Greece Travel Guide logo

Greece Travel Guide


 Greek Island Guide


Hotels of Greece



The Greece-China Connection

Similarities in Greek and Chinese Language

By Theresa Mitsopoulou

            The word “hygea” – health, must be related to the Chinese word “yu” – which means to heal, to recover, to become well (as an adverb it means “the more…the more” since one recovers gradually and little by little).

Today, the word--Albania--is referred to as "Alebaniya" in Chinese. This word is believed to be derived from the Latin word: "Aibainiya". (The "l" in Albania came about later in Greek and in Latin as these languages evolved). Poignantly, in modern Chinese, "bai" means "snow white". In the ancient Chinese language, "ai" means "snow white" without the "b"--not in reference to the young maiden and her seven dwarfs however! Rather, "snow white" refers to the dramatic descriptions of the snow white mountains of Albania which bring to mind the many horrid tragedies the Greek soldiers faced during World War II upon such mountains.

  The Chinese word, "bai", which means "snow white" offers another fascinating meaning which might sound rather farfetched. Nevertheless, the Chinese word for white wine (which is produced with sugar cane and maize, as is Greek ouzo) is "bai jiu". Many wines are referred to, in Chinese, as "san- bai" which means exactly: "white three-fold". Notably, these particular wines produce such heavy foam, one might venture to assert that the type of wine known for its heavy foam is champagne. "White three-fold" or "white three times" can also be linked to a particular French province; to explain, this province has such extensive vineyards for wine production, the province was named Champagne. The world-famous "foam" wine, so to speak, is Champagne or "san bai"--white three-fold!

  The Chinese word, "lun" means wheel. Similarly, in Latin, the word "luna" refers to the moon--an object similar in shape to the wheel. The word "luna" also means "talk". Interestingly, there is a Greek expression that goes as follows: trehei I glossa tis rodani. This means: "she speaks too much and too quickly, like a spinning wheel". However, this "wheel" refers to the loom where yarn is spun. Undoubtedly, this connection has considerable loopholes.

  The Chinese word, "gu" means a small amount. This word also refers to the thigh bone with its prior meaning being a "branch" or "part". The Chinese word "liao" means water. Thus, the term "guliao" means "a little water". Interestingly, one might be able to link this term with the following Greek expression: "mia goulia nero" which means exactly, "a sip of water". The similarity between the Chinese "guliao" and the Greek "goulia" is evident. In the word, guliao, the "gu" precedes the "liao". In the Greek word, goulia, the "gu" which denotes a small amount (in Greek--(o)ligos) comes after the "li".

  The word, "ban daor" means half-way and on two levels. Notably, the Greek word for "attic" is "patari-deroon". The similarity is evident. Most likely, the Maya did not know of the existence of the horse, but it is also possible that their name used to stand for the original common "cradle". The name for "chariot" is "a[ma]xa" in Greek. The word, "amaxa" must also be related to "ma" which means horse. The connection between the word, "kongbu" which in Chinese means "terror" and the word, "kouboura" which in Greek means "pistol and/or bad student" is a rather humorous one. Namely, those students who walked around with pistols attached to their belts had an easy life, so to speak, by never being pushed to study. The Chinese word (lao) tai-ye means an elderly gentleman or venerable leader. The Greek word, "tagos" means commander and political/religious leader. The connection between the two words is clear. Also, in ancient Greek, "tagi" means "line of battle", "tagma" means "brigade" and "tagouhos" means commander.

The Greek word, "naziara" means "a woman with affected manners" even though dictionaries explain this word to mean more precisely, "a woman trying to attract the attention of the opposite sex". My Chinese teacher referred to a word that caught my attention while in class. The teacher referred to the word, "nan zhu le" which means a person who attempts to make excuses in order to not follow up on a dinner invitation or something of the like. Thus, "nan zhu le" refers to a difficult person, so to speak. I question if "naziara" is actually a woman who "stirs up trouble" or "problematizes" people and/or situations. Thus, "being difficult" was a method of stirring up the interests of others in the older Chinese and Greek civilizations.

