The Greek alphabet

Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet is the first basic stage in your learning process. Learning a foreign language may prove to be a real challenge. If, at the very beginning, the thought of your new hobby fills you with excitement, as you research it, you might realize it is harder than you thought. Apart from the emotions that you feel even when thinking of the new words and pronunciations, an alphabet that is totally different from the one of  your native tongue can discourage you quite a lot.

Arm yourself with patience, enthusiasm and an additional pinch of a child’s curiosity, start learning the Greek alphabet. If you need an extra incentive to start uncovering the mysteries of the Greek alphabet, we can provide you with a few curious facts about it. Maybe they will spark your interest and give you the impulse you need.

  • The Greek alphabet has 24 letters and it represents the basis for many other alphabets, including the Latin and Cyrillic ones.
  • It contains 7 vowels and 17 consonants
  • Some Greek words are similar to the English ones, a fact which you can use to your advantage
  • The expression “from Alpha to Omega” – “from the beginning to the end” refers to the Greek alphabet, in which the first letter is Alpha and the last letter is Omega
  • Many exact sciences use the Greek alphabet – Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, such as:

1. the Greek letter ro-ρ, used as the symbol for density
2. the Greek letter tau, pronounced in modern Greek as taf-τ, the symbol for time

3. the Greek letter gamma-γ, the symbol for a certain type of radiations
4. the Greek letter omega-ω, used in Physics as the symbol for electrical resistance

4. the Greek letter sigma- Σ, used in Mathematics to designate a sum of elements

  • The word “alphabet” comes from the Greek language. It is a word that was formed by juxtaposing two others – alpha and vita, the first letters in the Greek alphabet
  • It was the Greeks who introduced the art of writing, being the first who learned to write using the alphabet, instead of hieroglyphics
  • The alphabet of languages such as Turkish, Albanian, Arabic and Hebrew was inspired from the Greek alphabet.

Α, α – άλφα (the Greek letter alpha) – is pronounced a as in art;

Β, β – βήτα (the Greek letter vita) – is pronounced v as in voice;

Γ, γ – γάμα (the Greek letter gama) is pronounced [ ɣ] before back vowels [a, o, u]. Before front vowels [e, i], it is pronounced [ʝ] and transliterated y

Δ, δ δέλτα (the Greek letter delta) – is pronounced d through the teeth, as in the English “that”;

Ε, ε – έψιλον (the Greek letter epsilon) – is pronounced e as in egg;

Ζ, ζ – ζήτα  (the Greek letter zita) – is pronounced z as in zoo;

Η, η – ήτα (the Greek letter ita) – is pronounced i as in “in” ;

Θ, θ – θήτα (the Greek letter thita) – is pronounced th as in think;

Ι, ι – γιώτα (the Greek letter giota) – is pronounced i as in “in”;

Κ, κ – κάπα (the Greek letter kapa) – is pronounced k as in key;

Λ, λ – λάμδα (the Greek letter lambda) – is pronounced l as in lamp;

Μ, μ – μι (the Greek letter mi) – is pronounced m as in man;

Ν, ν – νι (the Greek letter ni) – is pronounced n as in no;

Ξ, ξ – ξι (the Greek letter ksi) – is pronounced x as in taxi;

Ο, ο – όμικρον (the Greek letter omicron) – is pronounced o as in port;

Π, π – πι (the Greek letter pi) – is pronounced p as in Peter;

Ρ, ρ – ρο (the Greek letter ro) – is pronounced r as in room;

Σ, σ, ς – σίγμα (the Greek letter sigma) – is pronounced s as in sea;

Τ, τ – ταυ (the Greek letter taf, is not pronounced tau! in Modern Greek) – it is pronounced t as in tea;

Υ, υ – ύψιλον (the Greek letter ipsilon) – is pronounced i as in “in”;

Φ, φ – φι (the Greek letter fi) – is pronounced f as in fun;

Χ, χ – χι (the Greek letter hi) – is pronounced h as in he;

Ψ, ψ – ψι (the Greek letter psi) – is pronounced ps as in maps;

Ω, ω – ωμέγα (the Greek letter omega) – is pronounced o as in port;

σ is used at the beginning of a word or inside a word: σώμα.

