How can I translate “talent” into Ancient Greek?


Talent as is  in the ancient coin is τάλαντον, as Haggen Kennedy said. Talent as in being talented, not so much. The googles tell me that the modern sense is Mediaeval Latin, with an allusion to a parable in the Bible: Online Etymology Dictionary . As far as I know, that metaphorical extension did not happen in Mediaeval Greek—it’s certainly not given in Lampe’s Patristic lexicon; and the Modern Greek ταλέντο is a borrowing back from Italian.

So what of the modern sense of talent? English-Greek Dictionary is an online version of Woodhouse’s English-Greek dictionary: it gives:

  • δύναμις: capacity
  • δεινότης: cleverness
  • φρόνησις: mental powers
  • εὐφυής εἶναι εἰς..: aptitude for…

(But that is a secondary sense of εὐφυής, and in LSJ the corresponding noun εὐφυΐα still means “shapeliness; good disposition; fertility”.)

LSJ uses “talent” as a translation for:

  • δῶρα: (natural) gift
  • μεγαλοφυΐα: genius

Try some synonyms like “aptitude” on Woodhouse…

What is the difference between Chauvinism and Jingoism?

Mostly agree with Don Grushkin’s answer to What is the difference between Chauvinism and Jingoism? However, the nuance I get for jingoism is belligerence, not just boosterism. Chauvinism OTOH can be just passive-aggressive.

Moreover, chauvinism has extended from bigotry about one’s nation to other in-groups, predominantly males (“male chauvinist pig”)—although that sense still seems secondary to me. Jingoism has not undergone that extension.

Answered 2016-01-19 · Upvoted by

Don Grushkin, Ph.D. Cultural/Linguistic Anthropology, University of Arizona

What alphabets are not used in mathematics and why?

Not a mathematician, but:

Mathematics as practiced in the West is a European invention, and it calls for its symbols on European patrimony. That means:

  • Roman (italics, to differentiate from text)
  • Greek (avoiding Greek letters that look identical to Roman letters, such as omicron, and half the capitals)
  • Hebrew, because it’s the next closest prestigious alphabet to the European patrimony. Even that gets used very rarely: aleph and beth are infinity numbers, gimel is a function; is there anything else?

I’m not aware of any systematic or even ad hoc use of other scripts; Cyrillic would be the next candidate along.

Answers from actual mathematicians welcome. 🙂

Why do many engineering words come from Greek?

Was Latin spoken in the Byzantine empire, even though the official language was Greek? And did Byzantines study Latin texts?

What Steve Theodore’s answer to Was Latin spoken in the Byzantine empire, even though the official language was Greek? And did Byzantines study Latin texts? said, and what Steve Theodore’s answer to Were the medieval Byzantines familiar with the famous figures of Roman antiquity, like Cato the Elder, Scipio Africanus, or Cincinnatus?  said.

In particular, Steve mentions Maximus Planudes’ translations from Latin. Those weren’t a result of a periodic thaw, those were one-offs at the very end of Byzantium. It was only in the last century of Byzantium, with Byzantium reduced to a bystander,  the Latins ruling much of the Greek-speaking world, and persistent pressure for Church Union, that Byzantine scholars noticed there was anything worthwhile done in the West at all. It was him, Demetrios Kydones, Prochoros Kydones, Gennadius Scholarius, Manuel Holobolos, George Pachymeres. All 13th century or later. And with the exception of Planudes, who did Ovid, they’re all translating Catholic theology and Boethius, not the Classics.

If the compound words, “insofar,” and “inasmuch” require that they be followed by “as”, why haven’t we made the leap to “insofaras,” and “inasmuchas”?


If people are going to run words together, they don’t so randomly. They run words together when the words form a syntactic grouping. And the stop running words together when they run into a syntactic break.

A clause like “in so far as I am able” is analysed syntactically as:

[in [so far]] [as [I am able]]

There is a break between so far and as I am able. in so far, OTOH, can be argued to hang together as a group. (Even if it doesn’t, it can be argued to be reanalysed into a group that hangs together. Handwaving there, because I don’t care deeply about syntax.)

So there is a natural intuition that prevents you making the leap to insofaras: the as belongs with the following clause, so you can’t run it in with the preceding clause.

As to why the run in to begin with: that’s syntactic reanalysis. in so far as does make sense, if you think about it, but it’s a fairly abstract  kind of sense, using a metaphor with spatial extent standing in for validity. Once the metaphor becomes opaque, particularly in a legalese context, people won’t really make sense of in so far word-for-word; so they’ll be tempted to rattle it off as gobbledygook, and thus reanalyse it as a single word.

What they won’t do is extend the gobbledygook to the next word, because they do still understand that as is a conjunction introducing a clause, and not gobbledygook.

How did your parents decide on your name?

