The Greek Alphabet - Your Essential Guide (Including Letters, and Pronunciation) (2024)

The Greek Alphabet - Your Essential Guide (Including Letters, and Pronunciation) (1)

written by
Yaren Fadiloglulari

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

You are likely familiar with the Greek alphabet on some level. If you’ve ever used words like “alpha”, “beta” or “omega”, that’s part of the Greek alphabet.

It’s everywhere from American university sororities, tomaths, to religious literature and medical sciences. But what about the letter names, Greek alphabet symbols such as tonos, and pronunciation exceptions?

First things first, let’s start with a piece of good news. Almost all the letters are pronounced the way they are written, and there are no silent letters in Greek. There are some special letter combinations you need to be aware of, which we’ll cover once we learn the Greek alphabet in order.

Learning about the Greek alphabet was one of my favourite parts of studying Greek. I took Greek lessons in Cyprus, and as you might have guessed, our first lesson was about the alphabet. A couple weeks later, we started reading road signs in Greek, and were able to decode this beautiful language.

Today, I’ll give a crash course about the Greek alphabet based on my own experience of what helped me learn the language. Let’s get started!

Table of contents

  • Greek Alphabet in Order from Alpha to Omega
    • Α / α / Alpha
    • Β / β / Beta
    • Γ / γ / Gamma
    • Δ / δ / Delta
    • Ε / ε / Epsilon
    • Ζ / ζ / Zeta
    • Η / η / Eta
    • Θ / θ / Theta
    • Ι / ι / Iota
    • Κ / κ / Kappa
    • Λ / λ / Lambda
    • Μ / μ / Mu
    • Ν / ν / Nu
    • Ξ / ξ / Xi
    • Ο / ο / Omicron
    • Π / π / Pi
    • Ρ / ρ / Rho
    • Σ / σ (ς) / Sigma
    • Τ / τ / Tau
    • Υ / υ / Upsilon
    • Φ / φ / Phi
    • Χ / χ / Chi
    • Ψ / ψ / Psi
    • Ω / ω / Omega
  • Greek Alphabet Pronunciation Exceptions
    • Consonant Combinations
    • Vowel Combinations (Diphthongs)
  • What is τόνος (tonos)?
  • Is There a Greek Alphabet Song?
  • What is the Ancient Greek Alphabet Like?
  • Practice Makes Perfect: It’s Time to Speak Greek!

Greek Alphabet in Order from Alpha to Omega

Α / α / Alpha

IPA pronunciation: /a/

English equivalent: like the “a” in car.

Example word:Αγάπη (agapi):“love”

Β / β / Beta

IPA pronunciation: /v/

English equivalent: like the “v” in vote.

Example word:Βιβλίο (vivlio):“book”

Note: Be careful —Β / βin Greek makes the “v” sound, not “b.”

Γ / γ / Gamma

IPA pronunciation: /ɣ/ or /ʝ/

English equivalent: Gamma can be a tricky one! In most cases, it sounds like a softer version of the “g” in green. When it’s before /e/ or /i/, it sounds like the “y” in yellow.

Example words:Γάτα (gata):“cat”
Γεια (yia):“hello”

Δ / δ / Delta

IPA pronunciation: /ð/

English equivalent: like the “th” sound in then. (In Greek, “th” has its own letter!)

Example word:Δρόμος (dromos):“road”

Ε / ε / Epsilon

IPA pronunciation: /e/

English equivalent: like the “e” in pen.

Example word:Ελλάδα (Ellada):“Greece”

Ζ / ζ / Zeta

IPA pronunciation: /z/

English equivalent: like the “z” in zoo.

Example word:Ζάχαρη (zahari):“sugar”

Η / η / Eta

IPA pronunciation: /i/

English equivalent: like the “ee” in meet.

Example word: * Ήλιος (ilios):* “sun”

Θ / θ / Theta

IPA pronunciation: /θ/

English equivalent: like the “th” in think. (Yes, the other “th” sound also has a dedicated letter in Greek.)

Example word:Θάλασσα (thalassa):“sea”

Ι / ι / Iota

IPA pronunciation: /i/

English equivalent: Iota is also pronounced as “ee,” just like eta. There are different letters for the same sound because they originate from the Ancient Greek alphabet. In Ancient Greek, eta, iota, and upsilon (the other “ee” sound) produce different sounds which is no longer the case in Modern Greek.