ς is only used at the end of a word: κόσμος 

If you find writing in Greek scary, the phonetic spelling of the Greek alphabet may help you a great deal to pronounce the word or expression you need. If, however, you are not sure or you need the help of a specialist, our online Greek language classes can help you in that respect.

Diphthongs in Greek alphabet

Greek alphabet

If, in the first part of this article, we wanted to present the Greek alphabet, we shall hereinafter present the Greek language letter groups, formed of vowels.

A. αι (Greek letter alfa + Greek letter iota) is read e, with two exceptions:

  1. when the accent falls on “α’  as in “τσάι” the two letters are read separately
  2. when “ι” has a dieresis (two dots over it) as in “λαϊκή”, the two letters are read separately -“ai”. If the first vowel is accented, the dieresis will no longer be used.
  3. . ει (Greek letter epsilon + Greek letter iota) is read “i” as in “in”
  4.  οι (Greek letter omicron + Greek letter iota) is read “i” as in “in”, with two exceptions: a. when the accent falls on “ο” as in ρολόι, the two letters are read separately b. when “ι” has a dieresis (two dots over it) as in ευνοϊκός, the two letters are read separately.
  5. αυ (Greek letter alfa + Greek letter ipsilon) is most of the time read av or af: a. av [av] when it is followed by a vowel or by the consonants: β, γ, δ, ζ, λ, μ, ν, ρ as in θαύμα b. af [af] when it is followed by the consonants: κ, π, τ, ξ, θ, σ, χ as in αυτό.          
  6. With a single exception:  αυ is read “a” (as in art)+”i” (as in “in”) when “υ” has a dieresis as in αϋπνία, therefore the two letters are read separately
  7. . ευ (Greek letter epsilon + Greek letter ipsilon) is read ev [ev]  or ef [ef]: a.ev [ev]  when it is followed by a vowel or by the consonants: β, γ, δ, ζ, λ, μ, ν, ρ as in Ευρώπη b.ef [ef] atunci when it is followed by the consonants: κ ,π, τ, ξ, θ, σ, χ as in ευχαριστώ.
  8. ου (Greek letter omicron + Greek letter ipsilon) is read “u” as in unicorn 

We know that these curiosities are small doses of motivation when it comes to learning a language as complex as Greek. The Greek alphabet is one of the most complex and oldest forms of writing of all times. Its mere presentation may put us in a slight state of panic.

Novelty always brings along a little fear, going out of your comfort zone is always a difficult step to take, but it is not impossible. The beautiful things are outside this zone, and if you’re looking for a sign, this is it.

Come learn the Greek alphabet together with us! Come give this amazing language a chance, no matter how hard you might find it at first. We promise you that the effort it worth it and that, the end of the road, you will thank yourself for not giving up.

Whether you knew this already or you are finding it out now, the Greek alphabet has a multitude of usages. It is used in many fields, especially in the fields of science, as its letters help in Mathematics, Physics, as well as Astronomy, for very many years. Still, why should you learn it as well?

Well, you are probably reading this article because you have decided to learn the Greek language, starting today or…tomorrow. And, as everything starts from the alphabet, you should consider learning it before starting this journey. Moreover, by learning the Greek alphabet, you will find it easier to recognize the letters forming the words and you will also guess their pronunciation.

The Greek alphabet is one of great value, from the point of view of both its usage, and its history. Did you know that the bases for this alphabet were created more than 2.800 years ago?

Since then, the Greeks tried to find a written form of the language, by means of which to tell their legends and myths, so that the others could enjoy them as well. This was among the first people to adopt a form of the alphabet, even a primordial one, and made the transition from hieroglyphics to letters.

