Greek alphabet

From Academic Kids


Greek alphabet
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 Sigma
Τ τ Tau Υ υ Upsilon
Φ φ Phi Χ χ Chi
Ψ ψ Psi Ω ω Omega
obsolete letters
[[Digamma|Template:Polytonic Digamma]] [[San (letter)|Template:Polytonic San]]
[[Qoppa|Template:Polytonic Qoppa]] [[Sampi|Template:Polytonic Sampi]]

The Greek language is written in the Greek alphabet, developed in classical times (ca 9th century BC) and passed down to the present. In ancient Greece its letters were also used to represent numbers, called Greek numerals, analogous to Roman numerals. Besides writing modern Greek, today its letters are used as mathematical symbols, as names of stars and fraternities and sororities, and for other purposes.

The Greek alphabet was a modification of the Phoenician alphabet (represented in the table below by the Hebrew alphabet, a modern adaptation). It in turn has given rise to other scripts such as the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. See alphabet: history and diffusion.


Main table

The Greek letters and their derivations are as follows (pronunciations transcribed using the International Phonetic Alphabet):

Letter Name Pronunciation Numeric value Corresponding Hebrew letter HTML entity Latin transliteration (but see diphthongs, etc.)
Greek Traditional transcription Pronunciation
classical modern old classical modern
Α α Template:Polytonic Alpha   1 א 'Aleph α a
Β β Template:Polytonic Beta   2 ב Bet β b
Γ γ Template:Polytonic Gamma   before or ; otherwise 3 ג Gimel γ g
Δ δ Template:Polytonic Delta   4 ד Dalet δ d
Ε ε Template:Polytonic Epsilon   5 ה He ε e
Template:Polytonic (1) Template:Polytonic ? Digamma  ? - - 6 ו Vav Ϝ w
Ζ ζ Template:Polytonic Zeta   , later 7 ז Zayin ζ z, s (between vowels)
Η η Template:Polytonic Eta 8 ח Het η ē, e, ê
Θ θ Template:Polytonic Theta   9 ט Tet θ th
Ι ι Template:Polytonic Iota   10 י Yod ι i
Κ κ Template:Polytonic Kappa   20 ך כ Kaf κ k, c
Λ λ Template:Polytonic Lambda   30 ל Lamed λ l
Μ μ Template:Polytonic Mu   40 ם מ Mem μ m
Ν ν Template:Polytonic Nu   50 ן נ Nun ν n
Ξ ξ Template:Polytonic Xi   60 ס Samekh ξ x, (ks)
Ο ο Template:Polytonic Omicron   [o] [o] 70 ע `Ayin ο o
Π π Template:Polytonic Pi   80 ף פ Pe π p
M (1) (Ϻ ϻ)   San     - - - ץ צ Tzadik Ϻ ϻ s
Q (1) (Ϙ ϙ)   Qoppa     - - 90 ק Kuf Ϙ ϙ q
Ρ ρ Template:Polytonic Rho   , 100 ר Resh ρ r, rh (beginning a word), rrh (doubled)
Σ σ Template:Polytonic Sigma   [s] [s] 200 ש Shin σ s, ss (between vowels)
  ς Sigma (final) 6 (modern) ς s
Τ τ Template:Polytonic Tau   300 ת Tav τ t
Υ υ Template:Polytonic Upsilon 400 from ו Vav υ u, y (between consonants)
Φ φ Template:Polytonic Phi   500 origin disputed (see text) φ ph
Χ χ Template:Polytonic Chi 600 χ ch, kh
Ψ ψ Template:Polytonic Psi   700 ψ ps
Ω ω Template:Polytonic Omega   800 ω o, ô
Ϡ ϡ (1)   Sampi     - - 900 Ϡ ϡ

(1): Letter removed from the alphabet in early times, before the period that is now called "classical". Only capitals were written; the lowercase forms are modern.

Letter combinations and diphthongs

Letters Pronunciation Latin transliteration
old classical modern
αι   [] [] ae
ει [] [] [] [] i
οι   [] [] oe, i (final)
υι   [] [] ui
ωι   [] [] o
αυ   [] [] before voiced sound
[] before voiceless sound
au, av
ευ   [] [] before voiced sound
[] before voiceless sound
eu, ev
ηυ   [] [] before voiced sound
[] before voiceless sound
ου [] [] [] [u] u, ou
γγ (2)   [] []ng
γκ (2)   [] [] at the beginning of a word
[] otherwise
nc, nk
γξ (2)   [] [] nx, nks
γχ (2)   [] [] nch, nkh
μπ - - [] at the beginning of a word
[] otherwise
ντ - - [] at the beginning of a word
[] otherwise

(2): Some scholars see agma as a phoneme in its own right.


Before the days of printing, scribes made use of a number of ligatures to save space, in Greek as in other languages. The ligature for ου — resembling a V above an O — is still sometimes seen. For a modern use of this in the Latin alphabet, see Ou (letter)

Greek in Unicode

There are 2 main blocks of Greek characters in Unicode. The first is "Greek and Coptic" (U+0370 — U+03FF). This block is based on ISO 8859-7 and is sufficient to write Modern Greek. There are also some archaic letters and Greek-based technical symbols.

