It’s All Greek To Me – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to let someone in a discussion know that something they have said (or something that you have seen) is completely beyond your understanding – and makes no sense to you when you look at it? You could use the phrase ‘it’s all Greek to me’ to say what you mean. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the common saying.

Meaning

The saying ‘it’s all Greek to me’ is an expression that is often used in the English language to say that something is difficult to understand, or that something is completely incomprehensible to the speaker in question.

Saying that something ‘is all Greek’ implies that the speaker does not read (or speak) the Greek language, and this comparison is drawn between Greek and the issue or concept that is being put forth.

When something is Greek, it is difficult or impossible to understand. The expression is completely figurative, and the expression almost never implies to actual Greek language or lettering.

Usually the topic in question is clear thanks to the context of the rest of the discussion, or outright stated in what is being said.

Sometimes the expression can be altered or shortened to something like ‘Greek to me’ or just ‘Greek’ with the rest of the saying implied to be understood by the rest of the speakers in the conversation.

In languages other than English, another language can be substituted for Greek – for example, Greek-language speakers would say that something is all Russian to them, and the expression is used in much the same way.

Example Usage

“I couldn’t make sense of the diagram from the first second I looked at the damn thing. He claimed it made complete sense, but I have to say that it was all Greek to me.”

“If you don’t know what you’re looking at there, why don’t you just admit to the boss that it might as well just all be Greek to you?”

“If you don’t know what he said, just admit that it’s all Greek to you and let’s move on with the seminar.”

“It’s all Greek to me, son. You’ll have to figure out how to set up the old Typewriter of the Gods all on your own without any help from me. I’m just going to blow the thing up and make things worse for all of us.”

Origin

The first use of the phrase ‘it’s all Greek to me’ is difficult to track down even by top language resources, but it is accepted by most of them that the term originates from a Latin proverb that translates to, “I can’t read this, it’s in Greek.”

The saying would spread with travel, and become common in the English language through its eventual direct translation into English.

As a saying, the term became popular again when it was revived in Shakespeare text Julius Caesar. After its use in 1599, the saying would rise in popularity again – and it’s likely that most translations of the term are thanks to its appearance in the works of Shakespeare.

Sometimes the expression replaces “Greek” with another language, such as Albanian-speakers that would replace the word with “Chinese” instead.

Phrases Similar to It’s All Greek to Me

  • It’s all Chinese to me

Phrases Opposite to It’s All Greek to Me

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • [It’s all] Greek to me
  • Greek to me

Ways People May Say It’s All Greek to Me Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the expression ‘it’s all Greek to me’ in the wrong way, or understand the meaning of the term wrong if they don’t know the context.

The expression is meant to be figurative, and refers to anything that the speaker cannot understand (e.g. that it might as well just be in another language).

Acceptable Ways to Phrase It’s All Greek to Me

The correct way to use the phrase ‘it’s all Greek to me’ is to use it in reference to things that are difficult or impossible to understand by the speaker in question.

Sometimes the term is shortened just to “Greek” or “Greek to me” and the rest of its meaning is assumed.

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