Words of Extremity – Words that start with the Greek elements ‘dys-‘ or ‘eu-‘

One of my favourite etymology facts is that the word ‘utopia’ does not really mean ‘a perfect place’, as we tend to think it does in Modern English. It actually, literally means ‘a place that does not exist’. It comes from the Greek ou, meaning ‘not’, and topos, meaning ‘place’. The word was coined by Thomas More – Henry VIII’s Lord High Chancellor – in the 1500s, and used as the title for his book about an imaginary island that had perfect political, legal, and social systems – the idea being that such a perfect place could not exist.

The overlap between these two meanings of ‘a place that does not exist’ and ‘a perfect place’ comes in part from this original use of the word, but also because the sound of the word ‘utopia’ is the same as the word ‘eutopia’ – which isn’t a word that really exists in Modern English (you can find it here and there, but it’s far from common), but it would mean ‘a perfect place’. This element eu- is another Greek element, which means ‘good’, and it appears in lots of other Modern English words: euphemism, eulogy, euthanasia.

So while we think of a ‘utopia’ as being the opposite of a ‘dystopia’, a ‘utopia’ is actually a place that doesn’t exist, and a ‘eutopia’ is a perfect place, and the opposite of ‘dystopia’, a terrible place, but we might use ‘utopia’ to refer to a ‘eutopia’, as a ‘eutopia’ doesn’t exist.

All of this made me think: what other word pairs made using dys- and eu- are there? Do we sometimes only use one of the pair, like with ‘dystopia’ and ‘eutopia’? What other words can we make using these two elements?

Euphemism and Dysphemism

Nowadays the word ‘euphemism’ is used to mean ‘something that doesn’t mean what it literally means’, for the purpose of implied salacity, but it literally means ‘good speech’ – the idea being that a euphemism is some ‘good speech’ that you would say instead of some ‘bad speech’.

‘Dysphemism’, therefore, must be its opposite: ‘bad speech’. It’s a word you can find in dictionaries but it’s really not very common in Modern English. A euphemism is what you say instead of a dysphemism.

Eugenics and Dysgenics

Eugenics is the idea of controlling the reproduction of humans in order to increase the presence of desirable traits (something generally seen not only as immoral to attempt but also impossible to achieve).

‘Dysgenics’ is a word that exists, but it’s not very common. It isn’t a perfect opposite to ‘eugenics’ – it generally doesn’t mean ‘controlling the reproduction of humans in order to increase the presence of undesirable traits’ (as this is not a meaning that we really need a word for), but it could be used to mean that. It generally means ‘the study of things that have a negative effect on later generations’.

Eulogy and Dyslogy

A eulogy is something said in praise of someone – often after they’ve died.

‘Dyslogy’ is also a word that exists, but which isn’t often used. It means exactly what you’d expect it to mean: ‘dispraise’. (Although, since in Modern English, words ending in -logy are often names of subjects, ‘dyslogy’ could also, funnily, be ‘the study of bad things’.)

Euthanasia and Dysthanasia

‘Euthanasia’ literally means ‘a good death’, from eu-, meaning ‘good’, and thanatos, meaning ‘death’.

‘Dysthanasia’ would therefore mean ‘a bad death’. The word has some usage around the place – it’s not very concrete yet. The word could be particularly useful in fiction – whether a character has a good death or a bad death can drastically change the meaning or course of a story.


Not a word you think of as being related to the above, but it comes from eu-, meaning ‘good’, and kalyptos, meaning ‘covered’ (in reference to the buds of the plant).

A word such as ‘dyscalyptic’, therefore, could mean ‘not well covered’ – it could be used as a very indirect way of saying ‘not wearing any clothes’.

Dyspepsia and Eupepsia

‘Dyspepsia’ is a somewhat old-fashioned word for ‘indigestion’. ‘Eupepsia’ is a very rare word meaning the opposite: ‘good digestion’. ‘Dyspeptic’ also means ‘in a bad mood’, so ‘eupeptic’ could mean ‘in a good mood’.


This chemical element is the original ‘unobtainium’, as ‘dysprosium’ literally means ‘hard to access’. So ‘euprosium’ could be an element that is easy to obtain – or any substance that is very common. ‘Dysprositic’ and ‘euprositic’ could be adjectives for things that are hard and easy to find.

Words of Madness – Words that end with the Greek element ‘-mania’

-mania is a word element that appears in a number of Modern English words, denoting some kind of madness or craziness. It is relatively unchanged from its Greek origin: mania, meaning ‘madness’, ‘frenzy’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘mad passion’, ‘fury’.

Below are some existing words that end in -mania.

