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English Words That
Came to Us from
Contributions of the
Greeks and Romans
Aphrodite (a-fro-DYEtee) was the goddess of
love, beauty .
An aphrodisiac is a thing that inspires
or produces love in a person.
When Achilles was born, his mother
tried to make him immoral by dipping him
in the river Styx.
She held him by one heel and forgot
to dip him a second time so the heel she
held could get wet too.
The place where she held him
remained untouched by the magic water
of the Styx and that part stayed mortal or
Achilles heel; Achilles
An Achilles Heel refers
to a weak point or some
vulnerability in a person.
Achilles was the
bravest hero in the
Trojan war, according to
Greek mythology, but his
heel made him mortal.
The goddess Ceres
(sir’-eez), in Roman mythology, is
equivalent to the Greek Demeter (dih-mee’tur).
Ceres was the goddess of growing
plants (particularly grains) and of motherly
Electra{ee-lek'-truh} was the daughter of
A universal cure is a
herb that is supposed to
heal all ailments. In
ancient Greece a minor
goddess symbolized the
power of healing
through herbs and gave
her name to a “cure all.”
Panacea bore a
daughter named Hygeia.
Together, Panacea and
Hygeia helped the sick
and diseased to health,
as Panacea was the
goddess of healing and
Hygieia, (hy-jee'-uh)
one of the daughters of
Asclepius (as-klee’-pee-uhs) played an
important role in the cult of
Asclepius as a giver of
health. She is often
identified with health and is
sometimes called The
and Hygeia helped
the sick and
diseased to health.
amazons (ăm'uzonz)
Amazon River
The Amazon River was
named after these female
A large, strong woman
is sometimes figuratively,
referred to as an amazon.
An elderly friend of King
(oh-dis’-ee-uhs) was
charged by the king to
watch over his son
and his palace while
Odysseus was fighting
in the Trojan War.
In modern English, the
tutor’s name has come to
mean a wise, trustworthy
counselor or friend.
Today this word has two
meanings: "one who
brings justice or
revenge" and "an
unbeatable opponent.”
Most of the time people
use the second
In Greek mythology,
Nemesis (nem’-uh-sis) is the
goddess of divine justice
and vengeance. Her
anger is directed toward
human transgression of
the natural or right order
of things and the
arrogance that causes it.
Nemesis was the Greek
goddess of vengeance.
echo {ek'o}
The chief god Zeus
had many girlfriends
much to his wife Hera’s
dislike. While he visited
his amours, it was Echo's
duty to keep Hera's {hir'uh’s} attention by
incessantly talking to
her. Hera discovered the
ruse and as punishment,
she made Echo always
repeat the voice of
Echo and Narcissus
narcissistic, narcissism
Narcissus fell in love with his own
For the Greeks, Narcissus stood
for vanity, callousness, and
insensitivity, as he was emotionally
numb to the pleas of those who fell
in love with his beauty.
As Narcissus gazed in fascination
at himself he gradually pined away.
At the place where his body had lain
grew a beautiful flower, honoring the
name and memory of Narcissus.
Morpheus {mohr'-feeuhs} is the Greek god of
dreams who lies on an
ebony bed in a dim-lit
cave, surrounded by
poppy. He appears to
humans in their dreams in
the shape of a man. He is
responsible for shaping
hypnosis, hypnotize
Morheus was the son of Hypnos
who is the god of sleep.
Hypnos (god of sleep) and
(than’-uh-tahs) (god of death) are both
sons of Nyx, the goddess of night.
Nike {ny'-kee}
The Greek personification of
victory can run and fly at great
speed. This goddess is referred to as
the winged victory in art and can be
identified by her great wings.
A building made up of
intricate, mazelike
chambers or passages
was designed so that a
person entering one
would find it difficult to
find a way out.
In Greek mythology,
the Cretan labyrinth was
constructed by the
Athenian craftsman
Daedalus as a prison for
the Minotaur, a part-bull,
part-man monster.
Atlas was a Titan, a deity of great
strength and power.
When Zeus, overthrew his father
Cronus in a terrible battle he
condemed all the Titans to bitter
punishments. The punishment for
Atlas was one of the worst. He had to
hold the world on his shoulders. The
earth was very heavy, and he had to
carry the burden alone.
