Words from the Greek Myths

(many of the words used today in English are derived from Greek myths)

Arachne, arachnida, arachnoidea
In Greek mythology, the most skillful weaver of Lydia who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest.

Athena wove into her web the stories of those who had aroused the anger of the gods, while Arachne chose stories of the errors of the gods.

Enraged at the excellence of the work, Athena tore Arachne's web into pieces. Arachne hanged herself in grief and was transformed by Athena into a spider.

This was adopted as the spider family in science which includes scorpions, mites, and ticks.

The term arachnoid refers to anything that resembles a spider's web.

Athene, Pallas Athene
Pallas signifies "brandisher" (someone who waves, flourishes, or exhibits menacingly), that is, as a spear.

An asteroid was named Pallas as well as a very rare metallic element called palladiium which was named after the asteroid.

Because a statue of Pallas Athene , which stood in front of the city of Troy was supposed to have helped preserve the city from danger, the word palladium also has come to mean "a potent safeguard".

The name of a musical instrument.

The mother of Orpheus was named Calliope because she was the Muse of Eloquence and Heroic Poetry. The name comes from two words meaning "beauty" and "voice".

The god of time.

From this word, we have the noun chronology which describes an arrangement of events in order of occurrence. Chronic describes something that continues over a long period of time.

A chronicler is someone who records a historical account of events in the order of time. A time piece of great accuracy is called a chronometer.

Cyclops (s), Cyclopes (pl)
1. Any of the three one-eyed Titans who forged thunderbolts for Zeus.
2. Any of a race of one-eyed giants, reputedly descended from these Titans, inhabiting the island of Sicily.
3. Etymology: derived from two Greek words meaning "circle" and "eye".

We have adopted cyclops in the field of biology to describe the group of tiny, free-swimming crustaceans which have a single eye.

Cyclopie is an adjective meaning "monstrous". Cyclopia is a noun used for a massive abnormality in which the eyes are partly or completely fused.

The word has been used as a root to describe a wheel in such words as tricycle, bicycle, and motorcycle. It is also used to describe a violent storm which moves in a circle; such as, a cyclone.

It also appears in the word encyclopedia to describe circular (or complete) learning. A cyclotron is a large apparatus used for the multiple acceleration of ions to very high speeds.

Elysian Fields
A "place of great happiness; blissful, delightful", which inspired the French to call their famous boulevard in Paris the Champs Élysée.

A tree-lined thoroughfare of Paris, France, leading from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.

Erinyes, Eumenides; the Furies;
In Greek mythology, three terrifying snake-haired winged goddesses, named Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, who mercilessly punished wrongdoing, especially when committed within families.

Eumenides meant "the kindly ones". We now use the word "euphemism" to describe words which do not say the unpleasant idea intended.

From Greek euphemismos, "use of a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one"; from euphemizein "to speak with fair words", from eu-, "good" + pheme, "speaking", from phanai, "to speak".

In ancient Greece, the superstitious avoidance of words of ill-omen during religious ceremonies, or substitutions; such as, Eumenides, "the Gracious Ones" with reference to the Furies.

In English, a rhetorical term at first; broader sense of "choosing a less distasteful word or phrase than the one meant" was first established or documented in 1793.

The god of the netherworld and dispenser of earthly riches; used now to describe the home of the dead which came from the Greek word meaning "the unseen".

Hades was also known in Roman mythology as Pluto, the god of wealth; from the Greek word plutus, meaning "wealth".

It is also used to refer to "hell".

Midas Touch
A term that indicates the ability to make, to manage, and to have a great deal of money; sometimes with very little effort: "There are some people who believe that Donald Trump had The Midas Touch for much of his business career."

The Mythical Story about Midas, the Greek King of Phrygia, Greece

Midas had grown very wealthy during his time and he had his mind focused on his desire to grow even more wealthy. Because of a favor Midas had done for Dionysus, that god offered Midas a wish for whatever he wanted.

Midas asked that anything he touched would turn to gold, which is now known as the "Midas touch" or the "golden touch", and it is used to refer to anyone who is especially successful in business; so, it is currently a term that indicates the ability to make a lot of money out of anything a person undertakes to do.

Although many people admire and envy this Midas touch ability, the Greeks pointed out the that there are negative consequences: Midas discovered that his entire palace and all of its furnishings turned to gold as he touched one object after the other and even his food and drinks turned to gold as soon as he touched them so he was threatened with starvation. Even when his daughter ran to him, she also turned to gold when he embraced her.

As a result, Midas begged Dionysus to withdraw the gift of touch and so the god did. Now, whether we agree with the moral of the story or not, we should realize that money isn't everything and that life consists of more important things than having the Midas touch!

—Compiled essentially from information provided by
Isaac Asimov in his book, Words from the Myths;
Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston, Massachusetts;
1961; pages 133-134.