What does “filotimo” mean and why is it as important to Greeks as breathing

Filotimo, a word that is difficult to define even for the Greeks themselves, has been the focus of a BBC article called “Filotimo: the Greek Word that can’t be translated.” (source). Maybe it was filotimo that started my love for Greece? The feeling of being welcome and accepted? And while it wasn’t the main reason for my move, it’s definitely an important part of my Greek life. All the photos in this blog post were taken in Kardamyli on the “OXI Day” 2018. The national days in Greece are always a big public celebration. Greeks are proud of their past without being racist towards others. Which is super important these days.

The exact meaning of filotimo is heavily debated, as it contains a complex array of virtues including honor, dignity, pride, ideal actions and behaviors, hospitality, bonds, and responsibilities towards others. This word is difficult to translate because it encompasses so many virtues that cannot be adequately captured in other languages. The word ultimately refers to the concept of selfless altruism, where one does something for someone without expecting anything in return.

Filotimo is a powerful word that holds a special place in Greek culture, representing deep love for family, country, society, and the greater good. It is described as unconditional love, kindness, and generosity all in one, and is seen as a virtue that reflects the essence of a person’s soul. Offering a helping hand without being asked, opening one’s home to strangers, and offering one’s heart in any situation without expecting anything in return are all examples of filotimo. It is a concept rooted in goodness and selflessness, driving individuals to consider the well-being of others and the world around them.

Filotimo has ancient roots, dating back to the dawn of the Greek classical period, and has evolved from the negative connotations of love of honor or distinction to a more positive meaning of serving the community. Filotimo is deeply ingrained in Greek disposition and culture. The essence of filotimo can be witnessed in the actions of Greeks who have shown immense compassion and selflessness in rescuing refugees, even in times of deep recession. The emotional and moral satisfaction derived from exhibiting filotimo is far greater than any attempt to conceptualize it. In short, filotimo is an integral part of Greek identity and life, with the philosopher Thales of Miletus stating that a Greek is not alive without it. (source: Theodora Maios, Neoscosmos.com).

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