  Today, the Chinese word, "yi" which comes from the compound word, "hou yi" means "descendent" and "son". The Greek word for son is "yios".

  The word, "wan pi(r)" means mischievious. The word, "wan" stands for foolish and bad while the word, "pi" stands for leather. In the renowned Shadow Theater, a [mischievious/ bad] vampire--which is an English and French word known in Chinese as "xixiegui"--was always dressed in leather, thus is forever associated with it.

  The meaning of the word "dian" is rule or law. In Greek, the word, Diana, means success: "ta ekane diana" is an expression which means exactly--he hit target. Undoubtedly, the Romans coined the huntress , Artemis, "Diana" because she rarely missed hitting a target with her famous bow and arrow.

My latest discovery (1/2002) was the origin of the word, "Jew" or "Jewish”.   I spent two years in Jerusalem with my brother while he was working there as a diplomat.   This is how, from a young age, I became acquainted with the Israelis--their history, culture, and religion something that helped me later later in my research (e.g. Agamemnon's Mask and Panchen Lama, pg. 219, 251). After the diaspora, Jewish people had to continue to move from place to place and had no choice but to lead a nomadic lifestyle as they were constantly persecuted having supposedly killed Jesus Christ. The expression--the "wandering Jew" explains this fact. The Jews learned professions that they could easily practice within any country, especially medical professions. Instead of buying land, they invested all their money in gold, jewels, and valuables of every kind so that at any given moment, they could pack their valuables and depart with a bag in hand. Incidentally, a large amount of diamonds, rubies, pearls and gold was handed over to the Germans by the Jews in Thessaloniki. Many Jews became bankers, lending money with high interest, auctioneers, and jewelers which might explain the word, "Jew". "Jew" might mean someone who deals with precious stones. Finally, in Chinese, the word, "zhu" means jewel.

  The word, muchun, means late spring or the third month of the lunar year and this explains where the name of the periodical tropical wind comes from in Asia comes from. The word is believed to come from Arabic.

  The word in Chinese for "fox" is "huli". Another name for this animal is "laopo". The latter name comes from the Greek word "alopix" (the same consonants --l and --p testify to that). The Chinese word, lao, means old woman and po, means the first wife (of many wives presumably). In Greek, one can refer to an old woman as a fox alluding to her wisdom.

  The story of Alexander’s the Great horse, Bukefala, is well-known. The most salient trait of this horse is the fact that he fears his own shadow. In Chinese, "xia" means "to scare". (In ancient Chinese, "xia" most likely means shadow). Similarly, in Greek, the words "iskios" and "skiazomai" mean shadow and also the verb, to be afraid. The consonant, k, is added after the s--as in the English word “scare”.

The word "pouggi" refers to a purse with money. Long ago, Greeks often hid money in bedspreads and under mattresses as a way of protecting their assets from thieves. Significantly, the word "pugai" in Chinese means bedspreads (pu=spread and gai=cover).

  The word, "yu" in Chinese describes someone foolish and crazy. The Greek word describing this same person is "agirtis" which essentially means vagabond.

  The Chinese word, Qi pai, means "wonderful". A person who feels proud and who behaves foolishly and in a snobbish manner can be described, in Greek, as "xipasmenos". In the Cretan dialect, "xipatera hromata" means "wonderful striking colors".

  There exists the "ka" prefix in the Greek language. A common word in Greek that refers to old, worn shoes must relate to the Chinese prefix, "char" which means "broken pieces". The prefix "bo", in Greek, means "rich". The word, bodosidia, and the proper name, Bodosakis refers to "gifts". In Greek, surnames are taken from nouns; for example, the Greek noun and surname "Tzitzilis" relates to the word, "zaili" which means reasonable. In the same way, the last name, "Tsalis" also brings to mind the word, "zaili". In addition, the last name, "Soulis" stems from the word "xiuli" which means repair.