Example word:Ιδέα (idea):“idea”

Κ / κ / Kappa

IPA pronunciation: /k/

English equivalent: like the “k” in make

Example word:Κύπρος (Kipros):“Cyprus”

Λ / λ / Lambda

IPA pronunciation: /l/

English equivalent: like the “l” in lamp

Example word:Λέξη (lexi):“word”

Μ / μ / Mu

IPA pronunciation: /m/

English equivalent: like the “m” in make

Example word:Μήλο (milo):“apple”

Ν / ν / Nu

IPA pronunciation: /n/

English equivalent: like the “n” in new.

Example word:Ναι (ne):“yes”

Note: Pay attention to the lowercase version of this letter as it looks like the English “v.”

Ξ / ξ / Xi

IPA pronunciation: /ks/

English equivalent: like the “x” in box

Example word:Ξενοδοχείο (xenodohio):“hotel”

Ο / ο / Omicron

IPA pronunciation: /o/

English equivalent: like the “o” in orange.

Example word:Όνομα (onoma):“name”

Π / π / Pi

IPA pronunciation: /p/

English equivalent: like the “p” in play.

Example word:Πόλη (poli):“city”

Ρ / ρ / Rho

IPA pronunciation: /r/

English equivalent: like the “r” in right

Example word:Ρούχα (rouha):“clothes”

Σ / σ (ς) / Sigma

IPA pronunciation: /s/

English equivalent: like the “s” in snake.

Example word:Σχολή (sholi):“school”

Note: The letter sigma has two forms in lowercase:σwhen it appears in the middle or at the end of a word andςwhen it appears at the end. Here is what both look like:

Μουσική (musiki):“music”
Φίλος (filos):“friend”

Τ / τ / Tau

IPA pronunciation: /t/

English equivalent: like the “t” in train

Example word:Τραπέζι (trapezi):“table”

Υ / υ / Upsilon

IPA pronunciation: /i/

English equivalent: Here’s your third Greek letter that gives the “ee” sound! Similar to eta and iota, upsilon also had a different sound in Ancient Greek, but in Modern Greek, it sounds like the “ee” in meet.

Example word:Υγεία (igia):“health”

Φ / φ / Phi

IPA pronunciation: /f/

English equivalent: like the “f” in free.

Example word:Φωτογραφία (fotografia):“photography”

Χ / χ / Chi

IPA pronunciation: /x/

English equivalent: like the “h” in hue. A better example would be like the “ch” in loch, with a Scottish accent.

Example word:Χάρτης (hartis):“map”

Ψ / ψ / Psi

IPA pronunciation: /ps/

English equivalent: like the “ps” sound in lapse.

Example word:Ψυχή (psihi):“soul”

Ω / ω / Omega

IPA pronunciation: /ɔː/

English equivalent: like the “o” in go.

Example word:Ωκεανός (okeanos):“ocean”

Greek Alphabet Pronunciation Exceptions

Some vowel and consonant combinations in Greek form different sounds when they come together. It’s important to learn about them to read and speak Greek fluently.

Consonant Combinations

In some cases, when two consonants come together in Greek, they form new sounds that are not part of the alphabet. These letters areγγ(two gammas together),μπ(mu and pi together),ντ(nu and tau together), andγκ(gamma and kappa together). Let’s find out more about the sounds they form:

  • Αγγλικά (Anglika):“English” — Here we have two gammas, which are pronounced as “ng,” like the “ng” in the word sing.
  • Μπίρα (bira):“beer” — When the letters mu and pi come together, they make a sound similar to the “b” in English. This is common in loanwords or foreign words.
  • Ντεπόζιτο (depozito):“deposit” — Nu and tau make the “d” sound in Greek, similar to the “d” in the word drum.
  • Γκολ (gol):“goal” — Gamma and kappa make the “g” sound, like the “g” in the word green.

The letter tau has two combinations that form different sounds:τζandτσ.Τζforms the sound “j” as in jacket.

