The Greek Alphabet

Greece, Monemvasia, alley in old town
Wolfgang Weinhäupl / Getty Images

One of the best things about learning the Greek language is that words are pronounced the way they are written. There are no silent "e" type letters. If a letter is in the word, it is pronounced. And letters are always pronounced the same way, with the exception of a few diphthongs.

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters, some of them representing sounds that are not part of the English language. To create sounds not included in the alphabet, two letters are combined.

For example:

  • the hard d sound is made using "nt,"
  • the b sound is created by putting together "m" and "p,"
  • the j sound is created with a combination of "t" and "z," which doesn't quite match but comes close, and the same goes for the hard ch sound, which is written using "ts" - except in Crete where, in the local dialect, the letter k is often given the hard ch sound,
  • the hard g sound (as in "gutter") is made with "gk."

The Greek language does not have an sh or soft ch sound, and while they can be pronounced properly, they're written using the letter "s."

Note: This is not a formal language lesson, just a quick pronunciation guide.

The Greek Alphabet

Upper, lower
NamePronouncedWhen speaking,
sounds like
A, αalphaAHL-fahah
Β, βvitaVEE-tahthe letter v
Γ, γgammaGHAH-mahthe letter y when it comes before e, u, i; otherwise like a soft gargle gh
Δ, δtheltaTHEL-tahhard th as in "there"
Ε, εepsilonEHP-see-loneh
Ζ, ζzitaZEE-tahthe letter z
Η, ηitaEE-tahee
Θ, θthitaTHEE-tahsoft th as in "through"
Ι, ιiotaYO-tahee
Κ, κkappaKAH-pahthe letter k
Λ, λlamthaLAHM-thahthe letter l
Μ, μmumeethe letter m
Ν, νnuneethe letter n
Ξ, ξxeekseethe letter x
Ο, οomikronOH-mee-kronoh
Π, πpipeethe letter p
Ρ, ρroroh, roea rolled r
Σ, σ, ςsigmaSEEGH-mahthe letter s
Τ, τtautahfthe letter t
Υ, υupsilonEWP-see-lonee
Φ, φphifeethe letter f
Χ, χchiheea light gargly ch as in "challah"
Ψ, ψpsipseeps as in "chips"
Ω, ωomegaoh-MEH-ghahsomewhere between "awe" and "oh"

Common Diphthongs

ΑΥ, αυauav or af
ΕΥ, ευeuev or ef
ΟΥ, ουouoo
ΑΙ, αιaieh