  It is easy to see the correlation between the Greek word, "man" which means "wild" and the English words, "mania" and "maniac". The word, buren, means "unbearable" which comes from the Greek word, "bourini" which means both bad weather and anger. As I have stated before, Greek names like Thalia, Danaos, David and Anna--in terms of their spelling and meaning, were known in China. The Chinese are the first to be surprised at this fact and they believe that these particular names have been adjusted phonetically from the English language into the Chinese language. However, the syllables of various names have a meaning in Chinese which creates an issue. To exemplify, the name, David, can mean "great guardian and/or defender". In Chinese, the word for this meaning is "da wei". The " da" prefix in Chinese correlates with the "de" prefix in the English word, "defender". Thus, one is to assume that the name "David" means "defender"?

  The greatest Sinologue, the frenchman, Marcel Grant, has already noted that the Chinese believe that people's names gave them certain qualifications or traits. For example, if someone is given the name "groom" he will lead this kind of life even if he was born a prince. Names of flowers, animals, and birds will transfuse to the individual's grace, power or intelligence. For example, a mother might call her son with his official name or with a pet name like "Big Eagle". Such names like Black Bear and Winged Horse etc. are very common among Native Americans whose country of origin is undoubtedly China. Similar names were used in the primitive society of Zulu--Shaka was called, "Big Elephant". "Omiros", in Greek, means "hostage". It is believed that Homer was given his name because he and his father were taken as hostages. In Chinese, though, "hema" is called the hippopotamus (river horse)--the biggest amphibious land animal next to the elephant, known for its abundant and tasteful meat, which was common in the rivers of China.

The word, "a ba" means "father" and "abbott". The word, "a ge" means "big brother" in Turkish. In all likelihood, the pronunciation of the word "ge" is similar to the pronunciation of the word "ye" which are two words that derive from the words "gia" and yia". This relates to the first part of the fabulous king of Mycenae (Aga-memnon). It might sound odd but the name of Aga Han--a religious leader of the Israelites of Persia and India is actually related to the name of Agamemnon. Observe how both names begin with the "Aga" prefix. Biblical names are also related to the aforementioned name, for example, Abraham, Aaron, and also Ave, and the word, Amen. The "Mo" prefix of Mohammed and the word "Moslem" (muslim) comes from the Chinese "mu" meaning "solemn, reverent". The breakdown of the word "Muhanmode" is as follows: mu=solemn, han=rare, mo=silent, concerned, de=reverent which in turn refers to a respected, older person. Next to the important names of Agamemnon and Homer is the name "Souploulou" which refers to a "girl of the street", so to speak, which is in Chinese--shunlu (lu). The Chinese word, "xie" means thank you as well as "whither" (as do flowers). The American government official, Eugene Atkinson, visited Japan in 1996. Bowing, as the Japanese do, he thanks and greets people giving the impression of a whithered flower through his physical gestures. I would like to signal at this juncture that besides "p" the letter "t" is also related to the Chinese. The ideogram is written "ding" (great confusion is caused because the Chinese -d is often rendered in Greece with -t like di-telos) and means "nail" because it has a horizontal line on top like a head. In ancient Chinese, there was a numerical meaning refered to as the "fourth one of the Heavenly Stems).

Today, we live in a world in which the notion of a "show" plays a major part (TV show, show business etc.) Originally, however, this word came from the Chinese word "zhou" which means circle and/or week--namely, something that turns around like the roulette in the casino. "Show" was called the triumphant circle of victors, athletes, and charioteers in the Roman stadium and arenas. Related to the word "zhou" are the words "tzogos, tzogadoros (play cards). Finally, the lucky games have the element of divination.

"Ma gua" is the long uniform of Kongfu and the word "gua" refers to the English "gown". In Chinese, the word "shi" means city. Notice the relation between "ci" and "shi".

