The gods of old are still with us in our everyday language. All the highlighted words in the paragraph below are directly related to the mythological worlds of Norse, Greek, Roman, and Mayan cultures.
- Atlantic – Greek – Atlas was a Titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for eternity.
- chaos – Greek – Khaos was the first of the Protogenoi (primeval gods) and precedes the universe.
- chronology/chronic – Greek – Chronus, is the personification of time.
- cupid – Roman – Cupid, god of love in all varieties, was the son of Mercury and Venus.
- erotic – Greek – Eros was a primeval god, son of Chaos. Later tradition made him the son of Aphrodite and either Zeus, Ares, or Hermes.
- echo – Greek – Echo was an Oread (mountain nymph) who resided on Mount Cithaeron. She was punished by Hera with a spell that only allowed her to speak the last words she heard.
- Europe – Greek – Europa was a Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus and taken to Crete where she gave birth to King Minos.
- Friday – Norse – Frigg is the goddess of motherhood and marriage. Her name comes from the verb fríja meaning “to love.”
- fury – Greek – The Furies were the chthonic goddesses of vengeance.
- halcyon – Greek – the halcyon bird had the power to calm the ocean waves so she could nest. Halcyon has come to mean a sense of peace or tranquility.
- hurricane – Mayan – likely from the Taino word hurakán, a derivative of the Mayan god of storms, Jun Raqan.
- hypnosis – Greek – Hypnos is the personification of sleep. The Roman equivalent is Somnus, giving us somnambulism, aka sleepwalking.
- iridescent – Greek – Iris is the personification of the rainbow and a messenger of the gods.
- lethargy – Greek – Lethe was the name of a river in the underworld that was also called the River of Unmindfulness or the River of Forgetfulness.
- lunar – Roman – Luna is the goddess of the Moon and the divine feminine.
- lycanthrope – Greek – Lycaon, the son of Pelasgus. When served a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy, Zeus turned Lycaon and his sons into wolves.
- morphine – Greek – Morpheus, son of Hypnos (Somnus), is a god associated with sleep and dreams.
- music – Greek – “art of the muses” The Nine Muses were deities that gave humans inspiration for creation.
- nectar – Greek – Nectar was the divine drink of Olympian gods. It had the magical property of conferring immortality on any mortal who drank it.
- nemesis – Greek – Nemesis is the goddess who enacts retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods).
- ocean – Greek – Ôkeanos is god of the river Oceanus, the source of the Earth’s freshwater.
- panic – Greek – Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds, rustic music and impromptus, and companion of the nymphs.
- phobia – Greek – Phobos, son of Ares and Aphrodite, is the personification of fear. In Roman mythology, he is known as Pavor or Terror.
- psychology – Greek – Psyche is the goddess of the soul and the wife of Eros. She was born a mortal woman, with a beauty that rivaled Aphrodite.
- tantalize – Greek – For attempting to serve his own son at a feast with the gods, Tantalas was banished by Zeus to Hades, where he would forever go thirsty and hungry while standing in a pool of water and almost within reach of a fruit tree.
- Thursday – Norse – Named after the god of thunder, Thor. The day was known as Þorsdagr meaning Thor’s day in Old English.
If you found this post interesting, you might also be interested in words that changed their meaning over time, the contributions of Shakespeare to the English language, or common phrases that are direct translations from foreign languages!
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