Τσstands for the sound “ch,” like in the “ch” the word change. In Greece’s Greek, it sounds more like “ts.” In Cypriot Greek, however, it sounds like the “ch” in change. Here are two example words:

  • Τσάι (tsai):“tea”
  • Τζατζίκι (tzatziki):“tzatziki,” the famous yoghurt dish with cucumber, mint, and olive oil.

Vowel Combinations (Diphthongs)

A diphthong is when two vowels form a single sound in one syllable. Greek diphthongs areαι,ει,οι,υι,αυ,ευ,andου.Here are the sounds they make:

  • αιmakes an “e” sound, like the “e” in pen. For example, the Greek word for “child,”παιδί,is pronounced aspedi.
  • ειmakes an “ee” sound, like the “ee” in meet.Σειρήναis read assirina,and it means “mermaid” in Greek.
  • οιis like the “oi” in oil.Ποίημα (poima)is an example word, and it means “poem” in Greek.
  • υιsounds like the “ui” in quit. It’s not very common in Modern Greek.
  • αυmakes an “av” sound, like the “av” in travel, or an “af” sound like the “af” in after, depending on the context.Αυγό (avgo),meaning “egg” has the “av” sound, and αυτοκίνητο (aftokinito), meaning “car” has the “af” sound.
  • ευsounds like the “ev” in ever or “ef” in effort.Ευρώ (evro)is the Greek word for “euro,” and it has the “ev” sound.Ευχαριστώ (efharisto)has the “ef” sound. It means “thank you” in Greek.
  • ουsounds like the “oo” in food. An example word would beπουλί (pouli),which means “bird” in Greek.

What isτόνος (tonos)?

Now, let’s talk aboutτόνος,which you will see in all lowercase Greek words that contain more than one syllable.

There isτόνοςin the wordτόνοςitself. Have you noticed how the firstoin the word has an accent mark on top, and the second one doesn’t?

That’sτόνος.In the Greek alphabet, when vowels have the accent mark on top of them, it means that they are stressed vowels. In other words, these are the vowels you should stress more than others while pronouncing that word. So for example,τόνοςwould be pronounced as TO-nos, not to-NOS.

Here is another example from a common word: inκαλημέρα(“good morning”), the stress is on the letter έ, epsilon. This means that its pronunciation is kali-ME-ra. Make sure to listen to ithere.

Is There a Greek Alphabet Song?

You can find many Greek alphabet songs on YouTube if you searchτραγούδι αλφάβητο (tragudi alfavito),“alphabet song.” Although most of them are for kids, they would help you memorise the Greek alphabet names. Here isa song that sounds like the English alphabet song.

What is the Ancient Greek Alphabet Like?

The Ancient Greek alphabet is similar to the Modern Greek alphabet we just learned about but it is more difficult, with more complex types ofτόνος.Here is how yousay I love you in Greek, both Ancient and Modern, for example:

  • Ancient Greek:ἐγὼ σ’ ἀγαπῶ (egṑ s’ agapô)
  • Modern Greek:Σ’ αγαπώ (S’ agapó)

Pronunciation of some letters is also different in Ancient Greek than in Modern Greek. For example, upsilon sounds like “ee” in Modern Greek, but in Ancient Greek, it’s similar to the “u” in the word duke.

Practice Makes Perfect: It’s Time to Speak Greek!

Now that you’ve learned all the Greek alphabet letters, it’s time to practise reading some words, while paying attention to the letter combinations. You can also try writing your name or your friends’ names using Greek letters — it’s fun!

Watching videos and listening to podcasts in Greekwill also help you get used to how words sound.

Καλή τύχη!(kali tihi!) “Good luck!”

  • Learn Greek Online: 39 Free Resources and Classes to Learn the Greek Language
  • 40+ Cool Greek Words That Will Make You Want to Learn Greek
  • Black Friday Deals for Greek Language Courses
  • The IPA Alphabet: How and Why You Should Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (With Charts)

The Greek Alphabet - Your Essential Guide (Including Letters, and Pronunciation) (2)

Yaren Fadiloglulari

Freelance Content Writer & Journalist

Originally from Cyprus, Yaren is a freelance writer for many digital publications, travel and education brands, and start-ups.

Speaks: English, Turkish, French, and Spanish

View all posts by Yaren Fadiloglulari

The Greek Alphabet - Your Essential Guide (Including Letters, and Pronunciation) (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6065

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.