15 Hilarious Ancient Greek Words You Didn’t Know Existed

Greece: land of onions, belching and προκτοι

Ancient Greek. The language you have the pleasure to meet when you decide, sadistically, to enrol in a Liceo Classico.

Liceo Classico is the social and humanistic high school in Italy, where the study of ancient languages (Latin and Greek) and their literature are still compulsory. Studying authors, reading poems in metrics, translating and misunderstanding the meaning was on the agenda.

When I casually added a negative particle to a translation and Achilles, the hero of the story, instead of helping the Trojans in a battle, sneaked away from it and died inexplicably. That’s why my translations were well-remembered by my professor. More for unexpected twists in the events, or out-of-any-plans choices of the main character than for good work.

We both came from a small Italian village in southern Italy, where a variant of Greek is still spoken. She didn’t miss the opportunity to mention it every time, trying to connect the words in ancient Greek to those that I was lucky to hear from the native speakers in my village.
Even though she worked so hard on me, my translations always added an unconventional touch to the story. In five years studying the language, constantly leafing through the thin pages of my dictionary, I remember with pleasure one thing.

When you think about ancient Greece or Greek language, you will surely think about something austere, obsolete, sophisticated and oh so boring. Nothing more wrong. Sometimes, studying a culture just a little more is essential to appreciate it and find out how easy is to laugh at it.

Ancient Greek speakers had a word to express pretty much anything. And I mean concepts that no one would have thought to express with a single word, even human lewdness. When I discovered the first one, I couldn’t stop it and ended up finding a bunch of strange ones. Let me introduce you with a mild example. What would you call a calorie-counter who crawls into the darkness to the kitchen to gulp down the last slice of pizza left? Σκοτόδειπνος (skotodeipnos) of course. They really have just a single word to express someone who “eats in the dark”.
This, of course, is not the only one.

1. κατασυβωτεω — katasuboteo

Fatten like a pig

Lets’ s begin with one of my favourites. The term I find very useful to describe my quarantine. “Fatten like a pig” is the closest depiction to my craving for chips, chocolate and pizza at the same time when bored at home

2. ἀωρόλειος — aoroleios

Who shaves his beard to look younger

Going against the grain of any Hipster trend, ancient Greek would rather shave their beard to look younger. To better label this man, they thought a word would be essential.
Like we did with hipsters.

3. κεπφαττελεβώδης — kapfattelebodes

Brainless like a seagull or a locust

I think insults were not their strong point. Anyway, it would be interesting to know why foulness was associated with seagulls or locusts. For their loud chirping? Because idiots, like locusts, are a plague to humanity?

4. βορβορίζω — borborizo

I taste like mud

Tasting like mud is not the best feeling in the world. Perhaps in ancient Greece the chances to find yourself covered in mud to actually taste it were rather frequent.

5. Φιλοταριχοσ — filotarichos

Pickled fish lover

They loved to eat questionable delicacies with a disturbing aftertaste.

To all of you who eat pickled fish and want to show their pride for it, here’s the word for you. I’ll stick to the pizza-lover label.

6. κρομμυοξυρεγμία — krommuoxuregmia

Belch of onions and vinegar

“Roaring” for a great meal was so important as airing the rooms for the stink that came afterwards. I wonder if they liked to stuff their vocabulary naming every single belch after different meals.

7. ἀντιμυκάομαι — antimukaomai

Moo against someone/something

Roaring was not the only activity. They mooed as well. I think that, they had so much to show and teach us other than philosophy and literature.

8. πρωκτοπεντετηρίς — proktopenteteris

Extraordinary anal feast that took place every 5 years

A great party you simply cannot miss! What are we celebrating?

9. ῥικνόομαι- riknoomai

Dancing with indecorous writhing

And when the beat drops, there’s nothing you can do.

10. ραθαπυγιζω — ratapughizo

Bum slap

There’s literally a word that can express slapping a bum.

11. μελαμπυγοσ — melampugos

Black and hairy buttocks

And even a word to describe dark and hairy buttocks. Nice idea. But gross.

12. σκοτοβινιάω — skotobiniao

Longing for bang

I’m sorry for you man. Maybe Tinder could help.

13. μαστιγιάω — mastighiao

Wish to be whipped

Well, that escalated quickly.

14. πρωκτοτηρέω — proktotereo

To be the inspector of προκτοι, i.e. buttocks (again)

This word was one of the first that caught my attention during my translations. Even now, I can’t understand why someone should choose to be a buttocks inspector. At least, I hope they paid well.

15. ραφανιδωσις- rafanidosis

Punishment of adulterers in Athens inserting a radish root up in the bum.

Who complains about the pranks played by ex partners, feel lucky! Think of those who in ancient Greece were subject to the ραφανιδωσις, that consisted in putting a radish up in the bum. It was used as a punishment for adultery in Classical Athens but also allegedly a punishment for other sex-related crimes, such as promiscuity and homosexuality.

In short, when divorce lawyers were not a thing yet, a radish root did all the dirty work.

Written by

Communication specialist/ Psychology and Sociology enthusiast / 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 ◦ 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 ◦ 𝘚𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 ◦ 𝘓𝘪𝘧𝘦

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