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Greek Alphabet

Know Your Greek Alphabet!

Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω'

Name: Alpha
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [a], as in "father". Same as [a] in Spanish and Italian. Phonetically, this sound is: open, central, and unrounded.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Beta
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [v], as in "vet"; a voiced labiodental fricative.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [b], as in "bet"; a voiced bilabial plosive. Evidence.

Name: Gamma
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [gh], a sound that does not exist in English. If followed by the sound [u] then it sounds almost like the initial sound in "woman", but with the back of the tongue touching more to the back (soft) palate. To pronounce [gha], try to isolate "w" from "what" without rounding your lips, and then say [a]. In Castilian Spanish this sound exists in "amiga". Same is true for [gho]: try eliminating the [u] sound from "water". (C. Spanish: "amigo".) On the other hand, due to a phonetic phenomenon called palatalization, [ghe] sounds a bit like "ye" in "yes", and [ghi] sounds a bit like "yi" in "yield". Phonetically, gamma is a voiced velar fricative. (Its palatalized version is a voiced palatal fricative.)
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [g], as in "got"; a voiced velar plosive. Evidence

Name: Delta
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [th], as in "this"; a voiced dental fricative.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [d], as in "do"; a voiced alveolar plosive. Evidence

Name: Epsilon
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [e] as in "pet", except that the [e] in "pet" (and in most other English words) is lax, while in Greek it is tense.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Zeta
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [z], as in "zone", a voiced alveolar fricative. Actually, the remark for sigma(see below) applies to zeta as well (it is shifted a bit towards [Z], as in "pleasure").
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [zd], as in "Mazda". Also: [z], and even: [dz]. Evidence

Name: Eta
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [i], as in "meet", but shorter, not so long. This is one of the three [i] in the Greek alphabet; they all have identical pronunciation. The reason for this redundancy has to do with Classic Greek, where they were not redundant.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): long open mid-[e], as in "thread" (but long). Evidence

Name: Theta
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [th], as in "think"; a voiceless dental fricative. In Castilian Spanish: "zorro".
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [th], as in "top", but more aspirated. Evidence

Name: lota
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [i], exactly like eta (see above). The name of the letter is pronounced "yota" in Modern Greek. (the reason for the y-sound in front of the letter's name is due to phonetic transformation of [io] into [yo]).
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Kappa
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [k], as in "pack". Notice that in English [k] is aspirated if it is at the beginning of a word; Greek makes no such distinction. When followed by the vowel [e] it is pronounced nearly as in "kettle", while when followed by [i] it is pronouncednearly as in "kill". For the exact pronunciation in the last two cases, please check the page on palatalization. Phonetically, it is a voiceless velar plosive. (Its palatalized version is a voiceless palatal plosive.)
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Lambda
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [l] as in "lap". When followed by the vowed [i] it becomes palatalized, turning to a sound that does not exist in English (check the page on palatalization). The name of the letter is pronounced "lamtha" ([b] is eliminated because it is difficult to pronounce it between [m] and [th]). A voiced alveolar lateral approximant.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Mu
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [m], as in "map"; a voiced bilabial nasal. Notice that the name of the letter is pronounced "mi" (mee), not "mew" as in American English.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Nu
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [n], as in "noble"; a voiced alveolar nasal. When followed by the vowed [i] it becomes palatalized, turning to a sound that does not exist in English (but exists in Spanish; check the page on palatalization). Notice that the name of the letter is pronounced "ni" (nee), not "new" as in American English.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Ksi
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [ks] as in "fox". Contrary to the English "x", the letter ksi does not change pronunciation at the beginning of a word (it does not become a [z]; Greeks have no trouble starting a word with [k]+[s]). For example, in the wordksenophobia (ξενοφοβία = xenophobia) the initial [p] sound is not omitted. Do not put any aspiration between [k] and [s] when pronouncing this letter.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Omicron
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [o] as in "hop", except that the [o] in "hop" (and in most other English words) is lax, while in Greek it is tense. Same like [o] in "got" the way it is pronounced inBritish English. A mid-close back rounded vowel.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Pi
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [p], as in "top"; a voiceless bilabial plosive. Notice that in English [p] is aspirated if it is at the beginning of a word; Greek makes no such distinction.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Rho
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [rh], a sound that does not exist in English (but exists in Scottish). Sounds very much like the Italian, or Russian [r], or the Spanish [r] in "caro". (Spanish speakers: in Greek there is no difference in how long you trill your rho; better to make it like in "caro" than like in "carro".) Phonetically, it is a voiced alveolar trill.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): Probably as in Modern Greek. Word-initially: aspirated: [hr]

Name: Sigma
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [s], as is "soap"; a voiceless alveolar fricative. Actually, if you listen carefully to native Greek speakers, it sounds a bit between [s] and [sh] (probably because there is no [sh] in Greek, so the sound is somewhat shifted in the phonological space). However, it is much closer to [s], rather than [sh], and every Greek speaker would swear they pronounce it exactly like the English [s], unless forced to admit the difference by looking at spectrograms. This is the way "s" is pronounced in Castilian Spanish (as opposed to Latin American Spanish). Notice that the second way of writing the lower case sigma is used exclusively when the letter appears at the end of a word (there is only one capital form); this rule has no exceptions.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): Probably as in Modern Greek

Name: Tau
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [t], as in "pot"; a voiceless alveolar plosive. Notice that in English [t] is aspirated if it is at the beginning of a word; Greek makes no such distinction.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Upsilon
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [i], exactly like eta and iota (see above). The name of the letter is pronounced [ipsilon] (ee-psee-lon), not "yupsilon" as it is called in American English.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): Rounded [i], as in French "une". Evidence

Name: Phi
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [f] as in "fat"; a voiceless labiodental fricative.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [ph], as in "pit", but more aspirated. Evidence

Name: Chi
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [ch], a sound that does not exist in English (but exists in Scottish, as in "loch"; German: "Bach"; Spanish: "Jorge"). When followed by vowels [e] or [i] it is pronounced nearly as in German "ich". For the exact pronunciation in this case, please check the page on palatalization. Phonetically, it is a voiceless velar fricative. (Its palatalized version is a voiceless palatal fricative.)
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): [kh], as in "cut", but more aspirated. Evidence

Name: Psi
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [ps] as in "lopsided". Contrary to English, the sound of the letter does not change at the beginning of a word (it does not become a [s]; Greeks have no trouble starting a word with [p]+[s]). For example, in the word psychologia(ψυχολογία = psychology) the initial [p] sound is not omitted. Do not put any aspiration between [p] and [s] when pronouncing this letter.
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): As in Modern Greek

Name: Omega
Modern Greek Pronunciation: [o], exactly like omicron. (Once again, the reason for the redundancy is to be found in Classic Greek.)
Classic Greek Pronunciation (Attic): Long open mid-back [o], as in "law". Evidence