Alpha to Omega: Learn The Greek Alphabet And Pronunciation

27 September 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House

Unsplash: Markus Winkler

Greek fun fact 1: Greek was initially written in Mycenaean between 1500 and 1200 BC using the Linear B script.

Greek fun fact 2: Between 1200 and 300 BC, a different writing system known as the Cypriot Syllabary was used on the island of Crete.

Greek fun fact 3: The Greek Dark Ages are the time between the end of the Mycenaean civilization and the start of the Greek Archaic Period when the Greek writing system was lost.

Greek fun fact 4: Greek’s earliest writings date to the second half of the 8th century BCE and are found in ceramics.

The Greek alphabet, which developed from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or early 8th century BCE. Throughout Archaic Greece (from 800 BC until the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC) and Early Classical Greece (5th and 4th centuries BC), the Greek alphabet took on a variety of various forms. On the other hand, by the end of the 4th century BCE, the Euclidean alphabet had developed into the 24-letter version of Modern Greek that is still in use today.

Greek is written using a phonetic writing system. But, it’s interesting to note that the Greeks actually modified the Phoenician alphabet, by eliminating letters that did not have a Greek version for a consonant and replacing them with vowels. For example: Α α, Ε ε, Ι ι, Ο ο, Y υ, and H η are modifications of Phoenician script for consonants.

Different Greek pronunciations:

  • Erasmian Pronunciation – each letter is pronounced; the words are pronounced according to Erasmus's pronunciation
  • Modern Greek Pronunciation – the way the Greek language is currently pronounced
  • Reconstructed New Greek Pronunciation – several academic works that make an effort to redo how the New Testament Greek was originally spoken, but they have concluded that the original pronunciation is generally accepted
  • Fraternity, Physics, and Calculus Pronunciation – the way Greek is pronounced by Greek life and Physics and Calculus teachers

Greek letters are spelled out exactly how they are pronounced in their written form. There are no silent letters or "sh" and "ch" sounds in Greek, but there are a few diphthongs (a sound made by combining two vowels).

  • αι – pronounced as “ai” like in aisle
  • αυ – pronounced as “ow” like in how
  • ει – pronounced as “ei” like in eight
  • υι – pronounced as “uee or wee” like in queen
  • οι – pronounced as “oi” like in foil
  • ου – pronounced as “oo” like in mood
  • ευ – pronounced as “eh-oo or e-w” like in euphoria
Greek Word
Α α alpha, άλφα a αύριο (avrio)
Β β beta, βήτα v βλέπω (vlepo)
Γ γ gamma, γάμμα g Γειά (geia)
Δ δ delta, δέλτα d Δευτέρα (deftera)
Ε ε epsilon, έψιλον e ένας (enas)
Ζ ζ zeta, ζήτα z Ζέβρα (zevra)
Η η eta, ήτα eh Ήλιος (ílios)
Θ θ theta, θήτα th Θυμάρι (thymari)
Ι ι iota, ιώτα ee Ιούνιος (Iounios)
K k kappa, κάππα k Κάνω (kano)
Λ λ la(m)bda, λά(μ)βδα l Λάχανο (láchano)
Μ μ mu, μυ m μικρός (mikros)
Ν ν nu, νυ n Ναι (nai)
Ξ ξ xi, ξι x Ξύλο (xýlo)
O o omicron, όμικρον oh Ομίχλη (omíchli)
Π π pi, πι p Πέμπτη (pempti)
Ρ ρ rho, ρώ rr (trilled) ρολόι (roloy)
Σ σ/ς, Ϲ ϲ sigma, σίγμα s Σφαίρα (sfaíra)
Τ τ tau, ταυ t Τρίγωνο (Trígono)
Υ υ upsilon, ύψιλον euh Υγραντήρας (ygrantíras)
Φ φ phi, φι f Φράουλα (Fráoula)
Χ χ chi, χι hch (h as in humor) χέρι (cheri)
Ψ ψ psi, ψι ps ψάρι (psari)
Ω ω omega, ωμέγα o Ώρα (ora)

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