Name of Greece

Name of Greece

The name of Greece differs in Greece in comparison with the names used for the country in other languages and cultures, just like the names of the Greeks. Although the Greeks call the country Hellas or Ellada (Greek: Ελλάς, Ελλάδα) and its official name is Hellenic Republic, in English the country is called Greece, which comes from Latin Graecia as used by the Romans and literally means 'the land of the Greeks'; however, the name Hellas is sometimes used in English too.



The English name Greece and the similar adaptations in other languages derive from the Latin name Graecia, literally meaning 'the land of the Greeks', which was used by the Romans to denote the area of modern day Greece. Similarly, the Latin name of the nation was Graeci, from which the English name Greeks originates. These names in turn trace their origin from Graecus, the Latin adaptation of the Greek name Γραικός, which means 'Greek' but its etymology remains uncertain. There is some obscurity for the reason why the Romans called the country Graecia and its people Graeci, while the Greeks called their land Hellas and themselves Hellenes, thus several speculations have been made. However, as William Smith points out in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, it is a common fact that a people are frequently called by foreigners by a different name than their native one.[1]

Aristotle was the first to use the name Graeci (Γραικοί) in Meteorology, saying that the area about Dodona and Achelous was inhabited by the Selli and a people formerly called Graeci, but at his time Hellenes.[2] From this statement of Aristotle it is asserted that the name of Graeci was at one period widely spread in Epirus and the western coast of Greece in general, hence it became the one by which the Hellenes were known to the Italic peoples on the opposite side of the Ionian Sea.[1] According to Hesiod, in his work Catalogue of Women, Graecus was the son of Pandora and Zeus; he gave his name to the people who followed the Hellenic customs, while his brother Latinus gave his name to the Latins.[3] In Ethnica, Stephanus of Byzantium also states that from Graecus, the son of Thessalus, the Hellenes derived the name of Graeci.[4][5]

List of names in other languages

In these languages, the name of Greece has a common "gr" initial. The root of all of these was Graecus in Latin, and was also the ancient name that the Romans used for the Greeks:

In these languages, the common root is "yun" or "ywn". It is borrowed from the Greek name Ionia, the Greek region of Asia Minor:[6]

  • Arabic: يونان (Yūnān)
  • Aramaic: ܝܘܢ or יון (Yawān, Yawon)
  • Armenian: Հունաստան (Hounastan)
  • Azeri: Yunanıstan
  • Bangla:Jubonan/Jobonan
  • Hindi: यूनान (Yūnān)
  • Laz: Yonaneti-Xorumona (ხორუმონა)
  • Nepalese: यूनान (Yūnān)
  • Persian: یونان (Yūnān)
  • Sanskrit: Yavana
  • Tajik: Юнон (Yunon)
  • Turkish: Yunanistan

The third root is "hl", used by a few languages around the world, including Greek:

  • Greek: Hellas or Hellada
    • Polytonic: Ἑλλάς or Ἑλλάδα
    • Monotonic: Ελλάς or Ελλάδα

In the Georgian language, the root for "Greek" is "-berdz-", so "Greece" is "Saberdzneti", "საბერძნეთი". The same root is adopted in Abkhazian: "Барзентәыла" ("Barzent°yla").

In the Chechen language , the name is "Джелтимохк" ("Džieltimohk")

See also


  1. ^ a b Smith 1854, p. 299.
  2. ^ Aristotle, Meteorology, 1.14
  3. ^ Hesiod, Catalogue of Women, 2
  4. ^ Stephanus, Ethnica, p. 212
  5. ^ Smith 1849, p. 1011.
  6. ^ "Yavan in the House of Shem: Greeks and Jews, 332–63 BC". Washington State University. 1999-06-06. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 


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