Word of the day – Brekekekex (Βρεκεκέξ)

I came across the word brekekekex in a book I’ve just finished reading – A Time of Gifts, the first part of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s fascinating account of his epic journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (Istanbul), which he made in the early 1930s. He has a good ear for languages and acquired quite a good knowledge of German, plus bits and pieces of Hungarian, Greek and a number of other languages.

He mentions at one point that there were many frogs brekekekexing in the woods. I thought he’d made the word up, but it seems Atrisophanes got there first. The word comes from the chorus of Atrisophanes’ comedy, Βάτραχοι (Bátrachoi) – The Frogs, which was first presented at the Lenaea in 405 BC:

Brekekekex koax koax
Brekekekex koax koax.
Children of the marsh and lake
harmonious song now sweetly make,
our own enchanting melodies
koax koax
The songs we sang for Nysa’s lord,
for Dionysus, son of Zeus,
in Limnai at the Feast of Jars
as people in their drunken glee
thronged into our sanctuary.
Brekekekex koax koax.

The words brekekekex koax koax are intended to imitate the croaking of the frogs. You can see the original Greek version of the play here. In the above translation an extra syllable seems to have been added to Brekekekex – it’s Βρεκεκέξ (Brekekex) in the original.

Does anyone know if this word is still used in Modern Greek?

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This entry was posted in Greek, Language, Words and phrases.

13 Responses to Word of the day – Brekekekex (Βρεκεκέξ)

  1. Laci the Hun says:

    I don’t know much about the Greeks but in Hungarian we use this word! :O only the x is missing. So Hungarian frogs say “brekeke” up to this very day :D and there is a verb created from this word which is “brekegni” meaning doing “brekeke” that is croaking :D this verb is also used in slang with the meaning “talking”

  2. Laci the Hun says:

    oh yes I almost forget to mention that there is the word “brekkancs” also from the brekeke stem and it’s a slangish variant of the standard word for frog

  3. Laci the Hun says:

    one more thing and I’ll shut my mouth :D the frog from the Muppet show is called “Breki” in Hungarian

  4. Ben L. says:

    He’s Kermit.

  5. Polly says:

    Sounds like an example of onomatopoeia, as if they were trying to imitate the croaking of a frog. What other words are meant to sound like what they describe?

    Russian example:
    жужжать (zhyzhzhat) to buzz
    жужжание (zhyzhzhanye) a buzzing

  6. h. says:

    perhaps from russian, yiddish has zhuzhn (to buzz). Also “trakh” ( a crash or smack)

  7. Polly says:

    You are too funny!

  8. Giovanni says:

    A Greek friend tells me that nowadays frogs sound like kouax-kouax (κουάξ-κουάξ).

  9. jaxlarus says:

    …and the verb for it is κοάζω (koàzo). So we say: Ο βάτραχος κοάζει / οι βάτραχοι κοάζουν.

  10. jaxlarus says:

    …but then we have verbs for many animal sounds, now that I think of it! (“,)

  11. miki says:

    As a child I’ve always been told that the frog sounds exactly as aristophanes mentions it in the quoted text:

    “BREKEKEX KOAX KOAX” though of course by no means implies that it has been unchanged for 2500 years. I reckon it has been taught at school at some point in the 19th century and thus became ‘modern’…

  12. brekekekex says:

    in Romanian the sound for croaking is “oac-oac” :|

  13. Karolina says:

    In Polish it’s completely different, we say: “re re kum kum”
    However greek word brekekeks sounds familiar and because i used to study Greek – I think I heard it …