Greek for ‘that’s interesting’…

There’s two types of modern expressions that present difficulty for speaking ancient languages:

  • names for things they didn’t have
  • expressions for things they didn’t say

In many cases (1) isn’t so bad. You just have to neologise. How do you say helicopter, television, mobile (=cell) phone, etc etc..? Even coffee, tea, present problems, but not insurmountable ones. For Latin, with its longer continual history, it’s often easier. For speaking ancient Greek modernly, various strategies can be used: adapting an ancient word with a similar meaning; using the Greek equivalent to a Latin word used for the same modern thing; deriving a (sometimes entirely fictive) ‘ancestor’ form for a contemporary Greek word.

The second issue is much more problematic. Consider the expression, “It’s interesting…”. In Latin, we can use phrases involving studiumstudium me tenet, studium me excitat, and the like. Greek is, it seems, more tricky.

I asked my good friend Στέφανος about this, as I often do, and he proffered a few suggestions:

διαφέρει — it’s important

ἄξιον σπουδῆς — something worthy of zeal/esteem/effort

προσέχω τινὶ τὸν νοῦν, τὸν νοῦν ἔχω πρός τινα – expressions for paying attention to something.


None of these, as he recognised, quite fits. We want something for “here is a thing that is worth paying attention to/thinking about”.

But perhaps we can build off these. ἄξιον + infinitive makes a good impersonal structure for “worth doing X”. So…

ἄξιον τοῦ τὸν νοῦν προσέχειν – worth paying attention to

ἄξιον διαλέγεσθαι – worth talking about

ἄξιον ἐπὶ ᾧ νομίζειν – worth thinking on,

ἄξιον μελετᾶσθαι – worth contemplating


Take these out for a spin, let me know what you think.

5 responses

  1. ἄξιος λόγου – ‘worth talking about’ spawned a compound adjective that may be helpful here: ἀξιόλογος, and there are further, but less frequent ἀξιο compounds of this sort, ἀξιοθαύμαστος, ἀξιομάθητος..

  2. I think Helma Dik has it right. It seems to me that when it was presumed interesting to everybody, then ἀξιόλογος was the usual word in literary κοινή. Here is Josephus writing about the most interesting (=noteworthy?) city in Cilicia (if I have understood this excerpt right): ……….Κιλικία. σημεῖον δέ: Ταρσὸς γὰρ παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς τῶν πόλεων ἡ ἀξιολογωτάτη καλεῖται μητρόπολις οὖσα τὸ ταῦ πρὸς τὴν κλῆσιν ἀντὶ……….

    I think that is what we normally mean by interesting. If, on the other hand, we really mean something like the Latin “interest mihi”, I think the Greek for that was simply: μέλει μοι.

    BTW Keep up the fine podcasts.

  3. Interesting means “ενδιαφέρων” in greek. Yes, you could say αξιόλογος too But αξιόλογος is more like worthy or notable.

    Greetings from Greece.

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