The Greek Alphabet

Alphabet Inscription

Introduction: What's on this page?

The letters in the Greek alphabet presented below are used for printed Ancient Greek texts. The earliest Greek texts that have survived were written with a radically different script called Linear B.

For a detailed and wonderfully well argued discussion of the origins of the Greek alphabet, see Roger D. Woodard’s book, Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer.

Fonts

You can find fonts for displaying or writing Greek text as well as utilities for converting older fonts to the new Unicode standarde on our fonts page.

Pronouncing the Greek Alphabet

Three sets of pronunciation suggestions are given in the table below: first the pronunciation of each letter in Modern Greek, then the reconstructed Hellenistic Koine pronunciation, and finally the reconstructed pronunciation for the Classical period (before about 350 BCE).

The Erasmian pronunciation used in many schools to teach Biblical Greek and sometimes even Classical Greek is not given on this page. It is omitted because it does not accurately reflect the actual pronunciation of the language at any point in its history. While it can be valuable for learning to spell many ancient Greek words, it has no real value in leaning how Ancient Greek was actually pronounced.

The reconstructed pronunciation for the Hellenistic period—the time of the New Testament and early Christianity—was added in April of 2013 with audio clips. The audio requires that your browser have a Quicktime plugin. If you do not have one, click on any sound icon and you should be prompted to download the most recent version.

To hear online examples of both Classical and Modern Greek pronunciation, see the discussion at the end of the alphabet below. If you are learning Ancient Greek in a classroom setting, imitate your instructor's pronunciation.

Alpha

Α α

αλφα Alpha

  • Modern

    a as in "father"

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    a as in "father"

  • Classical

    a as in "father"

Beta

Β β

Beta

  • Modern

    v as in "vote"

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    v as in "vote" (but more like Spanish b/v in vaca and bote)

  • Classical

    b as in "boat"

Gamma

Γ γ

Gamma

  • Modern

    g as in "get",
    but y as in "yet" before iota and epsilon.
    n as in "sing" before gamma, kappa, xi, and chi.

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    g as in "get" (but fricative)
    y as in "yet" before iota and epsilon.
    n as in "sing" before gamma, kappa, xi, and chi.

  • Classical

    g as in "get", but before gamma, kappa, xi, and chi, n as in "sing"

Delta

Δ δ

Delta

  • Modern

    th as in then (but not thin. Contrast theta (θ) below.

  • Hellenistic

    th as in then (but not thin. Contrast theta (θ) below.

  • Classical

    d as in dog

Epsilon

Ε ε

E-psilon

  • Modern

    e as in set

  • Hellenistic

    e as in set

  • Classical

    e as in set

Zeta

Ζ ζ

Zeta

  • Modern

    z as in zoo

  • Hellenistic

    z as in zoo

  • Classical

    sd as in wisdom
    Notice that the s is voiced like the z in zoo.

Eta

Η η

Eta

  • Modern

    ee /i/ as in meet

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    /e/ like the first part of the a in late

  • Classical

    e as in set, but held longer

Theta

Θ θ

Theta

  • Modern

    th as in thin, but not in then. Contrast delta (δ) above.

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    th as in thin, but not in then. Contrast delta (δ) above.

  • Classical

    aspirated t as in top, but not as in stop

Iota

Ι ι

Iota

  • Modern

    ee (/i/) as in meet, or y as in yet

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    ee (/i/) as in meet, or y as in yet

  • Classical

    short iota as i in it; long iota ee (/i/) as in meet

Kappa

Κ κ

Kappa

  • Modern

    ck as in sack

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    ck as in sack

  • Classical

    unaspirated ck as in nickle,
    but not aspirated k as in kite.

Lambda

Λ λ

Lambda

  • Modern

    l as in light

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    l as in light

  • Classical

    l as in light

Mu

Μ μ

Mu

  • Modern

    m as in mouse

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    m as in mouse

  • Classical

    m as in mouse

Nu

Ν ν

Nu

  • Modern

    n as in nose

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    n as in nose

  • Classical

    n as in nose

Xi

Ξ ξ

Xi

  • Modern

    ks as in kicks
    x as in ax

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    ks as in kicks
    x as in ax

  • Classical

    ks as in kicks
    x as in ax

Omicron

Ο ο

O-micron

  • Modern

    o as in tote or boat

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    o as in tote or boat

  • Classical

    o as in tote or boat

Pi

Π π

Pi

  • Modern

    p as in pan or sap

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    p as in pan or sap

  • Classical

    unaspirated p as in sap, not aspirated p as in pan

Rho

Ρ ρ

Rho

  • Modern

    /r/ more like the Spanish trilled r than the English r

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    a trilled /r/ like Spanish r, not like English r

  • Classical

    a trilled /r/ like Spanish r, not like English r

Sigma

Σ σ (ς)

Sigma

  • Modern

    s as in sister

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    s as in sister

  • Classical

    s as in sister, but z as in zoo before beta (β), gamma (γ), delta (δ), and mu (μ)

Tau

Τ τ

Tau

  • Modern

    unaspirated t
    as in stop, but not like the t in top

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    unaspirated t
    as in stop, but not like the t in top

  • Classical

    unaspirated t
    as in stop, but not like the t in top

Upsilon

Υ υ

U-psilon

  • Modern

    similar to German ü

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    similar to German ü

  • Classical

    short upsilon like the u in French tu; long upsilon has the same sound, but held twice as long

Phi

Φ φ

Phi

  • Modern

    /f/ as in fan or phone

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    /f/ as in fan or phone

  • Classical

    aspirated p
    as in pot,
    but not unaspirated p as in spot

Chi

Χ χ

Chi

  • Modern

    Not found in English, like Spanish j

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    Not found in English, like Spanish j

  • Classical

    aspirated k
    as in kit,
    but not unaspirated as in skit

Psi

Ψ ψ

Psi

  • Modern

    ps as in lips

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    ps as in lips

  • Classical

    ps as in lips

Omega

Ω ω

O-mega

  • Modern

    o as in tote or boat

  • Hellenistic Koiné

    o as in tote or boat

  • Classical

    Like the vowel sound in caught, but not like the o in cot
    If you prounounce the vowel in caught like the o in cot, click here.

More on Pronunciation

To hear examples of Classical Greek texts read with the reconstructed pronunciation system, visit the Classical Greek Pronunciation page of the Commission for Ancient Literature and Latin Tradition.

For a great demonstration of the pronunciation of Modern Greek, see Harry Foundalis' discussion of the Greek Alphabet. He confuses the Erasimian pronunciation with the reconstructed pronunciation of Classical Greek, but his audio demonstrations of Modern Greek pronunciation are extremely valuable.

John Simon, at greeklatinaudio.com has produced audio recordings of the entire New Testament using Modern Greek pronunciation.. Those audio files are now housed at a site belonging to Greg Helding and Wisconsin Internet, Inc.

Carl Conrad has provided a fine discussion of the history of Ancient Greek pronunciation by, tracing its development from Indo-european. (Clicking the link will download a PDF file.)

Books on the Greek Alphabet

Roger D. Woodard's book, Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer, is a wonderful combination of Classical Studies and excellent understanding of Linguistics. He argues for an unbroken history leading from the Linear B syllabary to the Greek Alphabet. The argument is well documented and lucid.

In Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet, Barry Powell has written a provocative book asserting that the Greek alphabet was designed intentionally for recording the works of Homer. While Powell shows a thorough knowledge of the available evidence, his proposal still rests on assumptions that cannot be fully tested.

Other Websites that Display the Greek Alphabet

There are many other sites on the internet that show the Greek alphabet. Here are two that provide particularly useful information: