Philotimo (also spelled filotimo; Greek: φιλότιμο) is a Greek noun that has the literal translation of "love of honor". However, philotimo is difficult to translate as it describes a complex array of virtues.
See also: Agathos kai sophos
The word is used in early writings, sometimes in a bad sense; Plato's Republic uses philotimon (φιλότιμον) ironically: "covetous of honor"; other writers use philotimeomai (φιλοτιμέομαι) in the sense of "lavish upon". However, later uses develop the word in its more noble senses. By the beginning of the Christian era, the word was firmly positive in its implications and its use in the Bible probably cemented its use in modern Greek culture.
The word philotimon is used extensively in Hellenistic period literature.
The word appears three times in the text of letters written by the Apostle Paul. Paul was a fluent Greek speaker and his writing shows he was well educated in Hellene literature. His letters were originally written in Greek and therefore the choice of the word was deliberate and the sophisticated choice of an educated man.
It is a difficult word to translate into English and is rendered variously depending on the Bible translation. Valid alternatives include; ambition, endeavour earnestly, aspire, being zealous, strive eagerly, desire very strongly, or study. In each case Paul is conveying a desire to do a good thing and his choice of word gives this honourable pursuit extra emphasis.
Philotimo is still used today. In its simplest form, the term means conscientiously honoring one's responsibilities and duties, and not allowing one's honor, dignity, and pride to be sullied.