It is estimated that at least 5,000 words — and most likely many, many more — in almost all languages spoken today stem from the Greek language. Perhaps a bit more surprisingly, the names of many countries around the world, some of them thousands of miles away from Greece, come from words in the Greek language.
Argentina: the land of silver
The name of the second largest country in South America, Argentina, comes from the Latin “argentum,” which, in turn, has its roots in ancient Greek word Άργυρος (Argyros), meaning silver.
When the Spaniards first arrived in today’s Argentina, they expected to find gold. Instead, they found that all the indigenous people used silver for their silverware and jewelry.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that the mountains in the area were full of deposits of the precious metal, and the land soon was named for silver.
Azerbaijan and the ancient city of Atropatene
The name of the the country, which lies between Eastern Europe and West Asia, comes from the ancient Greek name “Atropatis.”
Atropatis was actually a Persian nobleman who founded the city of Atropatene after the death of Alexander the Great.
Although the territories he occupied mostly belong to Iran today, the ancient city itself is considered to belong to Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage.
Egypt’s name comes from two words in the Greek language
The ancient philosopher Strabo argued that Egypt (Αίγυπτος/Aigyptos) was actually a composite word, or a word that is the result of the combination of two other words.
Specifically, it derives from the word Αγαίον (Aegean) and Υπτίως (yptios) meaning below, or “the country below the Aegean Sea.”
Today, many scholars argue that the Greek “Aigyptos” actually came from a Hellenization of the Egyptian word “Hut-ka-Ptah,” which was used to describe the area surrounding Memphis.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
From the ancient Greek Αιθίωψ (Aithiops), this is a composite name originating from the verb αίθω (aitho, or “burn”) and the word όψις (opsis, “face”) meaning burnt face, describing what they believed to be the sunburned skin of the North African country’s inhabitants.
Ethiopia’s neighboring country was named Ερυθραία (Erythraia) after the Red Sea (Ερυθρά Θάλασσα/ Erythra Thalassa).
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