What does the word “Idiot” really mean? Where does it come from?

Are we becoming idiots

The word “Idiot” has come to mean someone who is foolish, stupid and ignorant. The word has Greek roots and its real meaning will surprise you. The origins of the word  actually makes sense and is closely correlated to the modern definition of ”idiot”.

In ancient Athens contributing to politics and society in general was considered the norm and highly desirable. Being apolitical and selfish was frowned upon and all citizens aspired to be politically active. It was rare for citizens to demonstrate apathy towards what was happening in their state and common issues. The overwhelming majority of Athenians participated in politics to a greater or lesser extent.

Those who did not contribute to politics and the community were known as “Idiotes” (ΙΔΙΩΤΕΣ), originating from the word “Idios” (ΙΔΙΟΣ) which means the self. If you did not demonstrate social responsibility and political awareness you were considered apathetic, uneducated and ignorant. The word was transferred to latin as “idiota” and was used to describe an uneducated, ignorant, inexperienced, common person.

Considering the above, it is easy to identify how the primary form and meaning of the word mutated to modern“idiot”. Most importantly it is worth noting that ancient Greeks valued political participation and collective governance. A completely different state of mind from what we see in most societies today where most demonstrate apathy to what happens around them.

Are most of us turning into full-time idiots? Maybe it’s time to change.

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