"an ancient Greek," 1660s, from Greek Hellēn "a Greek," a word of unknown origin (see Hellenic).
1824, "a friend of Greece, a foreigner who supports and assists the cause of the Greeks," from Greek philhellēn, from philos "loving" (see philo-) + Hellēnes "the Greeks" (compare Hellenic). Originally in English in reference to the cause of Greek independence; later also with reference to Greek literature or language. Related: Philhellenic; Philhellenism.
form of Greek choric composition, c. 1600, from Latin dithyrambus, from Greek dithyrambos, which is of unknown origin, perhaps a pre-Hellenic loan-word. A wild choric hymn, originally in honor of Dionysus or Bacchus, later of other gods, heroes, etc. Related: Dithyrambic.
by 1650s, "of or pertaining to Abdera," in Thrace, whose citizens were proverbial as provincials who would laugh at anything or anyone they didn't understand (Abderian laughter), making their town the Hellenic equivalent of Gotham (q.v.). Especially (or alternatively) as it was the birthplace of Democritus the atomist, the "Laughing Philosopher" (born c. 460 B.C.E.) who observed human follies.
1850, keramic, "of or belonging to pottery," from Greek keramikos, from keramos "potter's earth; tile; earthen vessel, jar, wine-jar, pottery," perhaps from a pre-Hellenic word. Watkins suggests a connection with Latin cremare "to burn," but Klein's sources are firmly against this. Beekes writes "No certain etymology," finds connection with kerasai "to mix" to be "formally unproblematic, but semantically not very convincing," and regards the proposed connection to verbs for "to burn, glow" "better from the semantic side." He concludes, "this technical term for tile-making may well be Pre-Greek (or Anatolian)." Spelling influenced by French céramique (1806). Related: ceramist "person devoted to ceramic art" (1855). Ceramics "art of making things from clay molded and baked" is attested from 1857.
A Biblical word, originally used for a wide-spreading shade tree with fig-like fruit (Ficus sycomorus) common in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, etc., whose leaves somewhat resemble those of the mulberry; applied in English from 1580s to a large species of European maple (also plane-tree), perhaps because both it and the Biblical tree were notable for their shadiness (the Holy Family took refuge under a sycamore on the flight to Egypt), and from 1814 to the North American shade tree that also is called a buttonwood, which was introduced to Europe from Virginia 1637 by John Tradescant the Younger).
Spelling apparently influenced by sycamine "black mulberry tree," which is from Greek sykcaminos, which also is mentioned in the Bible (Luke xvii.6). For the sake of clarity, some writers have used the more Hellenic sycomore in reference to the Biblical tree.
The more usual Greek word seems to have been polypous (also pōlyps), from polys "many" + pous, but for this word Thompson ["Glossary of Greek Fishes," 1947] suggests folk-etymology and a non-Hellenic origin.
The classically correct Greek plural (had the word been used in this sense in ancient Greek) would be octopodes. Octopi (1817) regards the -us in this word as the Latin noun ending that takes -i in plural. Like many modern scientific names of creatures, it was formed in Modern Latin from Greek elements, so it might be allowed to partake of Latin grammar in forming the plural. But it probably is best to let such words follow the grammar of the language that uses them, and octopuses probably works best in English (unless one wishes also to sanction diplodoci for the dinosaurs).
Used figuratively since at least 1882 of powers having far-reaching influence (usually as considered harmful and destructive). To the ancients, the octopus was crafty and dangerous, thrifty (stores food in its nest), and proverbial of clever and adaptable men, based on the animal's instinct of changing color when frightened or for disguise.
It also was thought to be amphibious and to climb trees near shores to steal grapes and olives (the giant ones were said to raid whole warehouses). Thompson writes that "the eggs look remarkably like ripe olives; hence the story."