English Words of (Unexpected) Greek Origin.

Learn easily Greek using the roots of the English words.

Posted by Johannes on 11 April 2009

Etymology of roof.
derives from the ancient Greek word orofi (roof; οροφή) from the verb erefo (to cover; to cover with a roof; ερέφω / ερέπτω).

From the same root
roof-garden, roofing, roofless

Possibly: Rib and the German Ribbe

In modern Greek.
a) orofi:
roof, ceiling [οροφή]
b) orofos: floor, storey [όροφος]

Η λέξη Roof (οροφή) προέρχεται από την αρχαία ελληνική λέξη οροφή, από το ρήμα ερέφω / ερέπτω (καλύπτω, στεγάζω, σκεπάζω, στεφανώνω).


Post 86




Comments by Asdings:
Dear Colleague, I’m afraid this is a false etymology. If ‘roof’ derived from Greek ‘orophe:’ (Modern Greek ‘orofi’), how do you explain the fact that the English dropped the initial vowel? This is not a common behaviour of English phonology.

Neither is ‘roof’ an Indoeuropean cognate of Gk. ‘orophe:’, for Germanic f should then correspond to a Greek p (cf. Gk. pate:r, En. father, Gk. pu:r, En. fire etc.).

It is more than certain that English ‘roof’ has no relation whatsoever with Greek ‘orophe:/orofi’.

Just check http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=roof, where we read the following:

O.E. hrof “roof, ceiling, top,” from P.Gmc. *khrofaz (cf. O.Fris. rhoof “roof,” M.Du. roof “cover, roof,” Du. roef “deckhouse, cabin, coffin-lid,” M.H.G. rof “penthouse,” O.N. hrof “boat shed”). No apparent connections outside Gmc. “English alone has retained the word in a general sense, for which the other languages use forms corresponding to OE. þæc thatch” [OED]. The verb is from c.1475. Roof of the mouth is from late O.E. Raise the roof “create an uproar” is attested from 1860, originally in Southern Amer.Eng. Roofer “one who makes or repairs roofs” is from 1855.

This information is absolutely convincing from the linguist’s point of view, be sure 😉

John Neos:
So, you think there is no connection between the verb erepto (Greek p to Germanic f ??) and roof. Then, how can someone explain that the meaning of the terms is identical? Is it merely a coincidence?

Even if we accepted that the p seen in erepto:was original (I mean, if it was not derived from Gk. ph+j, i.e. *erephjo > erepto1), the word roof would be just a cognate of Gk. erepto:; in no case would it be a loan from Greek. Still I insist that p is not original in erepto:, as witnessed by its obvious cognates with -ph- (which would be equivalent to Germanic b).

On the other hand, the semantic aspect is of no importance at all, since many superficially similar words have identical meaning in several, even unrelated, languages, cf. Malay mata, Greek mati, both denoting an ‘eye’. However, in the Malay word the root is -ta (ma- is an affix), while in the Greek word the root is *oqw- > *op- (> *op-ma > omma > ommation > ommatin > mati).

Do you see the point?

And the last and most convincing argument is that OE shows the form hrof. The initial Germanic h should correspond to a Greek k (cf. English horn, Gk. keras, L. cornu or English row < hro-, Gk. kruos, krustallos L. cruor, crudus etc.)1

An original -j- following a labial consonant is regularly turned into -t- in Greek, cf. *kop-j-o: > kopto: (= I cut).

P.S. I checked http://ewonago.blogspot.com and I observed that the majority of “English” words of “no apparent Greek” origin mentioned there are mere cognates between Latin and Greek. Please, do not confuse a cognate with a loan/derivative and their ilk. This is an error made by those not acquainted with linguistic rules and patterns. Of course there are English words of Greek origin, but they entered English mostly through Latin. But there are many more Latin-derived or ‘true’ English (Germanic) words similar to Greek ones just because of the common origin of Greek, English, Latin etc

John Neos:
Asdings, thank you very much for your reply and the time you spent on it. With your permission, I might transfer your comments in my blog.

It’s me who has to say “thanks” to you for giving credence to what I try to explain in the forum. You may transfer my comments to your blog PROVIDED THAT your visitors are REALLY interested in scientific research rather than in making Greek out of anything! By the way, I had a look at your section “Greek Words of Apparent Greek Origins” and I found it absolutely correct! I suggest you keep dealing mostly with such words, about which no doubt could be raised. The other two sections contain many errors. However, your blog is a useful source and I congratulate you for your zeal in promoting Greek language and culture. But do remember the following: Misleading information harms ‘Romiosyni’ rather than helps it 😉 The impact of Greek on other languages and cultures is so vast, that you can suffice yourself with true influences. Do not make use of old sources (as those scanned in your blog); views have since changed a lot.



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