Middle English Grek, from Old English Grecas, Crecas (plural) "Greeks, inhabitants of Greece," an early Germanic borrowing from Latin Graeci "the Hellenes," apparently from Greek Graikoi. The first use of Graikhos as equivalent to Hellenes is found in Aristotle ("Meteorologica" I.xiv).
A modern theory (put forth by German classical historian Georg Busolt, 1850-1920), derives it from Graikhos "inhabitant of Graia" (literally "gray," also "old, withered"), a town on the coast of Boeotia, which was the name given by the Romans to all Greeks, originally to the Greek colonists from Graia who helped found Cumae (9c. B.C.E.), the important city in southern Italy where the Latins first encountered Greeks. Under this theory, it was reborrowed in this general sense by the Greeks.
The Germanic languages originally borrowed the word with an initial "-k-" sound (compare Old High German Chrech, Gothic Kreks), which probably was their word-initial sound closest to the Latin "-g-" at the time; the word later was refashioned.
It is attested from late 14c. as "the Greek language." The meaning "unintelligible speech, gibberish, any language of which one is ignorant" is from c. 1600. The meaning "member of a Greek-letter fraternity" is student slang, 1884.
It was subtle of God to learn Greek when he wished to become an author — and not to learn it better. [Nietzsche, "Beyond Good and Evil," 1886]
hundred-handed giant in Greek mythology, traditionally from Greek briaros "strong, stout," but Beekes says probably a pre-Greek name. Related: Briarean.
masc. proper name, from Greek Eason, from Hebrew Yehoshua, a common name among Hellenistic Jews (see Joshua). In Greek mythology, son of Aeson, leader of the Argonauts, from Latin Jason, from Greek Iason, perhaps related to iasthai "to heal" (see -iatric). The names were somewhat merged in Christian Greek.
Greek goddess of wisdom, skill in the arts, righteous warfare, etc., from Latin Athena, from Greek Athēnē, name of a common Greek goddess, dating to Minoan times, depicted with a snake and protecting the palace. "Like the goddess itself, the name is pre-Greek" [Beekes]. Identified by the Romans with their Minerva.
"pertaining to the Greek island of Chios," 1630s. The island name is of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Greek khion "snow."
name of an Amazon in Greek mythology, daughter of Ares, from Greek Hippolyte, fem. of Hippolytos (see Hippolytus).
"pertaining to Greece," 1640s, from Greek Hellēnikos "Hellenic, Greek," from Hellēn "a Greek," a word of unknown origin; traditionally from the name of an eponymous ancestor, Hellēn, son of Deucalion. To Homer the Hellenes were a small tribe in southern Thessaly (his word for one of the Greek-speaking peoples is our Achaean). In modern use in the arts, Hellenic is used of Greek work from the close of the primitive phase to the time of Alexander the Great or the Roman conquest (succeeded by the Hellenistic).
father of Icarus in Greek mythology, builder of the Cretan labyrinth, from Latin Daedelus, from Greek Daidalos, literally "the cunning worker," from or related to daidallein "to work artfully, embellish," a word of disputed etymology. Beekes writes, "we should consider Pre-Greek origin." Related: Daedalian.
masc. proper name, in Greek mythology a pious man, husband of Baucis; from Greek philemon, literally "loving, affectionate," from philein "to love" (see philo-).
high mountain in Thessaly, in Greek mythology the abode of the twelve greater gods, from Greek Olympos, a name of unknown origin. The name was given to several mountains and mountain ranges in Greece and the Near East. Beekes speculates that it originally meant "mountain" and is "without a doubt Pre-Greek."