Cool Non-English Words #3 Philotimo

Cool Non-English Words #3 Philotimo

When you start learning a new language, you very quickly discover there are words in other languages that have no exact translation in English (or your own mother-tongue). This series explores those linguistic novelties….

#3 – φιλότιμο / Philotimo

One of the funny moments from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is when the Greek father keeps explaining how every single English word has its origins in Greek. Well, that may not be exactly the case, but today we are examining a word from that beautiful country!

Photo: Aidan Meyer

Similar to the other words in this series, there is no single English word that can be used to translate Philotimo (also written as filotimo).

Philotimo is a way of life that incorporates virtues such as honour, integrity, dignity, courage, hospitality and humility. But again, the word is greater than these individual words. Philotimo is considered to be the highest virtue for Greeks.

Some have said it is something Greeks were born with, but in my opinion, growing up in the culture tends to help cement these values.

There is also a strong sense of generosity and self-sacrifice in the word – where you give of yourself to others, without expecting anything in return. On the other hand, if you receive a gift of love from someone, you never forget it (in this way, it has a couple of similarities with Guanxi from the first post in this series – whilst still being very different).

Interestingly it is used in the Bible 3 times: Romans 15:20, 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

For more references on philotimo:

Previous Cool Non-English Words
#1 Guanxi
#2 Sehnsucht


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