Etymology
Advertisement
Greek (n.)

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]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Greek (adj.)

late 14c., "of Greece or its people," from Greek (n.). Earlier Gregeis (c. 1200), from Old French Gregois; also Greekish (Old English Grecisc). From 1540s as "of the Greek language;" 1550s as "of the Eastern Church." From 1888 as "of Greek-letter fraternities." In venery, "anal," by 1970. Greek fire "inflammable substance invented 7c. by Callinicus of Heliopolis and used by the Byzantines (who in the Middle Ages were known as 'Greeks')" is from c. 1400, earlier Grickisce fure (c. 1200). Greek gift is from "Æneid," II.49: "timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

Related entries & more 
Pre-Greek (n.)

by 1996, a modern term for what linguists had called "Pelasgian," the substrate language spoken in Greece before the Greeks arrived and from which they apparently borrowed many words. "Pelasgian" was considered a dialect of Indo-European, but now "it is generally agreed that the substrate was non-Indo-European" [Beekes], at least by Beekes. Earlier as an adjective in reference to religion, culture, etc. of the region before the arrival of the historical Greeks.

Related entries & more 
greeking (n.)

in typography or composition, "text rendered in random characters or symbols" (not necessarily Greek; lorem ipsum is a form of it), also the rendition of text into such characters, by 1977, said to be from the sense in expression Greek to me "unintelligible" (see Greek (adj.)).

Related entries & more 
Graeco- 

also Greco-, modern word-forming element, from Latin Graecus "Greek" (see Greek (n.)) on model of Anglo-, Franco-, etc.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Grecian (adj.)

c. 1400, from Old French Grecien, from Latin Graecia "Greece" (see Greek (n.)) + people ending -ian. The noun meaning "a Greek" is from early 15c.

Related entries & more 
fenugreek (n.)

leguminous plant in western Asia and North Africa, Old English fenograecum, from Latin faenugraecum, literally "Greek hay," from faenum (see fennel) + Graecum (see Greek). The modern form in English is from French fenugrec.

Related entries & more 
Greece 

c. 1300, from Latin Graecia; named for its inhabitants; see Greek. Earlier in English was Greklond (c. 1200). The Turkish name for the country, via Persian, is Yunanistan, literally "Land of the Ionians." Ionia also yielded the name for the country in Arabic and Hindi (Yunan).

Related entries & more 
Hephaestus 

Greek god of fire and metal-working, from Latinized form of Greek Hēphaistos, a pre-Greek word of unknown origin.

Related entries & more 
Hellene (n.)

"an ancient Greek," 1660s, from Greek Hellēn "a Greek," a word of unknown origin (see Hellenic).

Related entries & more