When Gabriel appears to Mary, the first words he says to her are “Chaire, kecharitomene!” Caire, kecaritomene!]. Chaire (which means both “rejoice” and “hail”) is the salutation, like the word “hello” in “hello, Cathy!” The word that follows, kecharitomene, is the direct address. In the previous example, the name “Cathy” is the direct address. A direct address is usually a name or title (or pronoun taking the place of a name or title) which represents the identity of the person being spoken to. Gabriel identifies Mary with a single term: not the name “Mary,” but the word kecharitomene.
Here, a common translation problem occurs. Gabriel only uses one word to refer to Mary, but most English translations do not. One particularly bad translation renders kecharitomene as “highly favored daughter.” Kecharitomene is extended from one word to three. The direct address in the translation is “daughter,” a word which does not appear in the Greek at all (as will be shown below). “Daughter” is then modified with a relevant word. This doesn’t really do kecharitomene justice. The same is true of translations which make the direct address “you” or “one” and modify it with adjectives or appositive phrases.
The root word is charitoo caritow], which means “to grace, favor.” On this much, it seems, all agree. All the common English translations of the word therefore, regardless of whether the translators are Catholic or Protestant, use some form of “grace” or “favor” in them.
The prefix on charitoo is ke, signifying that the word is in the perfect tense. This indicates a present state which is the result of a completed past action. The action which brought about the state in which Mary is, in other words, was completed before Gabriel’s greeting. Gabriel is viewing the finished results.
This tense seems difficult to render in English, especially with one word, as Gabriel uses. The translator does not only want to indicate that the past action is complete, but also that there is a continuing state as a result. Allowing for more than one word, an example of the tense in English might be “you are certified to teach.” “Are” indicates a present state, “certified” shows that the state is the result of a completed past action.
The suffix on charitoo, mene, makes this a passive participle. “Passive” means that the action is performed on the subject, in this case Mary, by another agent. The verb is “grace” and the implied subject is Mary. The passive usage means that “someone graced Mary,” rather than “Mary graced.” Most theologians would probably accept the assumption that the implied “someone” is God. “Participle,” in this case, means that the word has properties of both a verb and a noun. This makes sense in light of what has already been said about direct address. A direct address is a noun or pronoun, but “to grace” is a verb. Kecharitomene has verb and noun properties.