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Irene Droppert
Dutch - Modern Greek
Vlaardingen-The Netherlands

The script of the Modern Greek alphabet consists of twenty-four letters whereat a number of characters and punctuation marks are added. You could say that the New Greek has been evaluated from Ancient Greek, as many words are still written the same, except the accents, which were reduced to one single stress on a vowel of the syllable with the accent. In English many words from the Greek laguage have been derived, especially the many scientific terms.

Uppercase Lowercase English name pronunciation Greek name
Α α Alpha a as in father άλφα
Β ß Beta v as in vote βήτα
Γ γ Gamma g as in get [(before vowels α, ο, υ], y as in yet [before vowels ι, ε] γάμα
Δ δ Delta th as in then [but softer than in thin] δέλτα
Ε ε Epsilon e as in set έψιλον
Ζ ζ Zeta z as in zoo ζήτα
Η η Eta ee or i as in feet ήτα
Θ θ Theta th as in thin, [but not as soft as in then] θήτα
Ι ι Iota ee or i as in feet, or y as in yet γιώτα
Κ κ Kappa c as in "cab" [before vowels ι, ε], k as in key [before vowels α, ο, υ] κάπα
Λ λ Lambda l as in leg, [followed by i it turns to a sound that not exist in English] λάμδα
Μ µ Mu m as in map μι
Ν ν Nu n as in not, [followed by i it turns to a sound that not exist in English but it exists in Spanish as niña] νι
Ξ ξ Xi ksi as in wax ξι
Ο ο Omicron o as in box όμικρον
Π π Pi p as in top [close to b] πι
Ρ ρ Rho like a rolled r [a long trill] as in roller ρο
Σ σ, ς * Sigma like s and sh as between soap and shower, the ς is the s at word-ending σίγμα
Τ τ Tau t as in hot, but softer and close to d ταυ
Υ υ Upsilon ee or i as in feet ύψιλον
Φ φ Phi f and ph as in fan and phone φι
Χ χ Chi ch is a sound that does not exist in English, but the Scottish loch comes close or ich in German χι
Ψ ψ Psi ps as in lips and oops ψι
Ω ω Omega o is the same sound as the omikron in the word box, (also as in law)) ωμέγα

* The place of the lowercase letter «σ» and «ς» depends on the position within the word:

  • The «σ» at the beginning or in the middle of a word e.g. «το σώμα» - body
  • The «ς» at the end of a word e.g.«ο μαθητής» - pupil

* The uppercase is used at the beginning of a word. The following names are also written with a capital letter:

  • Names of individuals as: «Μαρία Αντωνίου»
  • Geographical names as: «Ελλάδα, Όλυμπος, Πηνειός»
  • Days and months: «Δευτέρα, Απρίλιος»
  • Celebrations and New Year's Day: «τα Χριστούγεννα, η Πρωτοχρονία»
Vowels and consonants

The "αλφαβήτα» has vowels and consonants. The seven vowels are α, ε, η, ι, ο, υ and ω . The sound of a vowel is short, i.e. there is no difference between long and short vowels. Together with the double vowels αι, ει, οι, ου and υι. It means that MG has only five different sounds.

Pronunciation of aforementioned double vowels:
αι ει οι ου υι
as e as i as i as u as i

The sound of the double vowels is also short, but is pronounced as a diphthong in some cases. E.g. the words: «το τσάι» (tsái) - tea, «το κομπολόι» (kombolói) - string of beads, «ο γάιδαρος» (gáidharos) - donkey, «η σαϊτα» (saita) - arrow and «το γαϊδούρι» (gaidoéri) - little donkey. A diaeresis is also used as an accent is not possible.

The consonants are β, γ, δ, ζ, θ, κ, λ, μ, ν, ξ, π, ρ, σ (ς), τ, φ, χ, ψ

Unlike in English almost everyone who knows how to read and pronounce the Greek letters, will be able to pronounce each written word in this language. In our language students have sometimes trouble pronouncing words which they have never heard.

