Common Sayings in Greece (in Greek)

I am teaching myself trying to learn Greek on my own, and it is going at a very slow pace. I have made progress since being here, and I would say that I can understand and speak at a low level in everyday conversation. My kids (who I am teaching English) usually giggle a bit when I try to translate the directions for a game into Greek so they can understand. Most of the kids are very helpful in correcting me, but there are a few smart-allecs that mock me a bit. Overall, even with being mocked, I think teaching has helped me learn a few new words each day or so and I continue to be amazed at the Greek expressions or sayings that just don’t make sense in English. We call it Greek-lish, speaking English but with the Greek way of thinking.

Some common greetings and responses: 

Ti kanete; (Literally – what are you doing? Meaning – What’s up?, How are you?)
~ Kala, kala (Meaning – good, good)
~ Doxa to Theo (Meaning – Glory to God, Praise the Lord)
~ Then variesai (Meaning – Are you not too bored to listen)
~ As ta leme kala (Meaning – Let’s pretend it is okay)

But the funniest scenario is when someone asks how someone is doing by asking 3-4 times AND responding BEFORE the other person even has a chance to blink! Something like this:

“Ti kanete; Pos eiste; Ola kal; Kala eimai, efharisto. Oreo, bravo, kala, na eiste kala, yia sas”
(Meaning – “What are you doing? How are you? Everything good? I am good, thankyou. Nice, great, good, be well, bye!” All said in one breathe) This is more common to hear than just a simple answer and response.

Greeks are very friendly and helpful, sometimes too much so. Anytime, I mean anytime, we ask someone for directions they insist on repeating themselves at least 4-5 times, usually we are to the point we have started to drive away and they are still shouting, “all the way straight, and turn right and then left”. We can see their lips still moving from the rear view mirror and it makes me laugh every single time! 

A few ridiculous sayings: 

Pou esai; (Meaning  – Where are you? Asking talking on a cellphone to someone else)
~ Etho. Etho. (Meaning – here, here*)
   *Where the heck is here, here?

Poios einia; (Meaning – Who is it?
~ Ego eimai. (Meaning – It is me*.)
   *Who are you?

Yia sas paidia. (Literally –  Hi kids.  Meaning – Hey guys, referring to adults speaking to other adults.
Ela moro. (Literally – Come baby. Meaning – Tell me something or come on, this is used here on the island a lot)

Greeks are also very affectionate people, it is not uncommon to call a stranger a term of endearment or a a good friend a playful nickname. Some more common admirations:

Fili mou (my friend)
Moro mou (my baby)
Agape mou (my love)
Kalo mou (my good kid)

or changing someone’s name to end in -aki mou or ouli mou, for example, Mariaki mou (my small little Maria) or Mariouli mou (my sweet little Marios).

Very often I am called someone’s baby or love at the grocery store or standing in line waiting somewhere.

Lastly, when Greeks are ending a phone conversation it is almost a battle to see who hangs up first. I laugh every time I hear a rambling of goodbyes and kisses to someone that lasts a good 5-6 seconds for a simple goodbye. EVERYTIME!

“Yia sou, yia, yia, ade, yia, filia, filaki, filaki, yia, yia…”
“Goodbye, bye, bye, bye, bye, kisses, little kisses, little kisses, bye, bye… ” 

These are just a few very common expressions in everyday Greek life. Endearing and sometimes a little vexing when it happens to carry on for minutes at a time! I hope you feel a little more Greek with this insider knowledge, and if you are Greek, know that I appreciate you so much and mean no offense at all, sincerely!


2 thoughts on “Common Sayings in Greece (in Greek)

  1. Wow Jac..Way to go! I am impressed by your ability to learn it, and continue to stick with it! I seem to remember Nat and Erin telling me something about the word agape mou:) Love ya Jac! So excited you are coming home this summer!!

  2. I love this entry! Oh my gosh all of this is SO true for a fellow greek novice. My favorite is the way they say goodbye on the phone it is seriously something that i can't get over. Anyways appreciate your entries – nice to know i'm not alone in the things i find hilarious about the language!

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