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Word Origins: Greek and Roman Mythology


Word Origins: Greek and Roman Mythology

Word Origins: Greek and Roman Mythology

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, you will focus on the following objective: Examining words from Greek and Roman myth.

Greek and Roman Mythology

Word Origins

Word origins are the histories of words. Word origins generally include the other languages or earlier forms of English that words came from.


Greek and Roman Mythology

Learning to recognize Greek and Latin word roots, such as those in the chart, can help you determine the meanings of unfamiliar words on a test.

Literature Connection

In the passage below, Hamilton mentions the Labyrinth built by Daedalus, the famed mythological architect and sculptor.

“Daedalus built the Labyrinth, famous throughout the world. Once inside, one would go endlessly along its twisting paths without ever finding the exit.”

—Edith Hamilton, from Theseus

The term labyrinth initially referred only to Daedalus’s creation, which was used to house the Minotaur, a fearsome creature that was part man and part bull. However, over time the term’s meaning has come to refer to any kind of maze, or a complex structure or idea. The etymology, or history, of this word is not an anomaly; in fact, Greek and Roman mythology is the source of many words that are currently used in English.

Becoming familiar with word origins, or the sources of words from other languages or older forms of English, can increase your vocabulary.

This chart shows the Greek and Roman origins of some English words.

English Word Greek or Roman Word
herculean (hur´kyə lēən) adj. of tremendous power or difficulty Hercules (hurkyə lēz´) n. Greek hero renowned for his strength
Olympian (o limpē ən) adj. godlike, lofty, or extraordinary Olympus (ō limpəs) n. mountain and home of the Greek gods
mercurial (mər kyoorē əl) adj. eloquent or ingenious; unpredictable or inconstant Mercury (murkyər ē ) n. fleet-footed Roman messenger god

Word Origins: Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

For each item below, select the English word from the chart above that best completes the sentence.

Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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