Boutros’ Nick, as the villagers called him: Ο Νικολής του Πούτρου. But in the papers of the state and church, he was set down as Nicholas Hadjimarcou. With a c and a dj, because the state was British Cyprus, which acknowledged that the Cypriots pronounces their j’s. The Greek alphabet doesn’t, so Νικόλαος Χατζημάρκου.

Boutros’ Nick married Maria Haralambidou, and they had nine pregnancies, eight births, and seven children who made it to adulthood. George, Helen, Chris, Stavros, Dora, Andrew, and Marc-Anthony. Or at least, Marc-Anthony is what the state knows him as, because the godfather insisted on it. Boutros’ Nick preferred Savva, and Savvakis is what he goes by to this day.

Savvakis is also the only male child who stayed in Cyprus, and the only one who kept Boutros’ Nick’s surname.

The other four boys, George, Chris, Stavros and Andrew, all migrated to Australia, between 1947 and 1970. Chris had switched his surname to his patronymic before leaving; Christodoulos, son of Nicholas, Hadjimarcou (Χριστόδουλος Νικολάου Χατζημάρκου), thus became Chris Nicholas (Χρίστος Νικολάου). Cypriots do this, though I don’t know how frequently.

George came to Australia way before Chris had switched his surname—Chris would have been just 15; but George landed in Sale, Victoria in 1947, at a time when noone particularly felt like deciphering Hadjimarcou. So he found the surname switch expedient. The other two siblings moved two decades later, and they too found the switch expedient—the more so because they all ended up in Launceston, Tasmania, and didn’t want to go by separate surnames.

Now it is the firm custom among Greeks that their firstborn children take their grandparents’ names. Families used to go to war over less: not giving your parent’s name to your child was a grave insult, and that sentiment is only loosening now. It certainly hadn’t loosened in the ’60s and ’70s in the Tasmanian Greek community.

Four Nicholas brothers had four firstborn sons. It was thus an inevitability that there be four Nick Nicholas’s. I’m Stavros’.

And no, my parents thought nothing of it. They were at least merciful enough not to put down my given name in the birth certificate as Nicholas.

Btw. My father went by Nicholas, but he only changed it by deed poll to Nicholas when we were about to leave for Greece. He used Nicholas so he wouldn’t go by a different surname to his brothers; he changed it officially so he wouldn’t go by a different surname to his children.

.i mi ckire do doi filip niuton lenu do cpedu lenu mi spuda .i ku’i pe’i do pujeca djuno ledu’u mi se cmene mu’i dakau

Which countries keep their native languages pure and uninfluenced from foreign languages?

What Tomasz Dec’s answer to Which countries keep their native languages pure and uninfluenced from foreign languages? said. Icelandic is likely the most successful, as the poster-child of conservative intervention in language change in general. Lots of European languages have had bouts of this. German fought the good fight for a fair while, and their vocabulary is more purist than many on the continent, but it wasn’t as thorough going as some. Greek quite successfully eradicated or marginalised Italian and Turkish from their vocabulary, and came up with lots of native coinings for terminology—before they gave up and let French in. Turkish had a major campaign of eradicating Arabic and Persian words for made up  Turkic words—and French.

Noone’s said much about non-European languages. There are loans in Chinese alright, but in a (largely) monosyllabic language like Chinese, mass influx of Latin or English terminology is not as practical. There certainly has been mass influx of English into Japanese, though their phonology makes the loans look quite different.

Should countries do it? It’s a matter of their ideology and their feeling of insecurity in the world. I won’t say they have to.

I also won’t say they needn’t bother, or make fun of them for doing so. Two groups do:

  1. Linguists, but this is not a linguistic issue, it’s a sociolinguistics (and indeed primarily sociological) issue, so it’s none of their business. It’s not the communicative adequacy of a hybridised language that’s at issue, it’s whether the community want to have a hybridised language.
  2. English speakers: “Ooh, look at us! We don’t have an Academie, like those awful Frenchies! Our language is a mongrel, so that makes it superior to any language spoken in history, aren’t we special.” No, no, you’re not, pilgrim. Your societies just happened to have made a different choice in the 16th through 19th centuries. And had a choice imposed on them in the 11th through 15th century. That doesn’t make you special, just different.

Is there a name in Greek based on the Greek root for “light” the way Luke/Lucius is based on the Latin root, luce?

What Edie Lungreen’s answer to Is there a name in Greek based on the Greek root for “light” the way Luke/Lucius is based on the Latin root, luce? said. Of names in contemporary use, the most common by far (and transparent to Modern Greek speakers) is the feminine of Photius, Photina (Fotini), retrofitted to be the name of the Samaritan Woman in the Bible: St. Photina – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online; Martyr Photina (Svetlana), the Samaritan Woman, and Her Sons.

Why are all nouns capitalized in German? Are there other languages that do this?