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The Greek language

The Greek language

It is all Greek to me!

Greek is the earliest attested living indo-European language with a documented history of 3,500 years. The Greek alphabet –the first alphabet to introduce vowels- has been in use since 9th century BC (it took the place of Linear B). It is still in use today even if street signs are often written in the Latin alphabet as well for clarification. ‘Greeklish’ (Greek language written with the Latin alphabet for transliteration) is commonly used on the internet and when sending SMS with mobile phones. However, all Greek people use the Greek alphabet to read and write.

With such a long history, it is clear that the language has changed dramatically during the years. Most Europeans who studied classical literature are familiar with the ancient Greek alphabet. Although the Modern Greek alphabet does not differ from the ancient one, Modern Greek is a simplified version of ancient Greek since accents, diacritics and special symbols have been eliminated or modified.

Although it is often said that Greek is a very difficult language to speak, read and write, this is not really true. Many words commonly used in English, French or other European languages are of Greek origin. It has been estimated that nearly 12% of English vocabulary is of Greek origin, which makes Greek easier to remember and relate to.

Finding your way through the Greek Labyrinth!

Here is the Greek alphabet:

The capital letters…
Α (alpha) Β (vita) Γ (gama) Δ (delta) Ε (epsilon) Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω

And the small letters…
α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ/ς τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Some letters (like Α, Ε, Ι, Κ, Μ, Ν, Ο, Τ, α, ι, κ, ο) are very easy to identify since they are similar in English. Others are just confusing (Η makes an i sound, Ρ makes an r sound and ν makes an n sound) because they sound different than one would expect. And there are some absolutely unique to the Greek language (like Γ, Δ, Θ, Ξ, Π, Φ, Ψ, Ω, β, γ, δ, ε, ζ, η, θ, λ, μ, ξ, π, σ/ς, τ, φ, χ, ψ, ω).


Α α Αγαπάτε sounds like an English a in the word apple

Β β Βουλή sounds like an English v in the word very

Γ γ Γάτα sounds like the English sound y in the word yellow

Δ δ Δημαρχείο sounds like the English sound th in the word the

Ε ε Εστιατόριο sounds like an English e in the word egg

Ζ ζ

Η η

Θ θ Θάλασσα sounds like the English sound th in the word theatre (which comes from the Greek Θέατρο pronounced theatro)

Ι ι

Κ κ Κομπολογάδικο sounds like the English sound k in the word kilo (which actually comes from the word κιλό pronounced kilo)

Λ λ Λήθη sounds like an English l in the word lay

Μ μ ?ουσείο sounds like an English m in the word man

Ν ν Ναός sounds like an English n in the word new

Ξ ξ Ξενώνας sounds like an English x in the word ox

Ο ο ‘Oμορφη sounds like an English o in the word odd

Π π ?οδήλατο sounds like an English p in the word pay


Ρ ρ Ρολόι sounds like an English r in the word red

Σ σ/ς Σταθμός sounds like an English s in the word sea

Τ τ Ταβερνάκι sounds like an English t in the word toy

Υ υ

Φ φ Φαρμακείο sounds like an English f in the word fire

Χ χ

Ψ ψ Ψάρεμα sounds like the English sound ps in the word psyche (which comes from the Greek Ψυχή pronounced psychee)

Ω ω ‘Ωρα sounds like an English o in the word aura (which actually comes from the Greek word αύρα pronounced avra)