User:Proteins/New Testament Greek/Alphabet and ancient Greek pronunciation

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The Greek alphabet consists of 24 letters, many of which correspond to our modern English alphabet. Several letters, such as rho (ρ) and chi (χ), may be confusing because their sound differs from those of similar letters in the English alphabet. Still other letters have no English counterpart.

Simple vowels[edit]

Greek has seven vowels. The first five are αειου, which resemble the five usual vowels of English. Two of these are always short: ε ("eh") and ο ("o" as in "office"). The other three, αιυ, may be long or short, depending on the word and context. Greek has two vowels, η and ω, that are always long; they are pronounced "ay" (as in "face") and "oh" (as in "note"), respectively.

Greek vowels
Index Vowel Transliteration IPA Sound Examples
1 α a father
2 ε eh bet
3 η ay face
4 ι i machine
5 ο o office
6 υ u universe
7 ω oh open

In some cases, a vowel will appear with a small iota (ι) subscript below it, as in the vowels ᾳῃῳ. These vowels are pronounced exactly like their counterparts without the subscript, αηω. This subscript was added by grammarians to remind Greek readers that an iota had once been part of the word (centuries earlier), but had been dropped in everyday speech.

Diphthongs[edit]

Greek also has seven common diphthongs, which are pairs of vowels that are sounded together.

Greek Diphthongs
Index Diphthong Transliteration IPA Sound Examples
1 αι ai Cairo καί, ναί, δίκαιος, δαιμόνιον, παιδίον, αἷμα, μάχαιρα, ἀναβαίνω, χαίρω
2 ει ei vein εἰς, ἐκεῖ, εἰρήνη, ὑμεῖς, βασιλεία, ἐπεί, τέλειος, σημεῖον, ἀποκτείνω
3 οι oi soil οἶκος, οἶνος, λοιπός, κοινός, μετάνοια, ὁμοίως, ἀνοίγω
4 αυ au out αὐτός, σταυρός, Δαυίδ, θαυμάζω, καυχάομαι, αὐξάνω
5 ευ eu eulogy πιστεύω, εὑρίσκω, βασιλεύς, πνευματικός, λευκός, ἱερεύς, προσευχή
6 ου ou soup οὐκ, οὖν, τοῦτο, ἰδού, ἀκούω, ποῦ, οὐρανός, δοῦλος, πούς
7 υι ui French huit υἱός

Diaeresis is a relatively rare mark placed above a vowel to indicate that it is not part of a diphthong. In other words, a vowel marked by a diaeresis should be pronounced separately from other surrounding vowels. The diaresis consists of two dots, similar to an umlaut in German, as in the examples ϊ and ϋ. A diaeresis is sometimes seen in English texts; for example, the diaeresis in preëmptive indicates that the two e's are pronounced separately.

Relatives of English letters[edit]

In addition to the five vowels αειου, the Greek alphabet has five others that resemble English letters: beta (β), delta (δ), kappa (κ), sigma (ς or σ), and tau (τ). These letters are pronounced like the English counterparts: "b", "d", "k", "s", and "t". The letter sigma is written as ς if it occurs at the end of a word, and otherwise as σ.

The Greek alphabet[edit]

