Our Everyday Greek: You Already Know: New and Old, Neo- and Paleo-

January 20, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou


The Greek adjective νέος, -α, -ο is the root of many English words that begin with the prefix neo-. Innumerable companies have incorporated the prefix neo- in their brand names, in order to indicate how innovative and new in the market their products are.

English word Greek word   Pronunciation

Neon              το νέον           to NEon

Neolithic        ο νεολιθικός  o neolithiKOS

-lithic              ο λίθος           o LEEthos

Neoclassical ο νεοκλασικός           o neoklasiKOS

Classical       ο κλασικός     o klasiKOS

Neorealism   ο νεορεαλισμός        o neorealisMOS

Realism         ο ρεαλισμός  o realiSMOS

When neon was discovered, in 1898, while studying the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, it was a new, unexpected element. Therefore, it was given the name neon, new. Neolithic era as opposed to paleolithic (paleo- means old) is the new era, the innovative one, when humans invented agriculture. The ending -lithic comes from the ancient Greek word ο λίθος, which means the stone. This root is also found in English words like litho-graphy (=printing from a stone or a metal plate with smooth surface), litho-tripsy (=the medical procedure involving of breaking hardened masses like kidney stones, bezoars or gallstones.)

The neoclassical style is the one that revived the Greek classical style. Neorealism or structural realism is a theory of international relations that says that power is the most important factor in international relations.


The Greek word παλιός, which means old, is familiar to you from English words that begin with the prefix paleo-.

English word Greek word   Pronunciation

Paleolithic     ο παλαιολιθικός       o paleolithiKOS

Paleontology η παλαιοντολογία    ee paleontoloYEEa

Paleography η παλαιογραφία       ee paleoyraFEEa

Paleobiology η παλαιοβιολογία     ee paleovioloYEEa

Biology          η βιολογία                 ee violoYEEa

Paleobotany η παλαιοβοτανολογία         ee paleovotanoloYEEa

Botany           η βοτανική                 ee votaniKEE

Paleogeography      η παλαιογεωγραφία ee paleoyeoyraPHEEa

Paleogenetics          η παλαιογενετική      ee paleoyenetiKEE

Genetics        η γενετική      ee yenetiKEE

The ancient Greek adjective ο παλαιός, η παλαιά, το παλαιόν has become in modern Greek ο παλιός, η παλιά, το παλιό. In reference to its root in ancient Greek, the English prefix paleo- is sometimes written as palaeo-.

Paleontology is a composite word from three compounds: paleo+ onto+ logy. Paleo-, παλαιός, means old, and the suffix -logy, which comes from the Greek word ο λόγος, means the study, the science of. The word -onto-, comes from the ancient Greek το ον, του όντος (=of the being), and means the existence, the being. Paleontology is the scientific study of life in past geological periods, mainly known to us from fossil remains. The suffix -graphy comes from the Greek verb γράφω, which means I write (lithography, paleography). Paleontography is the formal description of the relics of paleo beings, of their fossils.

Paleobotany is a science dealing with the plant remains of past geological periods found in fossil form and is a branch of paleobiology, the science that studies forms of life in past geological periods, and their evolution, and of paleogeography, which aims at the reconstruction of the past geological periods’ environments. Paleogenetics is the study of preserved genetic material from the remains of ancient organisms, often extinct.


Η εποχή (ee epoHEE) is the Greek word for the era, which has been transliterated in English in the word epoch, and η αρχιτεκτονική (ee arhitektoniKEE) is the architecture.

Can you translate into English the Greek phrases below?

Η νεολιθική εποχή =

Η παλαιολιθική εποχή =

Η κλασική εποχή =

Η νεοκλασική εποχή =

Η νεοκλασική αρχιτεκτονική =


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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