The breed's origin has in popular literature often been romantically connected to Ancient Egypt, in which it is believed "that the breed dates back about 4,000 years;" a belief for which there is no scientific evidence. While similar in appearance to Saluki (Persian Greyhound) or Sloughi (tombs at Beni Hassan c. 2000 BC), analyses of DNA reported in 2004 suggest that the Greyhound may not be closely related to these breeds, but is a close relative of herding dogs. Historical literature on the first sighthound in Europe (Arrian), the vertragus, probable antecedent of the Greyhound, suggests that its origin lies with the ancient Celts from Eastern Europe or Eurasia. Greyhound-type dogs of small, medium, and large size, appear to have been bred across Europe since that time. All modern, pure-bred pedigree Greyhounds derive from the Greyhound stock recorded and registered first in private studbooks in the 18th century, then in public studbooks in the 19th century, which ultimately were registered with coursing, racing, and kennel club authorities of the United Kingdom.
Historically, these sighthounds were used primarily for hunting in the open where their keen eyesight was valuable. It is believed that they (or at least similarly named dogs) were introduced to the British Isles in the 5th and 6th century BC from Celtic mainland Europe, although the Picts and other peoples of the northern British Isles (modern Scotland) were believed to have had large hounds similar to that of the deerhound before the 6th century BC.
The name "Greyhound" is generally believed to come from the Old English grighund. "Hund" is the antecedent of the modern "hound", but the meaning of "grig" is undetermined, other than in reference to dogs in Old English and Old Norse. Its origin does not appear to have any common root with the modern word "grey" for color, and indeed the Greyhound is seen with a wide variety of coat colors. The lighter colors, patch-like markings and white appeared in the breed that was once ordinarily grey in color. The Greyhound is the only dog mentioned by name in the Bible; many versions, including the King James version, name the Greyhound as one of the "four things stately" in the Proverbs. However, some newer biblical translations, including The New International Version, have changed this to strutting rooster, which appears to be an alternative translation of the Hebrew term mothen zarzir. However, the Douay–Rheims Bible translation from the late 4th-century Latin Vulgate into English translates this term as "a cock."
According to Pokorny the English name "Greyhound" does not mean "grey dog/hound", but simply "fair dog". Subsequent words have been derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *g'her- "shine, twinkle": English grey, Old High German gris "grey, old," Old Icelandic griss "piglet, pig," Old Icelandic gryja "to dawn," gryjandi "morning twilight," Old Irish grian "sun," Old Church Slavonic zorja "morning twilight, brightness." The common sense of these words is "to shine; bright." In 1928, the first winner of Best in Show at Crufts was Primley Sceptre, a Greyhound owned by H. Whitley.