOmenos o NEos HRonos!   Happy New Year!

Ευτυχισμένος ο νέος χρόνος!        eutihiSMEnos O Neos HRonos!   Happy New Year!


Both compounds of the Greek word Πρωτοχρονιά are used in English.  Πρωτοχρονιά is a compound word from πρώτο (= first) +χρονιά (=year) and means the New Year’s Day. The numerical adjective πρώτο is familiar to you from the word protagonist. It comes from the Greek word πρωταγωνιστής (protagoniSTEES) and it means the distinguished first (= πρώτος PROtos) in a competition (=αγών aGON). Ο πρώτος is the first and αγών in ancient Greek means the fight and the competition as well. In classical Greece the theatrical plays were performed during annual competition days. Χρονιά is chrono- in English (chrono+logy).


Nobody knows why, but in Greek we have four different words that mean the year and the years. Their meaning is exactly the same, but we usually use each one of them in a different phrase. Note that the word the year exists in Greek in all three different grammatical genders. The masculine, ο χρόνος, the feminine η χρονιά and the neuter το έτος. The neuter τα χρόνια exists only in the plural number and its only difference from the feminine word is in the syllable that takes the accent: τα χρόνια, η χρονιά.

Τα χρόνια is used in the wish «Χρόνια πολλά!», while η χρονιά is used in the wish «Καλή χρονιά!». Ο χρόνος is used in the phrases ο παλιός χρόνος, ο νέος χρόνος.

Note that we can use any gender of the word year in the wishes:

«Ευτυχισμένος ο νέος χρόνος!», «Χαρούμενος ο νέος χρόνος!»

«Ευτυχισμένη η νέα χρονιά!», «Χαρούμενη η νέα χρονιά!»

«Ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος!», «Χαρούμενο το νέο έτος!»

«Ευτυχισμένο το έτος 2019!», «Χαρούμενο το έτος 2019!»

Greek word   Pronunciation           Meaning

Ο χρόνος       o HROnos     the year

Οι χρόνοι       ee HROni      the years

Η χρονιά        ee hroniA      the year

Οι χρονιές      ee hroniES    the years

Τα χρόνια      ta HROnia     the years

Το έτος           to Etos            the year

Τα έτη             ta Eti               the years


Tyche is the ancient Greek goddess of fortune. The adjective ο ευτυχισμένος, η ευτυχισμένη, το ευτυχισμένο is a composite one from the prefix ευ-, which means the good and is known in English from words like eurythmy, euphory, and the noun τύχη. Ευτυχία can be translated as happiness or bliss in English. For the ancient Greeks it was connected with the good fortune.

The adjective ο χαρούμενος, η χαρούμενη, το χαρούμενο, which means joyful, comes from the same root like the English words charisma and Charis: from the verb χαίρομαι (HErome), which means I am happy, I am pleased) and the noun χαρά (haRA), the joy.


The Greek adjective νέος, -α, -ο, which means new, is the root of English words that begin with the prefix neo-: Neon derives from το νέον (to Neon), which means the new. From the same adjective come the words Neolithic (=ο νεολιθικός, o neolithiKOS), Neoclassical (=ο νεοκλασικός, o neoklasiKOS).


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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