WordMeaning and Etymology
megalomania‘delusions of greatness’, from Greek megalo-, meaning ‘great’, ‘exaggerated’ – often nowadays used to mean ‘obsession with power’
kleptomania‘an obsession with stealing’, from Greek kleptes, meaning ‘thief’
bibliomania‘a madness for books’, ‘an obsession with collecting rare or unusual books’, from Greek biblio-, meaning ‘book’ – this one is very useful for writers
mythomanianot used to mean ‘an obsession with stories’ (though perhaps it should be – this is a better fit for the word etymologically), but instead ‘a compulsion to lie’ – from Greek mythos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘thought’, ‘word’, ‘discourse’, ‘story’, ‘myth’ 
pyromania‘an obsession with destroying things with fire’, from Greek pyro-, meaning ‘fire’
graphomania‘an obsession with writing’, from Greek graph-, meaning ‘writing’ – another good one for writers
phonomanianot ‘an obsession with sound’, as one might expect, but ‘an obsession with murder’, from Greek phonē, phonos, meaning ‘killing’, ‘murder’
logomania‘an obsession with words’, from Greek logos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘word’, ‘reason’ – another good one for writers
hippomania‘an obsession with horses’, from Greek hippo-, meaning ‘horse’
anthomania‘an obsession with flowers’, from Greek anthos, meaning ‘flower’
plutomania‘an obsession with wealth’, ‘a mad desire for wealth’, from Greek ploutos, meaning ‘wealth’ – a very useful one for the modern day
monomania‘an obsession with one thing’, from Greek monos, meaning ‘one’

All of these words can be changed into nouns that refer to a person who has the mania, of course. A hippomaniac is someone who really likes horses. An anthomaniac is someone who really likes flowers. They can also be changed to adjectives. If someone keeps buying books even though they haven’t read all the ones they’ve already got, they are being bibliomaniacal. 

But are there any other words, as yet unused, that could be formed in this way? The table below lists a few that I’ve thought of.

WordMeaning and Etymology 
ailuromania‘an obsession with cats’, from Greek ailouros, meaning ‘cat’ – this one could apply to a lot of us
cynomania‘an obsession with dogs’, from Greek kyno-, meaning ‘dog’
cinemamaniacould be ‘an obsession with movies’ or ‘an obsession with moving’, from Greek kinema, meaning ‘movement’ (from which we get the modern-day term ‘cinema’)
theatromania‘an obsession with the theatre’ – could be someone who really likes going to watch things at the theatre, or someone who really likes acting – from Greek theatron, from which we get the modern word ‘theatre’
technomania‘an obsession with new technology’ – using the modern element techno-, which was originally from Greek techne, meaning ‘art’, but the modern element is associated with electronic devices
ecomaniacould be ‘an obsession with one’s house – in particular an obsession with keeping it tidy’ – from Greek oikos, meaning ‘house’, ‘dwelling’, from which we also get ‘economy’

I might add more to this list over time.

Words of Hatred – Words that start with the Greek element ‘miso-’

‘Misanthropy’ is a hatred of humankind. ‘Misandry’ is a hatred of men; ‘misogyny’ is a hatred of women. Together they are part of a family of words that use the Greek element miso- / mis-, meaning ‘hatred’, as a prefix.

When I was looking up miso- on etymonline.com one day, I saw that there are other words that start with this element, such as ‘misocapnic’ – ‘hating smoke’ – and ‘misocynic’ – ‘hating dogs’ – and wondered if there are other miso- words that, through circumstance, hadn’t made it into Modern English (or at least, weren’t common in Modern English).

I found quite a few. Misologia – a hatred of argument or discourse – a very useful word for the modern day. Misodemia – a hatred of democracy – also very useful. Misagathia – a hatred of good – an extremely useful one both for describing some people in the real world and for describing some people in fantasy worlds.

So I’ve compiled this short list (which I may add to later) of words that start with miso- / mis-, that describe a kind of hatred, and which might be particularly useful, and so good to bring into Modern English. I myself will be using several of these quite a lot.

Words I found a dictionary entry for

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισαγαθίαmisagathiaa hatred of goodmisagathic
μισοδημίαmisodemiaa hatred of democracymisodemic
μισολογίαmisologiaa hatred of argumentmisologic
μισοπονηρίαmisoponeriaa hatred of evilmisoponeric
μισαλληλίαmisalleliamutual hatredmisallelic
misosophia / misosophya hatred of wisdom (opposite of philosophy)misosophic, misosophical

Note that the English neologisms could be given spellings that follow the same evolutionary changes as words like ‘misanthropy’ – i.e., ‘misagathy’, ‘misodemy’. Personally I prefer the -ia ending.

Words that I have constructed based on my limited knowledge of Classical Greek

The words in the table below I did not find a direct dictionary entry for. I have constructed them from other words and entries. My knowledge of Classical Greek is very limited, and doubtless there is an expert out there who can tell me if these inferred words are correct (both in terms of their construction and their romanisation).

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισοκαπνίαmisocapniaa hatred of smokemisocapnic
μισοκυνίαmisocyniaa hatred of dogsmisocynic
μισαἴλουρίαmisailuriaa hatred of catsmisailuric
μισαλήθειαmisaletheia / misalethiaa hatred of truthmisaletheic / misalethic