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Updated: Jul 27, 2021

W, X, Y, Z this week. A mixed bag this week.

  • · W…well…there aren’t any.

  • · X, only in Greek.

  • · Y, well…there aren’t any,

  • · and Z, mostly Greek.

So, we fast forward to the end of the alphabet. There will be a groovy themed Wordy Weekly next week as Bloggus Classicus is turning half a year old! (Hooray!).

i) XENOPHOBIA: ‘irrational fear of foreigners/strangers’. The word comes from the Greek for:

ξενὸς - stranger, guest-friend, foreigner

φοβία - fear

To be a ξενὸς was a important status for ancient Greeks and one that should be respected, by both the ξενὸς and the host. ξενία was a very important practice based on reciprocity. A stranger seeking hospitality should be taken in and the stranger should respect the host who comes to his aid. In Homer, the ξενία existing between two warriors is enough to stop them fighting each other on the battlefield. To violate ξενία was considered a terrible insult, for example, Paris running off with his host’s wife…big no, no! The tale of Baucis and Philemon opens with the violation of ξενία by the other residents of their village, who shut out two travellers seeking refuge for the night. Little do they know it, but the travellers are Zeus and Hermes (or Jupiter and Mercury in Ovid, Metamorphoses VIII) in disguise. Oops. However, the good-hearted Baucis and Philemon welcome the travellers and make them supper and offer wine. They are rewarded by being rescued from the flood that engulfs the village.

ii) XEROGRAPHY/XEROX: And you thought Xerox was a brand name! Well, it is. But the name is linked to the word XEROGRAPHY, which means ‘dry writing’. Here are the original Greek components of the word:

ξηρός - dry

γραφία - writing

We have met the suffix -GRAPHY before. I think this is a very cool derivative. A household name, Xerox, a pithy name, comes from ancient Greek.

All Latin words that begin with ‘X’ are basically transliterated from the Greek, but I thought I would share the rather groovy word XERANTIUS, meaning ‘drying off’.

Z – I’ll have to ZETA that!

Yes, all right, the puns are getting worse.


i) ZOO/ZOOLOGY: the Greek parent of both words is ζῶον meaning creature, animal, living thing, also linked to the verb ζάω – ‘to exist’. We have met the suffix -OLOGY meaning ‘study of, so ZOOLOGY is the ‘study of animals or living things’. A ZOO where animals are kept is a place for ‘LIVING’ things.

ii) ZEALOT: ‘a passionate, fanatical follower’. The name was applied to a Jewish sect, who were fierce in their resistance to Roman power in Palestine. The Greek parent word was ζηλῶτης with its cognate verb ζηλόω, which meant ‘one who emulates’ and ‘to emulate. The connection with ZEALOT as we apply it now is presumably that if you emulate someone, you must passionately admire them, and copy their ways. So you are a ZEALOT who is ZEALOUS in your emulation (emulation comes from Latin ‘AEMULO’).

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