The dictionary reveals that the word, "Ayto", means "goal". This word was initially discovered in the 16th century and means "the final line of a foot race" and "the point from where the ball is shot". Most likely, the word "goal" relates to the Chinese words, "gou" and "le" which both mean "end" thus referring to the end of a football game for example. "Ren lei" is a Chinese word which means "human being, mankind". "Lei ren" (where the "lei" notably precedes the "ren") means "anthropoid, chimpanzee, gangster, and monkey". This might correlate with the Greek word "lera" which means 1) dirt and 2) an individual of ill-breeding. Thus, the Greek word "lera" and the Chinese word "lei ren " might possibly be correlated.

  Interestingly, monkeys were very common in China and many myths contain monkeys as central heroes--for example, one myth describes a monkey being smart enough to reach the sky and create great havoc in the divine palace of where the gods dwell. However, monkeys also symbolize ugliness and are considered unreliable swindlers by nature.

“La” means to play a stringed musical instrument and “la la dui” is a group of children (originally girls like the “majorettes”) that cheer, dance, sing and applaud. In Greek schools the first grade children dance and applaud around their doll singing “la la la”, while in French dictionaries there is an expression “tra la la” as a refrain of a song.

“La” is also one of the musical notes, to which the Chinese, today, refer only as numbers, e.g. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 instead of “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, and I took then the liberty to think that their names were possibly of Chinese origin. After an examination besides “la” also “do” had a meaning in Chinese (dong=the sound of a drum and “dong bu la” is the name, today, of a stringed instrument), while “mi” means “decadent music” like “fa” and “si” is the first part of the word “trumpeter” and “morning herald” (sihaoyuan and sichen).

A discovery hard to believe is the meaningof the English preposition “in”, called in Chinese today, “jin” (verd and adverb) meaning “in, inside”, please come in =qing jin. It is used very much in soccer and basket games: this ball went in, that one didn’t=zhe qiu jin le, na qiu bu jin. The letter “j” is not rendered in English but the relationship with “I” is clear in the Greek and English proper name John.

The J. Ayto dictionary of Word Origins (Arcade Publishing, N.Y.) relates the word “young” to Welsh, Irish, Sanskrit, Latin, English, Lithuanian, Russian, Bulgarian, German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish. It seems that despite the difference in pronunciation, the Chinese word is “you” – young.

“Za” – is the second syllable of “zizanion” which in Greek means “weed” that grows in wheat and rice plantations and that in Greece and China the farmers have to do away with. It also applies to a naughty child “zizanion”.

A word of the every day vocabulary is “tour” (tourism), whose origin is the Chinese word “tou(r)” = head.

An example where the “h” has replaced the “y” is the word “humor” meaning, “deep, distant, silent like the Nether world”. The Chinese children in school learn that the word “humor” is of English origin but its ending “r” (also in other English words, e.g. armor, honor, and in Greek “patir”, “air”, is typical Chinese (shihour, weir) and behind the “h” is a hidden consonant “y”. The ending “r” could alone substantiate the Chinese origin of “humor”.

According to the Ayto Dictionary the word “humor” has to do with the body fluids and in fact the word “humid” has both consonants of the word “humor”. “Humor” comes from the Greek word “Hymos” which in English   means “juice”.

“Babeizi” means “eight life times” (it indicates a long period of time). The word is found together with lao=old (laobabeizi) meaning then “oldfashioned, outdated”, because old people have rusty ideas. The Greek word “babesis-dolios, katergaris” is the Chinese “babeizi” seen that an old man has a lot of knowledge and experience and can always find his way out like Ulysses (the word is explained in the dictionaries as of Albanian origin-pabese).

My mind did dare also to match the Chinese word “bang” – club, cudgel, the English word “bang” – clap, hit, explode (big bang) and the Greek “bam” – clap, but also “excellent”. Today in Chinese, “tai bang” means “excellent, something that attracts attention” and the Greek word “bam” has the same meaning (a well known Greek song says: tonight you are “bam” – i.e. tonight you look gorgeous, you are beautifully dressed. Of course, the original meaning of “bam” is noise.