If, in the previous articles, we talked about the Greek alphabet, its letters, the manner in which they are pronounced, as well as about the melodious vowels, today, we intend to bring into the spotlight the consonants and certain situations of which you should be aware.

Attention, connoisseurs! Short lesson in Greek consonant combinations

Out of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, 17 are consonants. These are the following: β, γ, δ, ζ, θ, κ, λ, μ, ν, π, ρ, σ/ς, τ, φ, χ, ψ. You can learn about their pronunciation by reading our first article, which started the series regarding the Greek alphabet.

We really should specify certain special cases, in which the pronunciation of certain groups of consonants requires a little bit more attention:

  • γγ (2x Greek letter gamma) will be read, most times, [ŋg] in the middle of words.
  • τσ  (Greek letter taf + Greek letter sigmawill be read [ts]: κορίτσι
  • τζ (Greek letter taf + Greek letter zitawill be read “[dz]” as in τζατζίκι .
  • In Greek language, the groups of consonants γκ (Greek letter gamma + Greek letter kapa), μπ (Greek letter mi + Greek letter pi), ντ (Greek letter ni + Greek letter tafare never read the same. When they are at the beginning of the words, they are read: /g/, /b/, /d/ , such as :

γκρίζο /’grizo/
μπαίνω /’beno/
ντύνομαι /’dinome/

  • When they are within a word, they are read /ŋg/, /mb/, /nd/. Π.χ.:

αγκαλιά /aŋga’ʎia/

αμπάρι /a’mbari/

κοντά /konta/

Many of these notions might seem unfamiliar and also inspire a little fear, but we can assure you that these are the details that make the difference between being a beginner and being an enthusiast or in expert in the Greek language.

You can discover many such interesting facts and subtleties with us, in the Greek language classes.

More about the Greek alphabet

Any journey, especially one of major importance, begins with a single step. And your journey into the Greek world begins with learning the Greek alphabet.

Even in the case of the English language, if you can remember, the first lessons were dedicated to learning the letters, after which you began to form words, sentences etc. Well, we shall follow the same steps when it comes to studying the Greek language.

You probably had your first encounter with the Greek alphabet on the lands of this people. In your travels, it is impossible that you did not see various banners, restaurant menus, historical monuments, street names, written in Greek.

Also, it is possible that you may have gotten lost, ordered the wrong thing, not to mention pronounced words in a … funny way for the native speakers, because you still didn’t know the secrets of this language.

In order to properly prepare for your next trip to Greece, you can already start learning the Greek language. If you want to learn by yourself, a little discipline and our advice may help, and if you want to help of an expert, our Greek language classes are waiting for you.

But regardless of the manner in which you may wish to learn Greek, the Greek alphabet is one of the first notions that you must study.

Now we will talk about the letters “γ”- Greek letter gamma and “χ” – Greek letter hi in the Greek language and about how to pronounce them:

  1. γ is pronounced like a “g” in gargoyle: γάλα, γωνία, γουρούνι. It is pronounced as such when followed by the vowels or sounds: a, o and u.
  2. γ is pronounced approximately like “y” in the words “yes” or “”Yiddish”: γη, γένος, γηγενής. It is pronounced as such when followed by the vowels or sounds: e and i.
  3. χ is pronounced approximately like “ch” in Loch Ness:  χάος, χορός. It is pronounced as such when followed by the vowels or sounds: a, o and u.
  4. χ is pronounced like a regular “h” in hotel or holly: χέρι, χήνα, It is pronounced as such when followed by the vowels or sounds: e and i.

This information is also part of the subtleties known by the experts and lovers of the Greek language. The Greek alphabet seems to be full of mysteries (and it really is!), but we will help you discover part of them by means of our articles or our online Greek language classes, which we are inviting you to join.

Accent in Greek language

Greek alphabet

How many of us sighed at the thought that numbers have disappeared from Mathematics and Physics and, instead, so many letters appeared, some even unfamiliar to us? Well, you should know that these mysterious letters also include those of the Greek alphabet and it would help if you knew a few things about them.

