Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Word from Mythology: Odyssey

The English word "odyssey" comes from the name of the Greek hero Odysseus. After the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men set sail for their island home of Ithaca, but Odysseus is the only one to make it home, after a journey lasting ten years, and many adventures along the way. That is how we got the word "odyssey" in English. At first, "Odyssey" referred to the name of the ancient Greek epic poem narrating Odysseus's adventures, but starting in the late nineteenth century, the word came to be used with a lower-case "o" — odyssey — to refer to any long, adventurous journey.

Odysseus's journey is related to another English word that comes from Greek: nostalgia. The English word "nostalgia" comes from two Greek words: nostos, which means "homecoming," and algia, which means "pain, grief, longing" (as in the English word "analgesic"). Put them together and you get nostalgia: homesickness, a painful longing to return home.

The image below is a Greek vase painting of Odysseus and the Sirens, and "siren" is another English word from mythology; more about sirens here.

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