The Greek Alphabet
Index Upper and lower cases Letter name Transliteration IPA Sound Examples
1 Alpha uc lc.svg alpha, ἄλφα a ɑ father Ἀβραάμ, Ἀδάμ, Ἀσία, Ἀνδρέας, Ἀαρών, Ἅννα, ἀμήν, ἄβυσσος, ἄγγελος, ἀήρ
2 Beta uc lc.svg beta, βῆτα b b (-β-) beg Βηθλέεμ, Βηθανία, Βεελζεβούλ, Βηθεσδά, Βαρθολομαῖος, βαπτίζω, βάρβαρος, βάσις, βιβλίον, βλασφημία, βάθος, βασιλικός, βιωτικός
3 Gamma uc lc.svg gamma, γάμμα g ɣ go Γάζα, Γαβριήλ, Γεθσημανί, Γολγοθᾶ, Γαλιλαία, γέεννα, γένεσις, γνῶσις
Gamma is pronounced as an "n" (as in think) before four consonants: itself (γ), kappa (κ), xi (ξ) and chi (χ). For example, consider the Greek words: ἄγγελος (angel), σπόγγος (sponge), ἄγκυρα (anchor), σφίγξ (sphinx) and τυγχάνω (I attain). This is known as the nasal gamma.
4 Delta uc lc.svg delta, δέλτα d d dig Δαυίδ, Δαμασκός, Δανιήλ, Δρούσιλλα, δύο, δυςεντέριον, διάκονος, διάβολος, δέκα
5 Epsilon uc lc.svg epsilon, ἒ ψῑλόν short e ɛ met Ἐλισάβετ, Ἑβραῖος, Ἐλιέζερ, Ἑνώχ, Ἐφραίμ, Εὐνίκη, ἔθνος, εἰρήνη, εὐλογία, εὐχαριστία
6 Zeta uc lc.svg zeta, ζῆτα z gaze Ζεύς, Ζαχαρίας, Ζεβεδαίος, ζωή, ζῆλος, ζηλωτής
7 Eta uc lc.svg eta, ἦτα long e Ἠσαῦ, Ἡρῴδης, Ἠλίας, Ἠσαΐας, ἦθος, ἡδονή, ἥλιος
8 Theta uc lc.svg theta, θῆτα th thick Θωμᾶς, Θεσσαλονίκη, Θαδδαῖος, Θεός, θρόνος, θησαυρός, θεωρία
9 Iota uc lc.svg iota, ἰῶτα i machine Ἰησοῦς, Ἱερουσαλήμ, Ἰωσήφ, Ἰακώβ, Ἰουλία, ἰδιώτης, ἶρις, ἰχθύς
10 Kappa uc lc.svg kappa, κάππα k kin Κορνήλιος, Καῖσαρ, Κόρινθος, Κλαυδία, Κρήτη, Κάϊν, Κανδάκη, Κηφᾶς, κάμηλος, κοσμος, κρίσις, κεραμικός, κατηγορία, κιθάρα, κριτικός, κύμβαλον, κρύσταλλος, κεντυρίων, κρυπτός, καθέδρα
11 Lambda uc lc.svg lambda, λάμβδα l let Λουκᾶς, Λίνος, Λυδία, Λωΐς, Λιβύη, Λάζαρος, Λευί, λέων, λογικός, λεπρός, λαμπάς, λάρυγξ, λόγος
12 Mu uc lc.svg mu, μῦ m met Μαρία, Μάρθα, Μωϋσῆς, Μαθθαῖος, Μᾶρκος, Μεσοποταμία, μουσικός, μανία, μαρτυρία, μαργαρίτης, μετά
13 Nu uc lc.svg nu, νῦ n net Ναζαρέθ, Ναθαναήλ, Νῶε, Νικόλαος, νέκρωσις, νέον, νύμφη, νίκη
14 Xi uc lc.svg xi, ξῖ x lax ξένος, ξηρός, ξύλον
15 Omicron uc lc.svg omicron, ὂ μῑκρόν short o office Ὀλυμπᾶς, Οὐρβανός, ὀκτώ, οὐρανός, ὀφθαλμός
16 Pi uc lc.svg pi, πῖ p pet Παῦλος, Πέτρος, Πιλᾶτος, πάθος, παιδαγωγός, πανοπλία, παραβολή, παραλυτικός, παράκλητος, πατριάρχης, πέντε, πληγή, πνευματικός, πόρνος, πρᾶξις, πρεσβύτερος
17 Rho uc lc.svg rho, ῥῶ r run Ρώμη, Ρεβέκκα, Ραχήλ, Ρούθ, Ρουβήν, Ροῦφος, Ρόδη, ραββι, ῥῆμα, ῥήτωρ
18 Sigma uc lc.svg sigma, σίγμα s set Σολομών, Στέφανος, Σατανᾶς, Συρία, Σίμων, Σάρρα, Σήθ, Σουσάννα, σάββατον, σάπφιρος, σαρδόνυξ, σκάνδαλον, σελήνη, σοφία, σκορπίος, σπορά, σπόγγος, συναγωγή, συμφωνία, συνδρομή, σωματικός
The "s"-shaped version of lowercase sigma (ς) is used at the end of words, whereas the more circular version (σ) is used elsewhere.
19 Tau uc lc.svg tau, ταῦ t tip Τιμόθεος, Ταβιθά, Τιβέριος, Τίτος, Ταρσός, ταβέρνη, ταῦρος, τοπάζιον, τραῦμα, τύπος
20 Upsilon uc lc.svg upsilon, ὖ ψῑλόν u ὑπόκρισις, ὕβρις, ὕπνος, ὑπερβολή, ὕσσωπος, ὑακίνθος
21 Phi uc lc.svg phi, φῖ ph (f sound) graphic Φίλιππος, Φῆλιξ, Φαραώ, Φιλαδέλφεια, Φοῖνιξ, φαντασία, φάντασμα, φιλοσοφία
22 Chi uc lc.svg chi, χῖ ch (as in Scottish loch) Χριστός, Χλόη, Χανάαν, Χερούβ, χαρακτήρ, χάρισμα, χρῖσμα
23 Psi uc lc.svg psi, ψῖ ps gypsum ψαλμός, ψυχή, ψεῦδος
24 Omega uc lc.svg omega, ὦ μέγα long o vote Ὡσηε, ὡσαννά, ὥρα

Pitfalls to avoid[edit]

The Greek alphabet has several pitfalls for English students. Beware the following:

  • The Greek letter eta (η) is pronounced like "ay", not an "n". Rather, the Greek letter nu (ν) is pronounced "n".
  • The Greek letter rho (ρ) is pronounced like an "r", not a "p". Rather, the Greek letter pi (π) is pronounced "p".
  • The Greek letter chi (χ) is pronounced like a "ch", not an "x". Rather, the Greek letter xi (ξ) is pronounced "x".
  • The Greek letter nu (ν) is pronounced like an "n", not a "v".
  • The Greek letter omega (ω) is pronounced like an "oh", not a "w".
  • The uppercase Greek letters eta (Η) and upsilon (Υ) are not pronounced like the English H and Y, but rather as "ay" and "ooh", respectively.
  • The Greek letters phi (φ) and psi (ψ) resemble one another, but are pronounced as "f" and "ps", respectively.
  • The Greek letters nu (ν) and upsilon (υ) resemble one another, but are pronounced as "n" and "u", respectively. Notice that nu has a sharp point, whereas upsilon has a rounded bottom.
  • The Greek letters nu (ν) and gamma (γ) resemble one another, but are pronounced as "n" and "g", respectively.
  • The Greek letter theta (θ) is always pronounced like a hard "th" (as in "thick", "thin" or "think"), never as a soft "th" (as in "this", "the" or "thither").

Writing Greek[edit]

References[edit]

  • Smyth HW. (1920, 1956) Greek Grammar, revised by Gordon M. Messing, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, p. 7. ISBN 0-674-36250-0