Pale Surface

Glossary of Greek in The Pale Surface of Things

ANDARTES – Resistance fighters in the mountains of Crete.

BOUREKI – a popular dish in cafenions, originally Turkish but now distinctively Cretan. Made from zucchini, potatoes, yoghurt, feta cheese and mint leaves, or some variation of that.

BRIKI: The long-handled metal pitcher used to make Greek coffee.

DIMARCHION – city hall. Office of the mayor or Dimarche.

DOZALI: a traditional Greek dance of five steps (alternate name Pentozali).

EIMAI TOU PANOU O YIOS. : I am Panos’s son.

EINAI KANENAS EKI?: Who is there?

EFCHELAIO: prayer of …

EPITRACHELION: a silk brocade stole worn by an Orhtodox priest during services.

FERRO DI PRUA: Iron comb at the top of the prow of a Venetian gondola.

GRAVIERA: A high-quality sheeps’ milk cheese made on the madares by the village men during the summer months. The name is related to Gruyere, but the cheese is its own perfection.

HITIA: a Cretan spell that makes shepherds’ dogs sleep for three days. Used by sheep thieves.

IKONOSTASIS: The screen of ikons that separates the public space of an Orthodox church from the sanctuary.

KAFENION: A café serving food and drink, emphasis on food. Cf. taverna.

KALIMAVKI: traditional hat worn by an Orthodox priest, a brimless stovepipe made of black felt?  The metropolitan’s hat is taller than the parish priest’s hat.

KALIMERA: Good morning.

KALINIKTA: Good night.

KAMPOS: fields

KERASMA:  the tradition of offering food or drink. One aspect of the hospitality of the Cretans.           

KIPOS, plural: KIPOI: A small field, usually away from the village but in walking distance.

KOLLYVA: a dish of boiled wheat prepared for funerals.

KOUMBARA: an attendant at a cretan wedding.

KOURABIEDHEZ: almond cookies.

LAUTO: Cretan traditional musical instrument, a kind of lute, used to accompany the lyra.

LUPARA: sawed-off shotgun, used for hunting wolves??

LYRA: Cretan traditional musical instrument which looks like a violin but is played like a gamba, standing on the knees of a seated musician.

MADARES: upper pastures on the White Mountains, Lefka Ori, of western Crete. It’s a fragile ecosystem. Snow covered in winter, it must be lightly grazed only during the summer.  (All of Crete is a fragile ecosystem, with limited rainfall and drought-tolerant plants. The seasons of use have been determined by millennia of grazing.)

MAKARIA: Meal of blessedness, to honor the resurrected life of the MAKARITI, the beloved deceased.

MALAKKA!: a very naughty word.

MANA MOU: Mother of mine

MANTINADA, plural: MANTINADES: rhyming couplets of fifteen syllables sung on many occasions. There are traditional verses and verses made up on the spot.

MBABA: Father

METROPOLITAN: in the Greek Orthodox church, the primate of an ecclesiastical province.

MITATOS, plural: MITATI: a circular hut of dry masonry with a conical roof, used on the madares for  sheltering the cheese-making operations in the summertime.

O PRODOTIS: the traitor.

PALLIKARI – A resistance fighter against whoever is oppressing Crete at the time. (Venetians, Turks, Germans…Crete has had more than its share of oppressors.)

PAPOU: Grandfather

PANYGIRI: festival honoring a saint. For example, the celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin is held on August 15.

PARACLESIS: a ceremony of blessing.

PARAKALO: please

PATERA: term of address to a priest.

PHILOXENIA: Love of strangers. The name for the Greek tradition of generous hospitality to visitors.

PLATIA: square in a village or city.

PROETHROS: elected head of a village too small to warrant a mayor.

PROSFORO: a special bread used in Divine Liturgy and other Orthodox services. ….

RHOPLEX AC33: a fixative used in the repair of wallpaintings.

SAKKOULA: a traditional bag of fabric, with a wide strap which can be worn over one shoulder or diagonally across the chest. They come in many colors and are available in tourist shops.

SARIKI: a black fringed square worn around the brow of a traditionally dressed Cretan man.


SIGNOMI: I’m sorry.

SOYSTA: a wedding dance.

STEFANA: wedding wreaths of dried flowers, bound together by lengths of ribbon.

STIVANIA: leather boots, traditional to Cretan men's dress.

SYRTO: a traditional Cretan dance.

TAVLI: A game very like backgammon, played all over the Mediterranean.

TERRA ROSA: the red earth common in Western Crete.

THEN PIRAZI: Never mind.

THEOTOKOS: The name of the ikon representing Mary, the Holy Mother of God, holding the infant Christ.

TRISAYIO: a canticle, a prayer for the dead.

TSIKUDIA – an unbelievably potent liquor made from the left-over grape must from Cretan wine. People have been known to be unable to feel their feet after two tsikudias. 

VRAKA: traditional baggy breeches worn by pallikari and other Cretan men.

XENI: Foreign. Other than us.

YA SAS: Hey there.

YIA-YIA: grandmother.

ZOURNADAKIA: a phyllo pastry with walnuts and almonds and honey and all good things.

The End