Greek Alphabet, Vowels, Consonants, And Dipthongs

Lesson 1: The Greek Alphabet, Vowels, Consonants, And Dipthongs

The Greek Alphabet

1. The Greek Alphabet has 24 letters. You will find a good pronunciation tutorial with recorded audio at, and recordings of longer Ancient Greek texts at

Form Phonetic Value Name
Α, α papa, father Alpha
Β, β bed Beta
Γ, γ go, sing Gamma
Δ, δ do Delta
Ε, ε met Epsilon
Ζ, ζ adze Zeta
Η, η prey Eta
Θ, θ thin Theta
Ι, ι pin, machine Iota
Κ, κ kill Kappa
Λ, λ land Lambda
Μ, μ men Mu
Ν, ν now Nu
Ξ, ξ wax Xi
Ο, ο obey Omicron
Π, π pet Pi
Ρ, ρ run Rho
Σ, σ, ς sit Sigma
Τ, τ tell Tau
Υ, υ French u, German ό Upsilon
Φ, φ graphic Phi
Χ, χ German buch Chi
Ψ, ψ hips Psi
Ω, ω tone Omega

2. At the end of a word ς, elsewherε σ, as σκηνης, of a tent.


3. The vowels are α, ε, η, ι, ο, ω, υ. The remaining letters are consonants.

4. Vowels are either short or long. There are separate Greek characters (ε, η, ο, ω) for the e and o sounds, but not for a, i, and u sounds. In this book the long vowels are designated by α macron– a straight line that appears above the vowel when it is long- , η, ῑ, ω, ῡ; the short vowels are α, ε, ι, ο υ.


5. The consonants are divided into semivowels, mutes and double consonants.

6. The semivowels are λ, μ, ν, ρ, σ, and γ-nasal (10). λ, μ, ν, ρ are liquids, σ is a siblant.

7. The mutes are of three classes, and of three orders.


Labial or π-mutes π, β, φ

Palatal or κ-mutes κ, γ, χ

Lingual or τ-mutes τ, δ, θ


Smooth mutes π, κ, τ

Middle mutes β, γ, δ

Rough mutes φ, χ, θ

8. Mutes of the same class are called cognate, those of the same order co-ordinate.

9. The double consonants are ξ (for κς), ψ (for πς), and ζ.

10. The consonants are pronounced, in general like their English equivalents; but gamma before κ, γ, χ, or ξ equals (sounds like) the ng in sing, and is called gamma nasal.


11. A dipthong is a combination of two vowel sounds in a single syllable. The Dipthongs are αι, αυ, ει, ευ, οι, ου, ηυ, υι, ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ. The last three, formed by writing ι under ᾱ, η, ω, are called improper diphthongs. Their second vowel is called iota subscript.

12. The diphthongs are pronounced:

αι as in aisle

αυ as ou in hour

ει as in eight

υι as in quit

οι as in oil

ου as in group

ευ as ĕh-oo *

ηυ as ĕh-oo *

* For these there is no exact equivalents in English.


13.Pronunciation Practice

Read each of the following words aloud

ἡ-μἐ-ρᾱ day.
σκη-νή tent.
ἄν-θρω-πος man.
βου-λεύ-ει he plans.
ὁ-πλί-της hoplite.
ἐν τῇ χώ-ρᾳ in the country.
υἱ-ὀς son.
λό-γοι speeches.
ᾤ-κη-σα I dwelt.
ὧ-δε thus.
θύ-ρᾱ door.
ἐν σκη-νῇ in a tent.
ἄ-γε-τε you lead.
ἅ-μα-ξα wagon.
ἁρ-πά-ζω I plunder.
φο-βε-ρός frightful.
αὐ-τός self, Lat. ipse.
ἐν λό-γῳ in a speech.
Ἑλ-λη-νι-κός Greek.
ἀ-γα-θός good.
θύ-ραι doors.
λύ-ου-σι they loose.
ἄγ-γε-λος messenger.
δῶ-ρον gift.
χώ-ρᾱ country.
ψέ-λι-ον bracelet.
λό-γος speech.
οἰ-κέ-ω I dwell.
Ἄρ-τε-μις Artemis.
οἴ-κοι at home.