What is the origin of arete?
Not every word has a direct translation in other languages, and arete falls into this category; though it is frequently translated as “excellence,” using “excellence” alone ignores all the nuances, such as bravery, intellect, and productivity, that arete implies in the original Greek. You may also know that Ancient Greek had multiple words for “love,” and “love” alone can’t fully communicate how philia is a type of brotherly love, how eros signifies passion and desire, or how agape refers to the love between spouses or for fellow humans. These translation issues also arise with philosophical terms such as pathos, which can be translated succinctly as “feeling”–its intended meaning in compounds such as apathy, empathy, and sympathy. However, pathos is more than another word for “emotion”; it refers to the feelings of pity, sorrow, or compassion that result when hearing, seeing, or listening to another person’s story or experiences. As with arete, no single English word can capture all these subtle meanings.