The Alphabet

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters1. Luckily for us, almost all of these have an equivalent sound in English (and quite a few even look like their English versions!). This chart will show you the name of the lowercase/uppercase version of each letter, its name (in English) and an example of how to pronounce it.

Table 5.1 The Alphabet
Lower Upper English name Eng. Letter Pronunciation
α Α Alpha a Father
β Β Beta b Bat
γ Γ Gamma g Go
δ Δ Delta d Do
ε Ε Epsilon e Set
ζ Ζ Zeta z Haze2
η Η Eta ê Obey
θ Θ Theta th Thick
ι Ι Iota i Intrigue
κ Κ Kappa k Kind
λ Λ Lamda l Love
μ Μ Mu m Man
ν Ν Nu n Night
ξ Ξ Xi x Wax
ο Ο Omicron o Not
π Π Pi p Pack
ρ Ρ Rho r Road / Rhode
σ/ς Σ Sigma s Say
τ Τ Tau t Top
υ Υ Upsilon u / y Book
φ Φ Phi ph Phil
χ Χ Chi x Loch Ness3
ψ Ψ Psi ps Caps
ω Ω Omega ô Sold

  1. There were a few more before classical usage, but they dropped out by the time of the New Testament. We'll learn more about these later.
  2. or Adze
  3. With rough accent

A Brief History of Greek

Greek, like any other language, has a history of origins and transitions. The beginning of what we call Greek came around the 13th century BC. It then thrived in four distinct dialects, the most prominent of which (that is, Attic) came from Athens.

However, the conquests of Alexander the Great (around 330 BC) united the entire land under a single dialect, descended from Attic, that became known as Koine Greek (from the Greek word that means “common,” as you will soon learn). This version of Greek was simpler than the older version and functioned as the main language for the entire Greek empire.

Koine Greek, then, lasted until around 330 AD, at which point the language began to shift to a new form called Byzantine, from which the Greek spoken in our modern day has evolved.

While reading the rest of this chapter is unnecessary (and you may always come back later), you may certainly read on if this strikes a note of interest.