Today we give his name to a
collection of maps
The Fates were the
three goddesses who
determined human life
and destiny.
The decisions of the
Fates could not be
altered, even by the gods.
fortune, fortunate
Fortuna in Roman
mythology was the
goddess of chance and
good luck.
Fortuna is often
depicted holding a
rudder in one hand and
a cornucopia, or horn of
plenty, in the other. The
rudder signified that she
guided the destiny of the
world; the cornucopia,
that she was the
provider of abundance.
chaos, chaotic
In later mythology
Chaos is the formless
matter from which the
cosmos, or harmonious
order, was created.
Today we refer to a
state of disharmony or
disorganization by the
same term.
floral, florist
Flora was the Roman
goddess of spring and
spring flowers. During her
festival, the Floralia,
people brought offerings
of honey, fruit and flowers
to her temple.
Vulcan was the
Roman god of fire and
the forge.
In Roman mythology,
it was believed that
every individual, family,
and city had its own
protecting or guardian
spirit. The spirit received
special worship as a
household god because
it was thought to bestow
success and intellectual
powers on its devotees.
For this reason, the
name of the spirit came
to designate a person
with unusual intellectual
academy, academic
A man named
Academus lived in
Athens, Greece. The
great teacher Plato
chose Academus's
garden to be the place
of his lectures. Because
they met there, Plato's
students were called
"the academic group,"
and Plato's school was
called "the Academy."
titanic, Titan
The Titans were a race
of gods who lived before
Zeus and the other
Olympians. They were
very big and very strong.
zeal, zealous
Zelos was the god of
great enthusiasm. He was
the brother of Nike, the
winged goddess of
lethargy, lethargic
The river Lethe (lee’-thee)
was also called the river of
forgetfulness or oblivion. It
was one of five rivers
separating the Greek
underworld from the land of
the living. Those who drank
water from the river Lethe
forgot everything they had
seen while they were in the
muse, music
The nine Muses were
daughters of Zeus and
Mnemosyne {nemoz'ini}
(Memory). Each Muse was in
charge of one area of the
arts, such as, poetry, dance,
The Muses provided
inspiration and joy.
The Muses
The Planets
Mercury was god of trade and profit,
merchants and travelers.
Venus was the Roman goddess of
love and beauty.
Earth was named for Gaia, known as
Earth or Mother Earth.
Mars was the Roman god of war, and
one of the most prominent and
worshipped gods.
The Planets
Neptune was the god of the sea
among the Romans.
Uranus was the embodiment of the
sky or heavens, and known as the
god of the sky.
Jupiter was the supreme god of the
Roman pantheon called "shining
Saturn was the Roman god of
agriculture concerned with the
sowing of the seeds.
Pluto was the Roman god of the
underworld and the judge of the
The Days of the Weeks
The name comes from the Latin dies
solis, meaning "sun's day“, the name
of a pagan Roman holiday.
The name comes from the AngloSaxon word for "the moon's day".
This second day was sacred to the
goddess of the moon.
This day was named after the Norse
god Tyr.
Days of the Week
The day named to honor the Norse
god Wodan (Odin{oh'-din})
The day named after the Norse god
The day in honor of the Norse
goddess Frigg
This day was called dies Saturni,
"Saturn's Day", by the ancient
Romans in honor of Saturn.
Days of the Weeks
Learn More in
Encyclopedia Mythica
Months of the Year
This month is named after the
Roman god of beginnings and
endings Janus {jayn'-uhs}.
The name comes from the old-Italian
god Februus.
This is the first month of the Roman
year. It is named after the Roman
god of war, Mars.
Months of the Year
Called Aprilis, from aperire, "to
open“, possibly because it is the
month in which the buds begin to
o pe n.
The third month of the Roman
calendar, the name probably comes
from Maiestra, the Roman goddess of
honor and reverence.
The fourth month was named in
honor of Juno.
Months of the Year
It was the month in
which the Roman
Emperor Julius Caesar
was born.
Originally this month
was called Sextilis (from
sextus, "six"), but the
name was later changed
in honor of the first of
the Roman emperors,
Months of year
The name comes from
septem, "seven".
The name comes from
octo, "eight”.
The name comes from
novem, "nine".
The name comes from
decem, "ten".
Months of the Year
Learn More About The
Calliope, Muse of