Our Everyday Greek: The Greek Words for Salt and Sea You Already Know

May 18, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou


The Greek word for the sea, η θάλασσα, is found in English in the word thalassocracy. It means a state’s dominance of the sea. In history we talk about the Athenian thalassocracy in the classical era, the domination of the Athenians in the Aegean Sea islands. Η θαλασσοκρατία, the thalassocracy, is a compound word from thalassa (θάλασσα = sea) + cracy (κράτος = power). The second compound -cracy is found in English words as aristocracy, η αριστοκρατία, which means the power of the aristoi, οι άριστοι (= the best) usually a reference to the upper class. Το κράτος in Greek is the state. In ancient Greek this word also meant the power, reflecting how powerful -ancient Greeks thought- a city-state, πόλη-κράτος, could be.


The Greek word for salt is αλάτι and in ancient Greek αλας. In Homeric Greek the sea was called αλς and the sandy beach θις. A common phrase repeated many times in the Odyssey is «παρά θιν’ αλός.». It means close to, next to, at – the beach – and the whole phrase verbatim means “at the sandy beach of the sea.” “at the beach.” In ancient Greek the word η αλς, of feminine grammatical gender, meant the sea and the word ο αλς, of masculine grammatical gender, meant the salt.
The word αλς is also found in the word η παραλία, which means the beach. Παραλία> παρά + άλς, a compound word from the preposition παρά, which means close to, next to, and αλς, the sea.
Note the connection between salt and αλάτι in their letters’ combination; they both come from the same Indo-European root. Consider also sal in Latin and Salz in German.


Greek word Pronunciation Meaning
Η θάλασσα EE THAlasa the sea
Η θαλασσοκρατία EE thalasokraTEEa the thalassocracy
Το κράτος TO KRAtos the state, the power
Η πόλη- κράτος EE POli KRAtos the city-state
Η αριστοκρατία EE aristokraTEEa the aristocracy
Οι άριστοι EE Aristi the best
Το αλάτι TO aLAti the salt
Ο αλμυρός O almiROS salted (masculine gram. gender)
Η αλμυρή EE almiREE salted (feminine gram. gender)
Το αλμυρό TO almiRO salted (neuter gram. gender)
Το νερό TO neRO the water
Το φαγητό TO fayiTO the food
Πολύ poLEE a lot
Λίγο LEEyo a little
Δεν DEN not
Θέλει THEli need, want
Δεν θέλει DEN THEli doesn’t need
Είναι EEne is
Η παραλία EE paraLEEa the beach
Παρά paRA close to, next to, at


Η θάλασσα έχει πολύ αλάτι.
H THAlasa Ehi poLEE aLAti.
The sea has a lot of salt.

Η θάλασσα είναι αλμυρή.
EE THalasa EEne almiREE.
The sea is salted.

Το νερό της θάλασσας έχει αλάτι.
TO neRO TEEs THalasas Ehi aLAti.
The sea water has salt.

Το νερό της θάλασσας είναι αλμυρό.
TO neRO TEES THAlassas EEne almiRO.
The sea water is salted.

Το φαγητό έχει πολύ αλάτι.
TO fayiTO Ehi poLEE aLAti.
The food has a lot of salt.

Το φαγητό έχει λίγο αλάτι.
TO fayiTO Ehi LEEyo aLAti.
The food has a little salt.

Το φαγητό δεν έχει αλάτι.
TO fayiTO DEN Ehi aLAti.
The food doesn’t have salt.

Το φαγητό θέλει αλάτι.
TO fayiTO THEli aLAti.
The food needs salt.

Το φαγητό είναι αλμυρό.
TO fayiTO EEne almiRO.
The food is salted.

Tο φαγητό δεν είναι αλμυρό.
TO fayiTO DEN EEne almiRO.
The food isn’t salted.


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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