Vowels with examples:
Vowels Pronunciation Examples
a as a in father το γάμμα gamma
ε as e in tent εγώ Ι
η * as ee in feet ο ήλιος sun
ι * as ee in feet ο ιστός mast
ο as o in only όλος all, whole
υ * as ee in feet ο ύπνος sleep
ω as o in only η ώρα hour
Common vowel clusters with examples:
Combinations Pronunciation Examples
αι as e in bet ο αίμα blood
αυ ** α as af in after το αυτί ear
b as av in avocado το αυγό egg
ευ ** α as ef in cleff εύκολο easy
b as ev in evolution η πλευρά side
ει * as ee in feet είμαι I am
οι * as ee in feet η οικογένεια family
ου as oo in food το λουλούδι flower
υι * as ee in feet ο υιός son

* As to be seen in the foregoing table, the i-sound is written on six different ways, e.g.:

  • «ι»: «το φιστίκι» - peanut
  • «η»: «η ζωή» - life
  • «υ»: «η θύρα» - gate
  • «ει»: «είκοσι» - twenty
  • «οι»: «μερικοί» - some
  • «υι»: «η υιοθεσία» - adoption

An i-sound without an accent, placed between a vowel and consonant is pronounced as a j such as in jam. E.g. words like: «τα παιδιά» - children sound as pedhjá, «τέτοιος» - so, such as tétjos and «δυο» - two as djo

The «ι» without accent following a vowel is pronounced as the word boy «το ρολόι» - watch

** The combinations «αυ» and «ευ» are pronounced as av and ev,
when placed before the following consonants β, γ, δ, ζ, λ, μ, ν, ρ and the vowels α en ε, e.g. «η αυλή» - yard, «αύριο» - tomorrow, «Παρασκευή» - Friday, «η πλευρά» side, «ευμενής» - favourable.
When placed in front of the following consonants κ, π, τ, χ, φ, θ, σ, ξ «αυ» and «ευ» are pronounced as af and ef e.g. «αυτός» - he, «εύκολος» - easy, «ευθεία» - direct

The many common combinations of consonants:
Combinations Pronunciation Examples
yy a like ng-y in the middle of a word as in fungus συγγνώμη I beg your pardon, sorry
b like ng-g in the middle of a word, slightly as mingy το φεγγάρι moon
γκ a like gk at the beginning of a word (as the French word garçon) γκρίζος gray
b like ng in the middle of a word, weaker than in angle η αγκαλιά embrace
c like k in the middle of a word, slightly weaker than in banker ο μπάγκος bench
γχ like ch as in the German word ich (I or me) ο έλεγχος control
μπ a like b at the beginning of a word as in blind μπροστά in front
b like mb in the middle of a word in ambience το κουμπί button
ντ a as d at the beginning of a word in dance η ντουλάπα cupboard
b as nd in the middle of a word as in handy κοντά close
c as d the middle of a word as in madam αντίο goodbye
τζ a as dz at the beginning of a word as in tzarina το τζάμι window pane
b as tz in the middle of a word, slightly such as switcher το γλειφιτζούρι lolly
c with «ν+τζ» * like n-dz in the middle of a word as in adjust το παντζάρι beetroot
τσ a as ts at the beginning of a word as in tsetse-fly η τσάντα bag
b as ts the middle of a word το παπούτσι shoe
c with «ν+τσ» *like n-ts the middle of a word το βίντσι winch

* These the three-letter combinations, «ντσ», and «ντζ», might be interpreted as «ντ+ζ» and «ντ+σ». This will cause the wrong sound since «ντ» is often pronounced as a sound situated between our d and nd. To clear out vagueness, note that the interpretation of «ν+τζ» and «ν+τσ» is correct. (so «ν» and «τ» separated)


N.B.

One single letter may also consists of two sounds as the «ξ» - «το ξύλο» - wood, is pronounced as ks and the «ψ» - «το ψάρι» - fish, is pronounced as ps.

The Greek sound system consists of twenty various segments (phonemes) of vowels and consonants
The vowel segments

The Greek vowel sound system is very symmetrical. It consists of five segments (phonemes) viz a, e, i, o, u. They are arranged as follow:

front back
high i u
mid e o
low a

The terms front, back, high, mid and low have to do with the position of the tongue during articulation in the mouth.

A front vowel [also closed vowel] is a type of vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far in front of the mouth as possible.

With the pronounciation of a back vowel, such as (u), the tongue is positioned towards the back of the mouth.

In high vowels, such as (i) and (u), the tongue is positioned high in the mouth in a vertical position

In a low vowel [also open vowel] the tongue is positioned low in the mouth.

The characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way and the sound is between a high vowel and a low vowel

The pronunciation of each consonant segment

The pronunciation of the consonants is very complicated. The sounds segments [phonemes] may correspond to more than one group of sounds. It all depends on the adjacent sounds, which can affect it in various ways.

