Modern Greek/Contents

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Εδώ πρέπει να φαίνονται οι Ελληνικοί χαρακτήρες!
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Welcome to the Wikibook course on Greek. Please read the Introduction before beginning.

Table of Contents[edit]

There will be two ways of using this wikibook. You may wish to learn in a lesson-style way, with knowledge organised from the easier- to the harder-to-learn material, or you may want to look for a specific topic using the table of contents, which is organised by topics rather to difficulty. Either way, we recommend the reading of the introduction.

Introduction / Εισαγωγή[edit]

About Greek / Για τα Ελληνικά[edit]

The Greek LanguageΕλληνική γλώσσα) is an Indo-European language with a documented history of some 3,000 years. Ancient Greek in its various forms was the language both of classical Greek civilisation and of the origins of Christianity, and was a first or second language over a large part of the Roman Empire. It has been studied in schools and universities in many countries from the Renaissance onwards. Modern Greek, which differs in many ways from Ancient Greek but is still recognisably the same language, is spoken by approximately 12 million speakers worldwide, most of whom live in Greece and Cyprus. Greek is traditionally written in the Greek Alphabet.

This wikibook pretends to discuss and expose Modern Greek.

See also Ancient Greek, Koine Greek.

Alphabet / Αλφάβητο[edit]

The Greek Language was one of the first written languages in all world. The script used had some peculiarities not observed today: for instance, the vowels were not written, and one needed to guess or to know their specific place inside the word. This alphabet has been evolving, through contact with other cultures and through the simple action of the time, until it became what it is today. Amongst the Greek alphabet, we can spot some (or even many) similarities with the Latin (or Roman) one. The alphabet used nowadays has 24 letters: 7 vowels and 17 consonants.

Table 1 - The Greek Alphabet
Letter English Name Greek Name
A a alpha άλφα
Β β beta βήτα
Γ γ gamma γάμμα
Δ δ delta δέλτα
Ε ε epsilon έψιλον
Ζ ζ zeta ζήτα
Η η eta ήτα
Θ θ theta θήτα
Ι ι iota ιώτα
Κ κ kappa κάπα
Λ λ lambda λάμδα
Μ μ mu μι
Ν ν nu νι
Ξ ξ ksi ξι
Ο ο omicron όμικρον
Π π pi πι
Ρ ρ rho ρο
Σ σ* sigma σίγμα
Τ τ tau ταυ
Υ υ ypsilon ύψιλον
Φ φ phi φι
Χ χ chi χι
Ψ ψ psi ψι
Ω ω omega ωμέγα
* The sigma has a special lowercase form, used only at the end of words. Both lowercase sigmas have the same value.

Besides the alphabet, there is also an accent ( ´ ) and a diaresis( ¨ ). The use of these two diacritics is discussed in the next section.

Pronunciation of the Alphabet[edit]

Greek sounds are, in general, soft. As a major rule, each letter carries a single sound (this is not universal, but almost, as we'll see later in this page). As in the previous chapter, we see here a table with the various letters. This time, the columns represent not the name, but the approximate sound of the letters.

Tabela I - Basic pronunciation of the Greek language
Letter How to say it IPA XSAMPA
A α arc [a] a
Β β vacuum [v] v
Γ γ yes before certain vowels,

otherwise like Spanish agua

[ʝ] before [ɛ] or [i]; [ɣ] otherwise G
Δ δ this [ð] D
Ε ε bed [ɛ] E
Ζ ζ zoo [z] z
Η η see [i] i
Θ θ thin [θ] T
Ι ι see [i] i
Κ κ cute before certain vowels, else knock [c] before [ɛ] or [i]; [k] otherwise c, k
Λ λ clock [l] l
Μ μ mine [m] m
Ν ν nine [n] n
Ξ ξ excellent [ks] k_s
Ο ο saw [ɔ] O
Π π ape [p] p
Ρ ρ like Spanish pero [ɾ] 4
Σ σ soup [s] s
Τ τ hate [t] t
Υ υ see [i] i
Φ φ photo [f] f
Χ χ like German ich before certain vowels, else like German Loch [ç] before [ɛ] or [i]; [x] otherwise C, x
Ψ ψ maps [ps] p_s
Ω ω saw [ɔ] O

Note: The letter Γγ is the most dificult to pronounce for an English speaker: it is like a stronger h, simultaneous with the vibration of the vocal cords; in other words, it is the voiced counterpart of the χ. Before e and i vowels, it is pronounced as a y like in the word yes.


Diphthongs are combinations of two vowels that function as a unique sound. Note that in Modern Greek, the word Diphthong (δίφθογγος) is also used for combination of vowels that sound like a simple vowel (digraphs). There are eight diphthongs in Modern Greek. There are also some similar combinations of consonants:

Tabela II - Diphthongs
Diphthong How to say it IPA XSAMPA
αι bed [ɛ] E
αυ have before certain letters, after before others [av], [af] av, af
ει see [i] i
ευ ever before certain letters, effect before others [ɛv], [ɛf] Ev, Ef
ηυ evening before certain letters, beef before others [iv], [if] iv, if
οι see [i] i
ου soon [u] u
υι see [i] i
γγ finger g] Ng
γκ good at the beginning of words, finger anywhere else [g], g] g, Ng
μπ banana at the beginning of words, thumb anywhere else [b], [mb] b, mb
ντ day at the beginning of words, sand anywhere else [d], [nd] d, nd

Accent and Dieresis[edit]

Most Greek words have a stressed syllable which is the syllable said with more strength: for instance, in the english words comfort and peculiarity, the stressed syllables are com and ar, respectively.

In all other words (those with two or more syllables), an accent ( ΄ ) is used above the syllable to mark the stress. In most one-syllable words, the accent is omitted. When the stress falls on a syllable that has a diphthong, the accent is used above the last letter of this diphthong. Thus, the accents are as shown on these words: Παύλος (Paul) ou γυναίκα (woman).

If the accent is put on the first vowel of a diphthong, it is pronounced as two separate vowels rather than as a diphthong, as in the word ρολόι (watch or clock), which has three syllables, not two. On the other hand, if the diphthong is pronounced as two vowels but the accent falls on second vowel, the dieresis ( ¨ ) is used, as in the word Εβραϊκός (Hebrew).

There are, however, some words that aren't stressed (usually monosyllabic gramatical words), and these don't have an accent. Words like these are read as affixes added to the main word. Examples:

  • ο (the masc.) "Ο πατέρας" (The father) is read as if it were a single word - aw-pah-TE-ras;
  • μου (my), "Ο πατέρας μου" (My father) is also read as if it were a single word - aw-pa-TE-raz-mu.

Every stressed word with more than one syllable carries an accent. However, there are monosyllabic words that also have accent, like ή (or) and πού (where). This accent has a double function:

  • It distinguishes words that, otherwise, would be equal - η (the fem.) and που (that, which);
  • It marks words as strong, unlike their weak comparing counterparts.

Phonology / Φωνολογία[edit]

Lessons / Μαθήματα[edit]

  1. Good Morning! / Καλημέρα!
  2. ...

Table of Contents[edit]

  1. Grammar / Γραμματική:
  2. Vocabulary / Λεξιλόγιο
  3. Notes / Σημειώσεις

External Links / Εξωτερικές Διευθύνσεις[edit]

  • Translatum The most exhaustive list of free Greek resources ranging from on-line / downloadable dictionaries to Grammars and Learning material.
  • Learn Greek on the Web! Links to online Greek resources.
  • Textkit Large PDFs of out of copyright Greek and Latin textbooks.
  • LearnGreek Online A complete course in learning Greek online.