Discovering the mysteries of the Greek alphabet and the Greek language has become a new hobby for us. If this is a subject of interest for you and you still haven’t read the other articles, hurry up and get on our blog, make yourself comfortable and get ready for a little trip, with your mind and your soul, to the Greek lands.

Considering that you are already familiar with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, now, we will talk about the importance of the accent. The accent is definitely an important aspect of the language and a matter of subtlety, but why do we insist upon it?

Well, I don’t think you want to go on holiday in Greece, confident in yourself and in your Greek language knowledge, only to cause smiles and laughter with your pronunciation of certain words.

The accent is an indispensable aspect, which we cannot overlook. Just as you learned in your Romanian language classes, the accent gives the tone, as well as the intensity used in pronouncing words.

Did you know that accents were invented as early as year 200 BC? Their usage has become indispensable, because, despite knowing the Greek alphabet, foreigners found the correct pronunciation of the words and notions of a language other than their native tongue quite difficult.

In the case of the Greek language, the acute accent, which survived in Modern Greek, we can say that it is placed on the last three syllables of the word and it is marked by a comma above the vowel in the accented syllable.

Why are accents so important? Well, in the Greek language, almost all words are also accompanied by an accent, except for the monosyllabic ones, with the additional exception of those words for which the accent may change the meaning of the words, such as those below:

η (definite article in the Nominative case – female gender) – ή (“or”- conjunction)

πως (“that” – conjunction)- πώς (“how” – relative adverb)

In texts written in capital letters, the accent is not marked: ΖΑΧΑΡΟΠΛΑΣΤΕΙΟ (confectionery shop).

A short history of the Greek alphabet

Greek alphabet

Learning a new language is a challenge that few dare accept and, afterwards, even fewer complete. The more we look at things from a theoretical point of view, the more we have the tendency to get scared, discouraged and, ultimately, to give up the idea of learning a new language.

Instead, we should think of the fact that a foreign language holds the key to a new world. As you well know, the so-called “perfect translation” does not and will never exist, because each language is unique and irreplaceable.

Therefore, step carefully and confidently into the realm of the Greek language. Step by step, slowly but surely, we promise that you will get to discover a magical world, full of opportunities. First stop? Or, better said, first challenge? The Greek alphabet.

The Greek language’s alphabet has 24 letters and is the predecessor of Latin and Cyrillic, being one of the oldest forms of writing of all times. If you need an ounce of motivation, remember that, in the olden times, only educated people and the most important personalities knew how to communicate and write in this mysterious manner.

How many secrets, how many grand and successful plans have been written in the letters of this sacred alphabet? How many drafts of the masterpieces of Universal literature, how many architectural layouts of the impressive buildings constructed in those times?

Knowing the Greek alphabet is the first step towards knowing this language, therefore the first step towards learning very interesting historical facts. At the beginning, you might find our Greek language online classes too difficult, but everything is tailored specifically for you, therefore, things will be cleared up along the way.

On the other hand, if you are not very interested in history, the Greek alphabet is used in many other fields: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and, as you probably know, astrology. How many of us have ever checked our horoscope at least once and wondered: “How did these people read the future in the stars?”

The answer is very simple: with the help of the Greek alphabet. The letters of the Greek alphabet are used to designate the most beautiful and the brightest of the 88 constellations. Thus, astrologers follow these stars and listen to their stories and, afterwards, share some of this knowledge with us, all thanks to the Greek letters.

As we were saying in the previous of this article, learning a foreign language is a pretty simple process if you are determined, but it is the passion that makes you love what you are studying and be curious about it.

Greek is a language that we love and about which we talk very fondly, and we could learn it together. Apart from the basic aspects that will help you in your following trip to Greece, or even in your future job, we will also teach you things that pertain to subtlety and to a deeper knowledge of the Greek language – the accent, the changes suffered by the language over the course of history.

Our online Greek language classes may be attended from the comfort of your own home, according to a schedule that we will set out together. We look forward to sharing some mysteries of the Greek language with you!

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