This block also supports the Coptic language. Formerly most Coptic letters shared codepoints with similar-looking Greek letters; but in many scholarly works, both scripts occur, with quite different letter shapes, so as of Unicode 4.1, Coptic and Greek were disunified. Those Coptic letters with no Greek equivalents still remain in this block.

To write polytonic Greek (Old Greek or Katharevousa), one may use combining diacritical marks. However, Unicode also includes a full set of precomposed characters in the "Greek Extended" block (U+1F00 – U+1FFF).

Greek and Coptic

370 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
380 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
390 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3A0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3B0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3C0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3D0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3E0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic
3F0 Template:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:PolytonicTemplate:Polytonic

Greek Extended (precomposed polytonic Greek)


Combining diacritics

Combining diacritical marks pertaining to Greek language are:



The most notable change, compared to its predecessor, the Phoenician alphabet, is the introduction of written vowels, without which Greek — unlike Phoenician — would be unintelligible. In fact most alphabets that contain vowels are derived ultimately from Greek, although there are exceptions (Hangul, Orkhon script, Ethiopic alphabet, Indic alphabets, and Old Hungarian script). The first vowels were alpha, epsilon, iota, omicron, and upsilon (copied from waw), modifications of either glides or breathing marks, which were mostly superfluous in Greek. In eastern Greek, which lacked breaths entirely, the letter eta was also used for a long e, and eventually the letter omega was introduced for a long o. Vowels were originally not used in Semitic alphabets, but even in the very old Ugaritic alphabet matres lectionis were used, i.e. consonant signs were used to denote vowels.

Greek also introduced three new consonants, appended to the end of the alphabet as they were developed. The consonants were to mainly to make up for the lack of aspirates in Phoenician. In west Greek, actually, chi was used for // and psi for // — hence the value of our letter x, derived from chi. Over the middle ages these aspirates disappeared, so now theta, phi, and chi stand for //, //, and //. The origin of those letters is disputed.

The letter san was used at variance with sigma, and by classical times the latter won out, san disappearing from the alphabet. The letters waw (later called digamma) and qoppa disappeared, too, the former only needed for the western dialects and the latter never really needed at all. These lived on in the Ionic numeral system, however, which consisted of writing a series letters with precise numerical values. Sampi (apparently in a rare local glyph form from Ionia) was introduced at the end - to stand for 900. Thousands were written using a mark at the upper left ('A for 1000, etc).

Originally there were several variants of the Greek alphabet, most importantly western (Chalcidian) and eastern (Ionic) Greek; the former gave rise to the Old Italic alphabet and thence to the Latin alphabet. Athens took the Ionic script to be its standard in 403 BC, and shortly thereafter the other versions disappeared. By then Greek was always written left to right, but originally it had been written right to left (with asymmetrical characters flipped), and in-between written either way - or, most likely, boustrophedon, so that the lines alternate direction.

During the Middle ages, the Greek scripts underwent changes paralleling those of the Roman alphabet: while the old forms were retained as a monumental script, uncial and eventually minuscule hands came to dominate. The letter σ is even written ς at the ends of words, paralleling the use of the long and short s at the time. Aristophanes of Byzantium also introduced the process of accenting Greek letters for easier pronunciation.

Because Greek minuscules arose at a (much) later date, no historic minuscule actually exists for san. Minuscule forms for the other letters were only used numerically. For number 6, modern Greeks use an old digraph called stigma (Template:Polytonic, Template:Polytonic) instead of digamma or use στ if it is not available. For 90 they use modern z-shaped qoppa forms: Template:Polytonic, Template:Polytonic (Note that some web browser/font combinations will show the other qoppa here).

Additional information

For extended discussion of problematic Greek letter forms see: Greek Unicode Issues (

For a clear presentation of the Greek letters with pronunciation suggestions for Modern and Classical Greek, see The Greek Alphabet at (

For a table of 14 different Greek character encodings that have been used in IT systems see RFC 1947 - Greek Character Encoding for Electronic Mail Messages

See also

Special characters

Template:SpecialCharsast:Alfabetu griegu bg:Гръцка азбука ca:Alfabet grec cs:Řecká abeceda da:Grske alfabet de:Griechisches Alphabet et:Kreeka thestik el:Ελληνικό αλφάβητο als:Griechisches Alphabet es:Alfabeto griego eo:Greka alfabeto fr:Alphabet grec gl:Alfabeto grego ko:그리스 문자 ia:Alphabeto grec is:Grskt letur it:Alfabeto greco he:אלפבית יווני mk:Грчка азбука nl:Grieks alfabet nn:Det greske alfabetet ja:ギリシャ文字 pl:Alfabet grecki pt:Alfabeto grego ro:Alfabetul grec ru:Греческий алфавит sl:Grška abeceda sv:Grekiska alfabetet th:อักษรกรีก uk:Грецька абетка wa:Alfabet grek zh:希腊字母


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