These phonemes consist of fifteen consonants viz β, γ, δ, ζ, θ, κ, λ, μ, ν, π, ρ, σ, τ, φ, χ as follow:

phoneme sound examples
β as v το βουνό mountain
σοβαρός, -ή, -ό serious
το σύμβολο symbol
γ as γ
(soft g)
ο γάμος wedding
η αγάπη love
το αγόρι boy
as j ο γίγας giant
ο ρήγας king
ο γιατρός doctor
δ as d το δώρο present
το παιδί child
ενδιαφέρων, -ουσα, -ον interesting
ζ as z η ζωή life
η ζήλια jealousy
το κάζο misfortune
θ as th το θέμα subject
το μαθημα lesson
ξανθός, -ή (-ή -ιά), -ό blond
κ as k καθαρός, -ή, -ό clean
η κόρι daughter
ο σβέρκος neck
as g η γκρίνια nagging
ο αγκώνας elbow
ο μάγκας fellow
as k' ο κήπος garden
εκείνος, -η, -ο that
η οικία house
as g' ο γκιόνης night owl
η αγκίδα splinter
συγκινητικός, -ή, -ό movingly
λ as l το λιμάνι port
λίγος, -η, -ο little
το καλάθι basket
as l' η λύπη sorrow
καλά good
το κουλάδι animal foot
μ as m ο μήνας month
το χρώμα color
μαβής, -ιά, -ί darkblue
as ɱ η συμφωνια agreement
ο άμβωνας pulpit
η βόμβα bomb
ν as n ο ναυτικός sailor
νοερός, -ή, -ό spiritual
ένα one
as ɲ η νύχτα night
το σινιάλο signal
η άνοιξη spring time
as ŋ ο αγκώνας elbow
αγχώδης, -ης, -ες stressful
εγχώριος, -α, -ο native
π as p το ποδήλατο bicycle
κάποτε sometimes
ο κόπος trouble
as b το μπιζέλι pea
η λάμπα lamp
η καμπάνα bell
ρ as r το ροδάκινο peach
το ψπάρι fish
φρέσκος, -η (-ή -ια), -ο fresh
σ as s το σοκάκι lane, way
η μάσκα mask
ο μουσακάς moussaka
τ as t τέλειος, -α, -ο perfect, complete
το μοτοσακό motorcycle
το ποτό drink
as d η ντομάτα tomato
πέντε five
η ένταση tension
φ as f ο φιλός friend
ο ξιφίας swordfish
το συμφέρον interest
χ as ch ο χαβάς melody
το ρούχο garment
αχανής, -ής, -ές boundless
as ch' το χιόνι snow
η χρεία need
βρόχινος, -η, -ο rainy
N.B.

The k sound is the explosive consonant k but followed by the vowel «ε» or one of the i-sounds it turns to the k' sound followed by a combination of an unstressed «ι» plus a vowel with an accent, such as in «κιόλας» - already (the pronounciation is kjolas). When followed by of the «ι» in the middle of a word as in «τα φύκια» - seaweeds the «κ» is pronounced as a c (softer than k). The same applies to the «κ» in the word «το κήπος» - garden [the pronounciation of the «κ» here is more or less as cj].

The g' sound is the counterpart of k'. It is also a nasal sound followed by an unstressed «ι» vowel e.g. «το αγκινάρα» - artichoke, combined with the gamma - «γ».

The ľ sound is pronounced as between the consonant l and the vowel that follows [one of the i-sounds]. This sound is pronounced by making use of the palate and by means of the air that escapes from the side of the tongue. Some examples of this are «καλή» - good, «λίγο» - little and «πολύ» - much. The pronounciation of the ľ sound, varies among regions in Greece; people from the Peloponnesus, for instance, palatize them more than the Athenians.

The ɱ sound is a nasal sound, pronounced between lips and teeth, called m with hook οr labiodental nasal. Examples of the sound I found in the English words comfort or circumvent and in greek in «το έμβρυο» - embryo pronounced as emvrio

The ɲ sound is a nasal sound produced by means of the palate. The ign or digne (in French) is pronounced like the Spanish ñ in El Niño.

The ŋ sound is a nasal sound, produced by using the back of the tongue touching the soft palate.This sound symbol, the ingma, is used when the letter «γ» (gamma) precedes the letters «χ» (chi) and «ξ» (ksi) as in the words king and lynx. When the cluster «γγ» is used in the middle of a word the pronounciation is as in fungus.

The χ' sound is a rubbing sound, produced by touching the soft (front) palate with the back of the tongue, not as in the Scottish word loch but as in the German word ich.


The Greek phonology is an extremely complicated system. It is impossible to describe all the variants of the Greek sound system in proper wording here. The above is only a fraction of the totality, with a few examples for clarification.