Modern Greek κομπολόι is derived from κομβολόγιον < κόμβος "knot" + -λόγιο "collection". It is sometimes said that it is short for the phrase σε κάθε κόμπο προσευχή λέω, "in every knot I say a prayer"- κόμπο "knot"-λέω "say" > κόμπο-λέω > κομπολόι. This etymology accounts for the fact that κομπολόι evolved from κομποσκοίνι, the Greek word for prayer rope.
Worry beads have several uses in Greek culture, including:
Worry beads may be constructed from any type of bead, although amber, amber resin (such as faturan), and coral are preferred, as they are thought to be more pleasant to handle than non-organic materials such as metal or minerals.
Greek worry beads generally have an odd number of beads (often one more than a multiple of four, e.g. (4×4)+1, (5×4)+1, and so on, or a prime number, (usually 17, 19 or 23) and usually have a head composed of a fixed bead (παπάς "priest"), a shield (θυρεός) to separate the two threads and help the beads to flow freely, and a tassel (φούντα). Usually the length of worry beads is approximately two palm widths.
Worry beads can be handled in many different ways. The most common are a quiet method, for indoors, and a noisier method that is acceptable in public places.
The most common quiet method is to start at one end of the thread or chain, near the shield, and to pull the thread forward using that hand's thumb and the side of the index finger until one of the beads is reached. Then the cord is tipped so that the bead falls and hits the shield. This is repeated until all the beads have been tipped and then the user starts over.