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Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Guest User - Saturday, 19 February 2011, 03:31 AM

I'd like to know what exactly these 2 words mean:


2. Χαμοπούλια (this one would be smth like "χαμο + πούλια" =" loss + birds" but it doesn't make any sense to me)

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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Arshak Davidian - Saturday, 19 February 2011, 01:50 PM


Τσιφτετέλι is a musical rhythm and a dance. If you make a search on YouTube with the word (or Tsifteteli) you may be able to find various songs and bouzouki solos. One of the most known is named Τσιφτετέλι Τουρκικό. The word itself comes from Turkish cifte telli, which means "double stringed".

I thought I had heard a dialogue in one of the lessons comparing Tsifteteli to the Spanish Flaminco but I could not find it in the text. May be I was mistaken... it may have been somewhere else... Correct me Greg!

For Χαμοπούλια, I cannot say with certainty but your interpretation as "χαμο + πούλια" =" loss + birds" seems to be flawed to me.

The root for the word "lose" is ΧΑΝ as in the verb χάνω. It takes the form of ΧΑΣ in past forms and ΧΑΘ in passive forms. It takes the form of ΧΑΜ only in the adjective χαμένος=lost. And here the μ is followed by an ε and not ο. Here I am more inclined to believe that χαμο comes from χαμόγελο=a smile (the verb χαμογελώ). In this case the translation would be something like a smiling bird (or mocking). HOWEVER, the second word is πούλια and not πουλιά (note the accent), which I expect it to be as the plural for πουλί=bird.

Google translate (though I would not usually put my penny on it for translations) translated πούλια as sequin which is a small piece of shiny metal foil, usually round (often coins), used to decorate garments ...

Since you enquire on the meaning of these two words together, I am betting that they both come from the same context. In this case, the explanation of πούλια as sequin makes sense as Tsifteteli, especially in its older forms (the Anatolian) is something like a belly dance and in belly dance sequins are used very often on the clothes...

So Χαμοπούλια probably means smiling sequins, meaning attractive or caressing the eye etc.

Sorry for this long treatise, but you got me interested and I wanted to share the flow of my thoughts. I too am a beginner in Greek and am only reaching the 45th lesson... Though I'm also learning through songs (have translated and memorised over 50 so far) and it helps a lot even if it is a tough path to take...

I would very much like to see what Greg has to say... I am sure he will react! Thanks in advance Greg and thanks George for the question.

P.S. regarding πούλια, it is interesting that in Armenian, the word for money is փող [pogh, or πόγ in contemporary Greek spelling] and many words in Armenian borrowed from Greek in ancient times have replaced the λ with γ. Also, in contemporary Azerbaijani Turkish, the word for money is pul [πούλ and not παρά as in the Turkish spoken in Turkey]. I would not be surprised if in Classical Greek πούλι has meant money or coin.

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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Arshak Davidian - Saturday, 19 February 2011, 02:28 PM

Back again!

Well, I think Google translate has failed me again...

I just found a song which says:

Όταν νυχτώνει ο ουρανός πετούν τα χαμοπούλια...

When night falls on the sky the khamopoulia fly...

So evidently it is a bird after all ...

In this case it is interesting to know why χαμοπούλια and not χαμοπουλιά. Is this a grammatic shift in the accent related to combining the two words?

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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Guest User - Saturday, 19 February 2011, 03:44 PM

Thank you for your answer.

As about χαμοπούλια , I met this word in that song of Dimitris Mpasis - "Τα χαμοπούλια":

I often listened to this nice song many years ago, on the radio (in southern part of Romania we can reach the radio waves from Greece or Turkey), but I never knew who the title or the singer was. At that time I knew only few greek words...
It is funny that now these were uncovered to me by... mistake, while searching something else on youtube.

Well, I think now for smth new about χαμοπούλια.
Maybe it means "birds that are flying down" <= "χάμω + πούλια"

http://el.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CF%87%CE%AC%CE%BC%CF%89 <= χάμω

Αnd would it be "χαμόγελο" a "down/low laugh" ?


Eventually, I found a french translation on "www.stixoi.info" , so χαμοπούλια means "Oiseaux à ras de terre" , wich in english means " Birds at ground level" , but who are those birds !?

The lyrics of the song:

Τα χαμοπούλια

Όταν νυχτώνει ο ουρανός
πετούν τα χαμοπούλια
και είναι αβάσταχτος καημός
στα μάτια τους η Πούλια

Μικρά τα όνειρα στη γη
τα βάσανα μεγάλα
και δε σκεφτήκαν οι θεοί
να χτίσουνε μια σκάλα

Θεός και Βούδας και Αλλάχ
κανείς τα χαμοπούλια
δεν τα λογάριασε και αχ
ζηλεύουνε την Πούλια

Μικρό πικρό κι ερωτικό
απόψε το τραγούδι
παραπονάκι θα το πω
ψυχής ξεπεταρούδι

The french translation (from www.stixoi.info):

Oiseaux à ras de terre

Quand le ciel s’assombrit
Les oiseaux qui volent bas tombent
Et l'Astre est une douleur insupportable
Dans leurs yeux

Petits sont les rêves sur terre
Mais grandes les souffrances
Et les dieux n’ont pas pensé
A construire un escalier

Dieu, Bouddha et Allah,
Aucun ne les a comptés
Les oiseaux qui volent à ras de terre
Et ah, ah, ils sont jaloux de l’Astre

Petite, amère et aimante
Est la chanson ce soir
Je te raconterai ma petite plainte
Oisillon de mon âme

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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Arshak Davidian - Sunday, 20 February 2011, 02:40 AM

I think you've got it right. A low-flying bird. Though I still do not know whether this the name of a certain bird or it is a general term.

I had a look at the wiktionary link, it explains well. And your explanation of χαμόγελο fits in these frames as well, i.e. a down-grade laugh.

Further, I think that the meaning of χάμω as low may have derived from χώμα (with an inversion of vowels, which is common in IE languages), i.e. low=close to the earth.

This word has survived in modern Greek in the form of χαμηλώνω=I lower and χαμηλός or χαμιλός=low.

As for the change of the accent on πουλί, I think this IS related to the formation of a new complex word by the combination of two. e.g. γαλοπούλα=turkey.

Thanks for your posting. It is a good exercise to go through dictionaries to fix the meaning of a word. You learn many more on the way...

BTW, for slang words you can try www.slang.gr, though in this case it did not help.

Be well,


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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Guest User - Sunday, 20 February 2011, 06:08 AM
  Hi, Arshak!

Well, I've been searching further and I've found an interesting example of "χαμοπούλια".
One of them is the quaile (ορτύκι). It is a migratory bird. When it starts to fly, the quaile has a clear difficulty to initiate the flight and it has to make an initial long running on the field before starting to fly.



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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Guest User - Sunday, 20 February 2011, 02:41 PM
  Obiously, χαμοπούλια is used metaphorically ; while God, Buddha and Allah live into the Heaven, people's souls live mainly on the ground and rarely can they initiate a flight towards Heaven, but they never really reach the Heaven, unfortunately.
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Re: Vocabulary: Τσιφτετέλι and χαμοπούλια
by Greg Brush - Sunday, 20 February 2011, 05:34 PM
  1) το τσιφτετέλι [< Turk. çiftetelli] = belly dance
2) το χαμοπούλι [< χάμω (L67), on the ground, down low + το πουλί (L68), bird] = ground bird (i.e., a bird that lives on the ground and either cannot fly or flies very low to the ground, in contrast to high-flying birds like eagles, falcons, condors, etc.)

Greg Brush