Tattoo Ideas: Greek Words and Phrases
Greek Lettering TattoosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world; it has been spoken in Europe since the year 2000 BC. Several different forms of Greek have been spoken since then, including classical, Hellenistic (spoken during the days of Alexander the Great), medieval (used by the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century) and modern Greek. Dhimotiki is presently the official language of Greece since 1976. It is spoken by approximately 15–25 million people worldwide.
Despite the saying "it's all Greek to me", meaning that an expression is nonsensical, tattoos done in the Greek language are not an unusual occurrence on the BMEzine website where I find most of my pictures. Unlike Hebrew and Arabic, which use highly specific character sets, Latin, which has long been extinct, and Irish Gaelic, which has numerous dialects, Greek can be a fairly easy language to translate.
Greek lettering tattoos can be an expression of pride for one's nationality and a dedication to one's heritage. Many English words have a Greek equivalent, and can easily be found using any number of English-to-Greek translators available on the web or at your local bookstore. This online dictionary will translate the word of your choice into either modern or Ancient Greek and will show you the word using letters from both the English and Greek alphabets.
As with any tattoo that is done in a language that is not your own, make sure you do your homework. Double check your translation with several sources. A native speaker is your best bet—in this case, someone who speaks Greek as their first language, English as their second, or vice versa. If a native speaker is not available to you, your next best bet is a scholar who has studied the language extensively. Last but not least, there are several online translators who offer their services for free. Although they can be very useful, keep in mind that it is important to ensure your translation is correct by either using several different online translators or confirming it's accuracy with native speakers on a Greek forum or message board.
Greek Phrases for Tattoos
- Gnothi seauton — Know yourself
- Dos moi pa sto, kai tan gan kinaso — Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth
- Pistis, elpis, agape — Faith, hope, love (from 1 Corinthians 13)
- Ta panta rhei kai ouden menei — Everything flows, nothing stands still
- Kai gar hois allo meden, aute pareste — When all is gone, there is still hope
- To pepromenon phugein adunaton — It's impossible to escape from what is destined
- Nipson anomemata me monan opsin — Wash the sins, not only the face (a palindrome, read the same backward and forwards)
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