In the telephone directory of Athens there is only one family name “Meggousoglou” and many similar ones, e.g. Meggos, Meggoulas, Meggidis, Meggisides. Meggousoglou Anastasios happens to be a friend and he had once told me that his family, originally from Caesarea in Asea Minor, came to Greece in 1922 together with many other refugees, when Greece lost the war against Turkey.  Once more, by accident like so many other times in the past and when trying to investigate another word in the dictionary, my eye fell on Menggu-Mongolia, Mengguzu-Mongolian nationality and mengguzuren=Mongolian (Mongol). E and O take very often the place of one another (like in Greek  “lego”-“logos” and the same way the S the place of Z (like in German and Dutch in the beginning of words e.g. sun-Zonne) and so the S instead of Z of Meggous-oglou-Mengguzu is not a problem and the name means “Mongolian, from Mongolia” (in Greek Moggolos).

“Huaqiao” call the Chinese the overseas Chinese. “Hua” which means excellent in Chinese, is another name for China and “qiao” is explained as “tall” (qiao mu=tree, tall piece of wood) and as “residing abroad” and this last meaning, it seems that it is related to “tall”. The Chinese will have now to forgive me because I will speak in their place (like many times before) about something that they should have thought themselves.

The name “huaqiao” was given to the overseas Chinese because they were tall (in comparison with the people of mainland China) due to different climatic conditions and especially to different and better food. Also the word “qiao-tall” meant “residing abroad”.

New Words
Meggousoglou (Mongolian Menggu(ren)                          from Mongolia

Agamemnon                          Aga (A ge)                             big brother

Alvania                                   Aibaniya (Alebaniya)            white like snow

David                                      da wei                                     big fighter

Soules (surname)                  xui li                                         repair

Tsales                                      zai li                                        reasonable, right

Ayertes                                   yu                                            foolish, crazy

Goulia                                     gu liao                                     little

Katsaria                                 chaor                                      torn pieces

Koumboura                            kongbu                                   terror

Maniakos                               man                                         wild

Bourini                                    bur en                                     unbearable

Xypasmenos                         qi pai                                      wonderful

Patari                                      ban daor                                 two level

Sampania (krase)                 san bai                                   snow white

Skiazomae                            xia                                           become scared

Cyklamenon                           xian ke lai                               visitor from heaven

Mangoura                               magan                                    stick

Tjogos                                    zhou yi                                    lucky game

Harti                                        katong                                    cartoon (card)

Sourloulou                              shunlu                                     street girl

Lera                                        lei ren                                      monkey

La,la,la                                    la la dui                                   cheering children’s squad

Tagos                                     lao tai ye                                 very old person

Zizanion                                  za                                            weed

Bam                                        bam                                        clap, noise, excellent

Babeses                                babeizi                                   tricky, crafty

English Words       

Bill                                           bi (money)

Boss                                       boshi

Goal                                        gou (le)

Chicken                                  ji

Scare                                      xia

In                                             jin

Biaozhi=symbol                     biaozhi

Card                                       katong (cartoon)

Show                                      zhou

Gown                                      gua (ma gua)

City                                         shi

Mohammed                           muhanmode=venerable

Monsoon                                muchun=tropical periodical wind

Tour                                        tou(r) = head

Young                                     you=young

Humor                                     you mo=deep and silent

Cyclamen                               xian ke lai=visitor from heaven

Bang=clap,explosion            bang=club, cudgel

Hotel Attalos, Athens

Help Support Matt's Greece Travel Guides 
Do you enjoy using my site? Have you found it entertaining as well as useful? If so please show your appreciation by booking hotels through the travel agencies and the links found on my Travel Agents Page. The small comission I make on the bookings enable me to keep working and in most cases you won't find them any cheaper by searching elsewhere. You can also book at's Greece Page and they give me a small percentage on each booking.

Learn Greek with Free Podcasts

Return to Greek-China Connection Index