Christine Lovatt

When we hear something we don’t understand, we say “It’s all Greek to me”. This might be closer to the truth than we realise, because about a quarter of the words we use originally came from ancient Greek, either directly or through Latin and French.

‘Brotherly love’ in Greek is philia, and the opposite is phobia, or ‘fear’. Phobia came from the Greek god Phobos, son of Ares, god of war. In ancient times, blood sacrifices were made to appease Phobos before battle.

Both philia and phobia are suffixes in words like technophilia, an affinity for computers and the internet or technophobia, a fear of the same.

In English, phobia now means an irrational fear and is a suffix to many words. There are some very strange phobias people suffer from, such as alektorophobia, a fear of chickens or xanthophobia, fear of the colour yellow. Most wars are caused by xenophobia, fear of foreigners.

Some of you may be melissophobic (afraid of bees), phasmophobic (afraid of ghosts) or even hippopotomonstroses­quipedaliophobic (afraid of long words).

Or you may be a glossophile, (lover of languages), a bibliophile, (lover of books) or even an arctophile (lover of teddy bears). A heliophile is attracted to sunlight and an oenophile likes a glass of wine.

Philosophy comes from philia ‘love’ and sophia ‘wisdom’ so a philosopher is literally a ‘lover of wisdom’.

The name Philip comes from philia and hippos ‘horse’ – a friend of horses. Anthropos is Greek for ‘mankind’ so a philanthropist is a generous donor to causes such as developing third world countries.

Happy Puzzling to all you logophiles!