Cambridge researchers add back swear words and vulgarity to Ancient Greek dictionary removed by the Victorians

The “most innovative dictionary of its kind” has been compiled by Cambridge researchers in a feat that took more than 20 years and even “took over” the editor’s life.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s classics faculty have spent 23 years reading Ancient Greek literature to create the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, described by the university as a “monumental piece of scholarship and the most innovative dictionary of its kind in almost 200 years”.

Previous Ancient Greek dictionaries, compiled most recently by the Victorians, either use outdated terminology for the English translations, or would tone down the meaning of vulgar words to make them more modest.

“We spare no blushes,” said editor-in-chief Professor James Diggle. “We do not translate the verb ‘khézō’ as ‘ease oneself, do one’s need’. We translate it as ‘to s***’. Nor do we explain ‘bīnéō’ as ‘illicit intercourse’, but simply translate it by the f-word.”

Researchers pored over every word, working steadily through the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to build up a clear, modern and accessible guide to the meanings of Ancient Greek words and their development through different contexts and authors.

The book features around 37,000 Greek words drawn from the writings of around 90 different authors and set out across more than 1,500 pages.

It was hoped the project, which began in 1997, might be completed by a single editor within five years.

It was the brainchild of the renowned classical philologist and lexicographer John Chadwick, who died a year later.

The initial plan was to revise the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, first published in 1889.

The book had never been revised, but until now has remained the lexicon most commonly used by students in English schools and universities.

Read more: Cambridgeshire Live

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