The Greek language has germinated many languages across the European continent, and its impact through the spread of Latin and the romance offshoots is ever present to this day, especially in the fields of science and higher discourse.
For example, it is estimated English has incorporated thousands of worlds that are either Greek or have been passed down as corrupted Greek words.
In most cases, Greek words used in foreign languages line up with their meaning in the Greek language. However, there are those rare instances where through the years some words take on a completely new, and often opposite meaning in Greek and the borrower language.
One such example is the word “idiot”.
The word is derived from the private verb. The basic concept has not changed between ancient and new Greek. It is he who does not exercise power, does not hold a public office but exercises a free profession. The word was passed down to European countries as a loan and ended up meaning “idiot” in English and French (idiot) in the sense of a dumb or a stupid person. The interesting fact is that in antiquity, writers used the word as it is used in English and not in modern Greek.
Historian Xenophon, for example, considered the word “idiot” to mean an individual who is inexperienced, uneducated, ignorant, not qualified to participate in political affairs or hold public office. It seems that this ancient derogatory meaning was adopted by modern Europeans to come to the notion of stupid.
This derogatory meaning stems from the ancient Greeks’ perception that all citizens should actively participate in political and public life. Those who did not want or were not able to do so were considered second-class citizens.