English Words from Greek Letters
Francis, Darryl, Word Ways
Riddle: What common six-letter English word can be spelled using two Greek letters?
Answer: AUTHOR, because it's made up from TAU and RHO.
For some time I've been bemused by the word UNIX, the name of a computer operating system, because it can be spelled out from the names of two letters of the Greek alphabet, XI and NU. Additionally, the two letters are simply spelled in order backwards. This set me thinking about what other words might exist whose letters could be used to spell out the names of two or more Greek letters. And would any of them display their Greek letters in order or reverse order?
The 24 letters of the modern Greek alphabet are alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi and omega. Additionally, there are 6 letters that appear in earlier versions of the Greek alphabet: digamma, episemon, koppa, sampi, san and vau. These 30 letters can be combined in 450 ways. I have managed to find real words for exactly one-sixth, or 75, of them. In the list below, words not in Webster's Third New International are labeled, and the > symbol indicates that the names of the Greek letters are spelled out forwards (< symbol, spelled out backwards).
alpha, nu = pulahan beta, chi = Thebaic beta, mu = beatum (OED nil admirari) beta, nu = butane beta, omicron = embrocation beta, psi = baptise beta, san = Abanates (W2) beta, tau = batteau chi, chi = chichi> chi, episemon = phonemicise chi, eta = thecia chi, mu = Chimu> chi, nu = Chiun (W2) chi, omicron = chironomic chi, pi = pichi> chi, san = chains chi, tau = Taichu (WGD) chi, them = hatchite chi, zeta = zaitech (TCD) delta, nu = undcalt delta, pi = plaited delta, san = eastland (W2) delta, vau = valuated episemon, rho = mesonephroi epsilon, eta = epistolean (OED) epsilon, tau = epulations eta, eta = aetate (durante minore aetate) eta, mu = autem (W2) eta, nu = atune (W2) eta, omicron = craniotome eta, pi = tapie (OED tabi) eta, psi = pastie (OED) eta, rho = Theora (NYB) eta, san = ansate eta, sigma = sagamite eta, xi = axite san, iota, rho = Horatio (W2) iota, san = Antaios kappa, nu = paukpan lambda, nu = labdanum lambda, rho = rhabdomal mu, mu = mumu> mu, nu = unum< (OED unum necessar.) mu, pi = pium (OED) mu, psi = Pisum mu, rho = humor mu, san = manus mu, tau = autum (FW) nu, nu = nu-nu> (OED nu 1970q) nu, omega = Mongeau (websites surname) nu, phi = unhip nu, psi = Pinus nu, rho = Huron no, sampi = Pisanum (OED pisane etym.) nu, san = sunna nu, sigma = amusing nu, tau = Autun (WGD) nu, xi = Unix< (NODE) omicron, tau = otocranium (W2) omicron, theta = monotrichate phi, pi = hippi (websites) phi, zeta = zaptieh (W2) pi, pi = pipi> pi, psi = pipis pi, rho = Ophir (W2) pi, san = spain pi, tau = pitau> psi, rho = ropish (W2) psi, san = spains psi, theta = Peshitta (W2) rho, sampi = aphorism rho, san = shoran rho, tau = author sigma = amassing san, xi = Saxin (OED)
Hippi is the abbreviation for High-Performance Parallel Interface.
What about English words that can be spelled out using the names of three Greek letters? Here are 35 combinations of Greek letters for which I've found real words and names. In theory there are 4500 different possibilities. Where there are multiple transposals, I have shown all the transposals I have been able to find, due to the increased rarity of such words compared with the two-Greek-letter words. …