Origin of Greek

before 900; Middle English; Old English Grēcas (plural) < Latin Graecī the Greeks (nominative plural of Graecus) < Greek Graikoí, plural of Graikós Greek
Related formsGreek·dom, nounGreek·ish, adjectivean·ti-Greek, adjective, nounhalf-Greek, adjectivenon-Greek, adjective, nounpre-Greek, adjective, nounpro-Greek, adjective, nounpseu·do-Greek, adjective, nounqua·si-Greek, adjective

Usage note

The noun Greek in its archaic meaning of “cheater” is usually perceived as insulting to or by Greeks. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for gk.



the official language of Greece, constituting the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European family of languagesSee Ancient Greek, Late Greek, Medieval Greek, Modern Greek
a native or inhabitant of Greece or a descendant of such a native
a member of the Greek Orthodox Church
informal anything incomprehensible (esp in the phrase it's (all) Greek to me)
Greek meets Greek equals meet


denoting, relating to, or characteristic of Greece, the Greeks, or the Greek language; Hellenic
of, relating to, or designating the Greek Orthodox Church
Derived FormsGreekness, noun

Word Origin for Greek

from Old English Grēcas (plural), or Latin Graecus, from Greek Graikos
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gk.



Old English Grecas, Crecas (plural), early Germanic borrowing from Latin Graeci "the Hellenes," from Greek Grakoi. Aristotle, who was the first to use Graikhos as equivalent to Hellenes ("Meteorologica" I.xiv), wrote that it was the name originally used by Illyrians for the Dorians in Epirus, from Graii, native name of the people of Epirus.

But a modern theory (put forth by German classical historian Georg Busolt, 1850-1920), derives it from Graikhos "inhabitant of Graia" (literally "gray"), a town on the coast of Boeotia, which was the name given by the Romans to all Greeks, originally to the Greek colonists from Graia who helped found Cumae (9c. B.C.E.), the important city in southern Italy where the Latins first encountered Greeks. Under this theory, it was reborrowed in this general sense by the Greeks.

The Germanic languages originally borrowed the word with an initial -k- sound (cf. Old High German Chrech, Gothic Kreks), which probably was their initial sound closest to the Latin -g- at the time; the word was later refashioned.

It was subtle of God to learn Greek when he wished to become an author -- and not to learn it better. [Nietzsche, "Beyond Good and Evil," 1886]

Meaning "the Greek language" is from late 14c.; meaning "unintelligible speech, gibberish" is from c.1600. Meaning "Greek letter fraternity member" is student slang, 1900.



late 14c., from Greek (n.). Earlier Gregeis (c.1300), from Old French Gregois; also Greekish (Old English Grecisc). In venery, "anal," by 1970. Greek gift is from "Æneid," II.49: "timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper