How does "five-formed / five-shaped", πεντάμορφη, mean "beautiful"?

Such that it's used as in translation of "Beauty and the Beast" movie titles, and accepted by Google Translate?

1 Answer 1


In Classical Greek, πεντάμορφος is a perfectly straightforward compound adjective made up of πεντά- ‘five-, penta-’ and μορφή ‘shape’. Its meaning is also transparent, ‘having five shapes’, and it is apparently an epithet describing evil things.

The Modern Greek word πεντάμορφος is a different word, which does not mean ‘five-shaped’. You can’t see it from the word itself, but it is actually a compound of πεντά- ‘five-’ (here used as an intensifier meaning ‘five-fold’ or ‘five times’ – or more generally, ‘very’) and the adjective όμορφος ‘beautiful’, with reduction of the sequence -αο- to just -α-. Όμορφος itself is a corruption of earlier ἔμορφος, which comes from Classical εὔμορφος ‘well-shaped’ or ‘having good shape’, a transparent compound of εὐ- ‘good-, well-’ and μορφή.

So the modern word that is used in the Greek translation of the title Beauty and the Beast doesn’t mean ‘five-shaped’, but literally ‘five-times beautiful’. (That sounds clumsy in English, but think of it like ‘thrice beautiful’, except with five instead of three.)

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