In Greek mythology, the Hyperboreans were a race of giants that lived in a sort of paradise, where the sun shone constantly and everyone was perfectly happy. The land was supposedly located so far to the north that it was beyond the north wind, hence the name "hyper Boreas" -- Boreas being the god of the north wind.

The name is the interesting part of this legend to me. Could other names be formed similarly, such as "Hyper[want]" to describe a place located "beyond want" where all have plenty? Or "Hyper[Ares]" to describe a place that's peaceful because it's beyond the reach of the god of war? Does Greek form compound words like this? Does the prefix "hyper" carry this connotation in Greek anymore (or in any context besides the lone word Hyperborea)?

  • 5
    Latin Language accepts questions on Classical Greek as well, this might be a better place for this question Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


Anticipating a professional philologist's answer, I'm just pointing out you got the construction slightly wrong. Ὑπέρ is "beyond", "trans", but normally in a sense of excess, that is "more so", as in "hyperplasia"; not opposition, "so far beyond to effectively negate", or "beyond the reach of", as you want.

So ὑπερένδεια would be extreme want, not plenty, etc... Your ὑπερβόρειοι are beyond normal northern, so ultra northern.

(Stricty) formal Modern Greek hearkens to classical Greek, and certainly uses the construction; cf. Υπεριορδανία = trans-Jordan, (Jordan); Υπερπέραν = beyond the out-there (outer space); Yπερπόντιος= trans-oceanic; Υπερατλαντικός= transatlantic; you might argue Υπερφυσικός= supernatural came close to your target, but the sense is again "stronger than naturally strong", over and above, so you'd not think of peaceful as being beyond belligerent.

Weasel qualifiers: Indeed, there is a metaphorical sense of transgression, in violation of, in spite of: “Αἰνεία, πῶς ἂν καὶ ὑπὲρ θεὸν εἰρύσσαισθε [Iliad 17.327].

  • I think you’re misunderstanding the intent of the question. There’s nothing about negating implied. Υπερπέραν is a pretty close example to what’s being asked for: ‘beyond out-there’ being outer space is pretty much the same as ‘beyond a state of want + -ia’ being a place where no one wants for anything, since the place is located ‘beyond want’. Similarly, as a place name Υπεραρεΐα (which I guess would be the most likely form, or perhaps Υπεραρεία) would be ‘the place beyond Ares’, which might well mean ‘the place beyond the reach/influence of Ares’ in practice. Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 18:48
  • 2
    I think this answer is quite right. ὑπέρ (as prefix or preposition) has the physical meaning of "over, beyond", among others, but that meaning is not conventionally extended to "free from", which would more likely be be expressed by ἀ(ν)-, ἄνευ, or ἔξω. Boreas is a geographic term, so it makes sense to talk about "beyond Boreas", but that's not the case with "want" or "Ares".
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 19:16
  • @TKR I’m not so sure I agree with that. Cases like ὑπέρφρων ‘beyond the [thinking] mind > haughty, proud’, ὑπέρβιος ‘beyond strength/force > wanton, lawless’ show that Greek did use the prefix to form compounds denoting something considered to be ‘beyond’ the base word in an abstract sense, just like the examples used in the question. This wasn’t the primary use of the prefix, but it was used that way too. I very much disagree on ἀν(ευ)- which would change the meaning entirely (e.g., ἀνενδεής is ‘having no need for’, not ‘beyond the state of want’). Μετά- might work, though. Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 10:06
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet I think you may be misinterpreting those compounds. They seem to be bahuvrihis, "one whose mind/strength is high". (For ἀνενδεής I don't see a major difference between "having no need" and "being beyond want"; cf. many privative compounds like ἀθάνατος "deathless" ≈ "being beyond the reach of death".)
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 18:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.