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Modern Greek Pronunciation

Letters

Letter Name Pronunciation Example


A a alpha Šlfa father ‰gioc, Šxioc
B b beta b¨ta video baptÐzw, basileÐa
G g gamma gˆmma yen (before ĕ or ē sound ), gènesic (y sound),
garden (elsewhere; softened ) gˆmoc (g sound)
D d delta dèlta then dÔnamic, dìxa
E e epsilon êyilon get âlèhson
Z z zeta z¨ta zoo zw 
H h eta ªta meet ™mc
J j theta j¨ta thin jeìc
I i iota ÊÀta meet Êsqurìc
K k kappa kˆppa kayak (softened; almost a G) KÔrie
L l lambda lˆmbda launch lˆmyac
M m mu mÜ meet m thr
N n nu nÜ neat nÜn
X x xi xeØ coax, taxi Xènia, xènoc
O o omicron îmikron oval înoma
P p pi peØ pen (softened; almost a B ) PatrÐ
R r rho ûÀ drama (slightly rolled ) ûÜsai
S s/c sigma sÐgma set (c at end of word ) s meron, pÐstic
T t tau taÜ ten (softened; almost a D) Triˆc
U u upsilon Öyilon meet Õmnoc, Ípèr
F f phi feØ Philip fÐloc
Q q chi qeØ lunkhead (more H than K ) Qristìc, qorhgìc
Y y psi yeØ flaps yuq , yalmìc
W w omega ²mèga oval ¶d , aʸnwn
ai say kaÐ
ou boot oÎranoØc, uÉoÜ
au av or af DauÐd (v), aÎtìc (f)
eu ĕv or ĕf pneÜma (v), eÎqaristÀ (f)
hu ēv or ēf hÕrhka (v), hÎqˆmhn (f)
ei meet eÊc
oi meet Šnjrwpoi, oÉ uÉoÐ
ui meet uÉìc
gg ng Šggeloc
gk ngk âgkrˆteia
gq ngkh sugq¸rhson
gx ngks sˆlpigx
nt nd pˆnta, KonstantÐna
mp mb pèmpw

1) Note that there are six ways to make the ē sound: h, i, u, ei, oi, ui.
2) Note that omicron (o) and omega (w) both make an ō sound.
3) Whereas English “th” has two sounds (then vs. thin), in Greek d makes the “then” sound,
and j makes the “thin” sound.

1
F or V?
The three diphthongs au, eu, and hu can all end with either a V sound or an F sound. They
end with a V sound when the next letter is voiced. They end with an F sound when the next
letter is unvoiced. A voiced sound is one that vibrates your vocal chords. For example, Z is
voiced, but S is not. Here are the voiced and unvoiced Greek letters:

Voiced (V) Unvoiced (F)


nt t
d j
b f
g k, x, q
z s
p, y

Greek also uses a V sound when the next letter is a vowel, a liquid, or a nasal, like r, l,
m, n. Basically, you use whichever sound flows more easily. I wouldn’t spend time trying to
memorize this, because as you get used to saying words it will just come naturally. Here are
some example words:

eÎaggèlion ev eÎnoèw ev
EÖbouloc ev aÎxˆnw af
eÎgen c ev eÎodìw ev
eÎdokÐa ev eÎprep c ef
eÎergèthc ev aÖrion av
eÖzwnoc ev eÎseb c ef
eÎhmerèw ev aÎtìc af
eÎjèwc ef eÖupnoc ev
eÖippoc ev eÎfhmÐa ef
eÎkairÐa ef eÎqaristÀ ef
eÎlogÐa ev eÎyhqèw ef
eÖmorfoc ev eÎwdÐa ev

Long and Short Vowels


Greeks had long and short vowels, but vowel length meant something different than it does
in English. Length did not change the vowel’s sound, but it stretched out the time it took
to say it. Long vowels were literally longer. You don’t have to observe this when you speak
Greek.
Length matters for two reasons: it affects poetic meter and it controls where accents go.
In this class, we’ll only care about the latter. Some vowels are always long: h and w. Their
short cousins are e and o.1 The other vowels can be either long or short. Hansen & Quinn
write a macron above these vowels when they are long: a , i, u . No one really writes Greek
this way; the macron is just there to help you learn. Diphthongs are always long—well,
almost always.
1
Note “o-mega” and “o-micron”: big-O and little-O.

2
Accents
There are three kinds of accents: acute (ˆ), grave (€), and circumflex (). Even though they
look different, they all just tell which syllable to stress. In Greek, as in English, one syllable
of each word takes the stress. For example, in English, the accent tells the difference between
con0 tent (what is contained) and content0 (happy). In Greek, the accent tells the difference
between Šra, ‚rˆ, and ’ra.2
In Greek, you always write the accent with the vowel—usually above it. But if the accent
falls on the first letter and it is capitalized, write the accent to the left, before the start of
the word: VOmhroc, \Hta. If the syllable has a diphthong, write the accent over the second
vowel: pneÜma. Use the second vowel even if the word begins with a capitalized diphthong:
AÑresic.

Smooth and Rough Breathing


The forward and reverse apostrophes (‚ and ) are smooth and rough breathings, respectively.
They appear whenever a word starts with a vowel. Non-Greek scholars pronounce rough
breathing with an H sound. Smooth breathing takes no extra sound. But Greeks today ignore
breathing marks and pronounce everything smoothly. We will follow the Greek custom, so
you shouldn’t pronounce them. But sometimes they give hints. For example, <Elènh is Greek
for Helen, and dhc is Greek for Hades. Occasionally they can also change the meaning of a
word. ºra and ¹ra are two totally different words. But that is rare.

Iota Subscript
Sometimes you’ll see a tiny iota written underneath another long vowel, like ø, ù, or ú.
Don’t worry too much about these. The iota is part of the spelling of the word, but it is not
pronounced. Just remember them when you see them, because ª is not the same word as ®.
When the letter is capital, the iota subscript becomes a “iota adscript” and is written
after the letter: Ai, Hi, Wi.3 Unlike with diphthongs, breathing and accent marks appear not
over the iota, but before the word: >Wid . The iota is still unpronounced. If you see this on
an unfamiliar word, you won’t know that it’s a iota subscript. But don’t worry: you could
read Greek for years and never see this. All you need to know about iota subscripts is that
they are part of a word’s spelling, and they are silent.

2
Note that the first and third words sound the same, even though they are written differently.
3


Many texts ignore this convention. Others print the iota slightly sunken: , , . Take any Greek
¶d 
service book and find a canon to see how it prints “ .”