Many people are aware that there are words in the English language with Greek roots, but did you know that modern Greek borrows many words from English? Editors and writers incorporate these borrowings in three distinct ways: as calques, transliterations, or – with increasing frequency in digital media – adopted as is, without transliteration. In today’s post, we’ll define these linguistic terms and give you examples of each as they apply to English and Greek.
Some English words are translated into Greek as calques. A calque is a loan translation, or word-for-word (root-to-root) translation. This type of translation occurs particularly often for words with some level of complexity or scientific meaning. Time capsule becomes χρονοντούλαπο (chronodoúlapo), or time cupboard, while time machine is μηχανή του χρόνου (michaní tou chrónou). A drone is επανδρωμένος αεροσκάφος (epandroménos aeroskáfos), or unmanned aircraft.
More commonly, English words are simply transliterated into Greek – as closely as possible in a language that doesn’t have the sounds sh, j, or ch. With transliteration, words or letters are written in the characters of another language’s alphabet. So, for example, cheesecake becomes either τσεισκέικ or τσίζκεικ, or tsiskeik. Style is στυλ, stil, and star – as in pop star – remains σταρ. Yoga transliterates to γιόγκα (giogka), while Premier League is Πρέμιερ Λιγκ (Premier Ligk).
Loanwords without Transliteration
More and more frequently, English-to-Greek loanwords are reproduced in printed media without transliteration. English is taught in Greek primary schools, and many students pursuing higher education continue their learning at private academies called frontistiria. As such, a general familiarity with at least the English alphabet is assumed, particularly among younger generations. For this reason, media geared toward young readers is peppered with English words and phrases presented without transliteration or translation. These words tend to relate to trends and pop culture: frozen yogurt, internet, DNA, smartphone, selfie, and sexy are a few examples. This Greek article assumes its readers have enough fluency to easily skim over the phrases “anti ice bucket challenge,” “bungee jumping,” “broadcast yourself,” and “wannabe celebrities”.
There isn’t a system for determining how English words will make their way into Greek media, and no language academy to make determinations. But in this hyper-connected internet age, it seems that more and more English words will be woven into Greek-language texts without modification or explanation.