Lesson 17: More Greek Prepositions

Besides those Prepositions of modern Greek language that we learned in Lesson 16, there are also some Prepositions coming from ancient Greek. These are rarely or never used alone in a sentence — most usually, they are added to words or word roots in order to form new meanings, more or less relevant.

Knowing these ancient (“scholarly”) Prepositions and their original meaning will help us have a better understanding of the words they’re used in — in other words, they are very helpful for Greek vocabulary learning, as they are employed in a great number of Greek words.

Some of their basic meanings are:

1. ανά up, upwards, on
throughout, along
2. διά through, via
by way of
split into
3. εκ from
4. εν in, at, within
5. επί on, upon
6. περί around, about
7. προ before
8. συν plus
9. υπέρ for, in favor of
10. υπό below, under

Examples of “scholarly” (“archaic”) Prepositions
as  used in the production of words and in standard phrases

  1. ανά
    – διάρθρωση (n.) = structure –> ανα + διάρθρωση = re-structure
    – βαίνω (v.tr.) = go, wend –> ανα + βάτης (n.) = rider, jockey (= the one who goes on a horse, bike, etc)
    – “ανά την υφήλιο” = throughout the globe/world
  2. διά
    – γωνία (n.) = corner –> δια + γώνιος (n., adj.) = diagonal (= from one corner to the other)
    διαίρεση (n.) = division
  3. εκ
    – φράση (n.) = sentence, something that is told/uttered –> εκ + φράζω (v.tr.) = express
    – βάλλω (v.tr.) = project, shoot –> εκ + βάλλω = expel, exhude
  4. εν
    – έργο (n.) = work, project –> εν + έργεια (n.) = action
    – τόπος (n.) = place –> εν + τοπίζω (v.tr.) = locate
  5. επί
    – όρκος (n.) = oath –> επί + ορκος (adj.) = he who has broken (stepped on) an oath
    – δεξιός (adj.) = right (as opp. to ‘left’) –> επι + δέξιος = skillful (no, we have nothing against left-handed people!)
    – “τρία επί τέσσερα” = three times four
  6. περί
    – πατώ (v.tr.) = step (on) –> περί + πατος = promenade (stepping / walking around)
    – βλέπω (v.tr.) = see –> περί + βλεπτος = someone who is visible to / seen by / worth to be seen by anyone
    – “περί ανέμων και υδάτων” = of cabbages and kings (literally, “of winds and waters”)
  7.  προ
    – διάθεση (n.) = mood, disposition –> προ + διάθεση = predisposition, vocation
    – ηγούμαι (v.intr.) = lead –> προ + ηγούμενος (adj.) =  previous
    – “προ Χριστού” (π.Χ.) = before Christ, BC
  8. συν
    – γένος (n.) = line, breed –> (συν)* συγ + γενής (n.) = relative
    –  υπάρχω (v.intr.) = exist –> συν + υπάρχω (v.intr.) = coexist
    – “ένα συν δύο” = one plus two
  9. υπέρ
    – ισχύς (n.) = strength, power –> υπερ + ισχύω (v.intr.) = prevail, override
    – διπλός (adj.) = double –> υπέρ + διπλος (adj.) = king-size (bed)
    – “ψήφισα υπέρ του κόμματος Χ” = I voted for X party
  10. υπό
    – γη (n.) = ground, earth –> υπό + γειος (adj.) = underground
    – χρέος (n.) = debt, duty –> υπο + χρεώνω (v.tr.) = force, compel
    – “τρεις βαθμοί υπό το μηδέν” = three degrees below zero

In the production of words, some  of the above prepositions are affected by the initial letter of the word they are added to. In particular:

  • διά, επί, υπό: they lose their final vowel before a word that starts with a vowel (διέλευση, επανάσταση, υπαρχηγός)
  • εκ: becomes εξ before a word that starts with a vowel (εξηγώ, εξαιρετικός)
  • εν, συν: their final -ν- is changed as follows:
    + word starting from π, β, φ –> -ν- becomes –μ– (εμπαθής, συμβαίνει)
    + word starting from κ, γ, χ –> -ν- becomes –γ– (εγγραφή, συγγενής)
    + word starting from ν, μ, λ, ρ, σ –> -ν- becomes whatever letter follows (σύννεφο, έμμεσος, σύλλογος, έρρινος, σύσσωμος)
    – συν becomes συ (loses the final -ν-) when followed by a word starting from ζ, ξ, σκ, σπ, στ (σύζυγος, σύξυλος, σύσκεψη)

Also: Some words starting with –o– (ομαλός, όνομα, όροφος, όλεθρος, ορυχείο, οδύνη) turn this -ο- into –ω– when preceded by a preposition (ανώμαλος, επώνυμο, διώροφος, πανωλεθρία, χρυσωρυχείο, επώδυνος).

One more thing to retain, that will make remembering prepositions a little easier: as we have seen in the examples above, some Greek prepositions are very similar to their respective English particles (prefixes), as in

  • diagonal (διά)
  • expel (εκ)
  • predisposition (προ) 

while some others have an exact equivalent, as in

  • coexist (συν, from the equivalent Latin prefix)
  • override (υπέρ)



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