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?

13 thoughts on “Word of the day – Brekekekex (Βρεκεκέξ)

  1. 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 😀 and there is a verb created from this word which is “brekegni” meaning doing “brekeke” that is croaking 😀 this verb is also used in slang with the meaning “talking”

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

  4. 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

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

  6. 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’…

  7. 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 …

Comments are closed.