Hellenisms. Words and expressions borrowed from the Greek (Gk). Their number in Proto-Slavic (see Slavic languages) was very limited: komora (Gk kamára, ‘vault’), korabel’ (Gk karábion, ‘ship’), and possibly banja (Gk bálaneion, ‘bathhouse’) and terem (Gk téremnon, ‘house,’ ‘dwelling’). With the Christianization of Ukraine many Hellenisms entered into the Old Ukrainian language, primarily via Bulgarian. Certain ones were used only in the bookish language; others, however, also became part of the vernacular. Most Hellenisms of this period were religious and ecclesiastical terms: eg, apostol (Gk apóstolos, ‘apostle’), jevanhelije (Gk euaggélion, ‘Gospel’), ieretyk (Gk airetikós, ‘heretic’), idol (Gk eídolon, ‘idol’), panaxyda (Gk pannukhída, ‘requiem’), and janhol (Gk ággelos, ‘angel’); first names: eg, Vasyl' (Gk Basileios) and Sofija (Gk Sophia); and scientific terms: eg, apostrof (Gk apostrophé, ‘apostrophe’), aromat (Gk ároma, ‘aroma’), astronomija (Gk astronomía, ‘astronomy), dijalekt (Gk diálektos, ‘dialect’), hramatyka (Gk grammatiké, ‘grammar’), dijafrahma (Gk diáphragma, ‘diaphragm’), piramida (Gk puramíd, ‘pyramid’), and planeta (Gk plánetes, ‘planet’). Such Hellenisms as kyparys (Gk kupárissos, ‘cypress’), kyt (Gk ketos, ‘sea monster,’ ‘whale’), okean (Gk Okeanós, ‘ocean’), kutja (Gk koukkía, ‘beans,’ ‘seed,’ a festive dish kutia made of wheat kernels, poppy seed, and honey), voxra (Gk ókhra, ‘ochre’), possibly ohirok (Gk ágouros, ‘cucumber’) and subota (Gk Sámbaton, ‘Saturday’) were widespread. Greek calques were also widely used, eg, vselennaia (Gk oikouméne, ‘universe’), Bohorodycja (Gk Theotókos, ‘Mother of God’), and blahoslovennja (Gk eulogía, ‘benediction’). A number of Ukrainian phrases and proverbs are of Greek origin; eg, klyn klynom vybyvajut’ (‘a wedge is knocked out with a wedge’) and vyjty sukhym z vody (‘to emerge dry from the water’).
A second, smaller influx of Hellenisms occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were introduced through literature by Balkan refugees fleeing Turkish rule and partly by Romanians and Bulgarians who settled in Ukraine and herders moving in the Carpathian Mountains region. The latter brought such words as kolyba (Gk kalúbē, ‘cottage,’ ‘hut’) and trojanda (Gk triantáphullon, ‘rose’). Later (18th and 19th century) Hellenisms were part of the argot into which they penetrated from Greek merchants and settlers on the Black Sea littoral—eg, joryj (Gk geraiós, ‘old’) and kimaty (Gk koimomai, ‘to sleep’)—and did not enter Standard Ukrainian. However, many words formed from Greek elements in Western Europe have been widely used as scientific terms in Ukrainian; eg, daktyloskopiia (dactyloscopy) and telefon (telephone).
George Yurii Shevelov
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine