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Image depicting Common Idioms With Their Greek Origin

Common Idioms With Their Greek Origin

Image depicting Common Idioms With Their Greek Origin

Have you ever touched the wood of your chair and said “Touchwood” for good luck? Many people do that, daily. But have you ever wondered why?

There are many idioms and phrases that we use regularly but don’t their actual reason. And do you know that many of these idioms and phrases trace their origins to Ancient Greece?

Well, if you don’t, then read on, because I’m going to talk about some of them, and tell you the stories behind them.

You can read this article if you want to add some more phrases in your vocab, know more about Ancient Greece, or just for fun.

Now, let’s jump straight to the topic and begin. Here is a list of idioms which emerged from Ancient Greece:

1. “Touchwood”: This is a quite famous one, almost everyone says this while touching wood, they do it for good luck, or blessings. The story behind this is that in Ancient Greece, people believed that everything in the world had a spirit, even a tree or a piece of wood. They called the wood spirits Dryads, and they touched wood, seeking the blessings of the wood nymphs upon them.

2. “Achilles Heel”: This idiom means “weak spot”. It derived from the ancient Greek story of the hero Achilles. Who was dipped in the river Styx (which was believed to separate the world from the land of the dead and also to hold powers that could make a man invincible) by his mother. All of his body turned immune to weapons except his heel, the exact part which his mother was holding him by while dipping him in Styx. Later in life, Achilles was killed when he was hit in the heel by an arrow.

3. “Leave no stone unturned”: When someone says “Leave no stone unturned for your exams”, he or she means to tell you to put in all your efforts for your exams. The tale behind this one is, long ago in ancient Greece, two kings were fighting each other, the name of the first ruler was Polycrates, and it was rumored that the other one had hidden his treasure under a rocky area. After winning the war, Polycrates went there and did not find the treasure, so he consulted the oracle. The oracle said Polycrates should leave no stone unturned if he wants to find the treasure, and surely, after listening to the oracle’s suggestion, Polycrates was successful.

4. “Spill the beans”: This means revealing a secret, either maliciously, or by accident. In ancient Greece, people used to vote the candidates of election by putting either a black bean (negative vote) or a white bean (positive vote), in a jar. When the jar was knocked down, deceitfully or by accident, the beans were spilled and the secret votes were revealed.

5. “Herculean Task”: The phrase “herculean task” refers to a task which is very difficult (or almost impossible) and needs a great effort to do it. This has originated from the legend of Hercules, the strongest and the most popular hero. He completed 12 tasks that one could not even dream of doing. He survived and won all the fights even with the hatred of the queen of the gods on his head. There are many details about his fights with different kinds of monsters during those 12 tasks, but that’s a whole other story. Hercules was so powerful, that finally, he was promoted to the status of a God, and a well-respected one at that!

So from now onwards, whenever you use these phrases, just thank the Greeks for their gift.

I’ll just give you a short fact, did you know? Around 15 million words of the English language are derived from ancient Greek. Isn’t it amazing?

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Shivansh Singh

7, DLDAV Model School, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, Delhi

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