TheInfoList

The Greek alphabet has been used to write the
Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the ...
since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes t ...

, and was the earliest known alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants. In
Archaic Archaic is a period of time preceding a designated classical period, or something from an older period of time that is also not found or used currently: *List of archaeological periods **Archaic Sumerian language, spoken between 31st - 26th centu ...
and early
Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
times, the Greek alphabet existed in many local variants, but, by the end of the fourth century BC, the
Euclidean alphabet vessel with double alphabet inscription, showing new letters ΥΧ , and ΥΧΦΨΩ , 450–425 BC The history of the Greek alphabet starts with the adoption of Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician letter forms and continues to the present day. Th ...
, with twenty-four letters, ordered from
alpha Alpha (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἄλφα, ''álpha'', modern pronunciation ''álfa'') is the first letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A s ...

to
omega Omega (; capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (o ...

, had become standard and it is this version that is still used for Greek writing today. :The uppercase and lowercase forms of the twenty-four letters are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /ς, , , , , , and . The Greek alphabet is the ancestor of the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

and
Cyrillic script The Cyrillic script ( ) is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia and is used as the national script in various Slavic languages, Slavic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, Mongolic, Uralic languages, Uralic, Caucas ...
s. Like Latin and Cyrillic, Greek originally had only a single form of each letter; it developed the
letter case Letter case is the distinction between the letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or ...
distinction between uppercase and lowercase in parallel with Latin during the
modern era Human history, or world history, is the narrative of humanity Humanity most commonly refers to: * Human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, ...
. Sound values and conventional transcriptions for some of the letters differ between
Ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0
"History"
from ...
and
Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the official standardized form of the l ...
usage because the pronunciation of Greek has changed significantly between the fifth century BC and today. Modern and Ancient Greek also use different
diacritics A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
. Apart from its use in writing the Greek language, in both its ancient and its modern forms, the Greek alphabet today also serves as a source of technical symbols and labels in many domains of mathematics, science, and other fields.

# Letters

## Sound values

In both Ancient and Modern Greek, the letters of the Greek alphabet have fairly stable and consistent symbol-to-sound mappings, making pronunciation of words largely predictable. Ancient Greek spelling was generally near-
phonemic In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any partic ...
. For a number of letters, sound values differ considerably between Ancient and Modern Greek, because their pronunciation has followed a set of systematic phonological shifts that affected the language in its post-classical stages. ;Examples ;Notes Among consonant letters, all letters that denoted voiced plosive consonants () and aspirated plosives () in Ancient Greek stand for corresponding fricative sounds in Modern Greek. The correspondences are as follows: Among the vowel symbols, Modern Greek sound values reflect the radical simplification of the vowel system of post-classical Greek, merging multiple formerly distinct vowel phonemes into a much smaller number. This leads to several groups of vowel letters denoting identical sounds today. Modern Greek orthography remains true to the historical spellings in most of these cases. As a consequence, the spellings of words in Modern Greek are often not predictable from the pronunciation alone, while the reverse mapping, from spelling to pronunciation, is usually regular and predictable. The following vowel letters and digraphs are involved in the mergers: Modern Greek speakers typically use the same, modern symbol–sound mappings in reading Greek of all historical stages. In other countries, students of Ancient Greek may use a variety of conventional approximations of the historical sound system in pronouncing Ancient Greek.

## Digraphs and letter combinations

Several letter combinations have special conventional sound values different from those of their single components. Among them are several
digraphs Digraph may refer to: * Digraph (orthography) A digraph or digram (from the el, δίς ', "double" and ', "to write") is a pair of characters used in the orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a m ...
of vowel letters that formerly represented
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
s but are now monophthongized. In addition to the four mentioned above (), there is also , and , pronounced . The Ancient Greek diphthongs , and are pronounced , and in Modern Greek. In some environments, they are devoiced to , and respectively. The Modern Greek consonant combinations and stand for and (or and ) respectively; stands for and stands for . In addition, both in Ancient and Modern Greek, the letter , before another
velar consonant Velars are consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the e ...
, stands for the
velar nasal The voiced velar nasal, also known as agma, from the Greek word for 'fragment', is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans ...

; thus and are pronounced like English . In analogy to and , is also used to stand for . There are also the combinations and .

## Diacritics

In the
polytonic orthography Greek orthographyThe orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean language, Mycenaean, was written in Linear ...
traditionally used for ancient Greek, the stressed vowel of each word carries one of three accent marks: either the
acute accent The acute accent, , is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembl ...

(), the
grave accent The grave accent ( ` ) ( or ) is a diacritical A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter (alphabet), letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from th ...

(), or the
circumflex accent The circumflex is a diacritic in the Latin script, Latin and Greek alphabet, Greek scripts that is used in the written forms of many languages and in various romanization and Transcription (linguistics), transcription schemes. It received its E ...

( or ). These signs were originally designed to mark different forms of the phonological
pitch accent A pitch-accent language is a language that has word accents in which one syllable in a word or morpheme is more prominent than the others, but the accentuated syllable is indicated by a contrasting pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency ...
in Ancient Greek. By the time their use became conventional and obligatory in Greek writing, in late antiquity, pitch accent was evolving into a single
stress accent In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
, and thus the three signs have not corresponded to a phonological distinction in actual speech ever since. In addition to the accent marks, every word-initial vowel must carry either of two so-called "breathing marks": the
rough breathing In the polytonic orthography Greek orthographyThe orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean language, My ...
(), marking an sound at the beginning of a word, or the
smooth breathing The smooth breathing ( grc, ψιλὸν πνεῦμα, psilòn pneûma; ell, ψιλή ''psilí''; la, spīritus lēnis) is a diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph adde ...
(), marking its absence. The letter rho (ρ), although not a vowel, also carries rough breathing in a word-initial position. If a rho was geminated within a word, the first always had the smooth breathing and the second the rough breathing (ῤῥ) leading to the transliteration rrh. The vowel letters carry an additional diacritic in certain words, the so-called
iota subscript The iota subscript is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A le ...
, which has the shape of a small vertical stroke or a miniature below the letter. This iota represents the former offglide of what were originally long diphthongs, (i.e. ), which became monophthongized during antiquity. Another diacritic used in Greek is the diaeresis (), indicating a
hiatus Hiatus may refer to: *Hiatus (linguistics), the lack of a consonant separating two vowels in separate syllables *Hiatus (television), a break of several weeks or more in television scheduling *Hiatus (anatomy), a natural fissure in a structure *Hi ...
. This system of diacritics was first developed by the scholar
Aristophanes of Byzantium __NOTOC__ Aristophanes of Byzantium Byzantium () or Byzantion ( grc-gre, Βυζάντιον) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divide ...
( 257 –  185/180 BC), who worked at the
Musaeum Image:ancientlibraryalex.jpg, The Ancient Library of Alexandria. The Musaeum or Mouseion at Alexandria ( grc, Μουσεῖον τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας), which included the famous Library of Alexandria, was an institution said to have be ...
in Alexandria during the third century BC. Aristophanes of Byzantium also was the first to divide poems into lines, rather than writing them like prose, and also introduced a series of signs for
textual criticism Textual criticism is a branch of textual scholarship, philology, and of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification of textual variants, or different versions, of either manuscripts or of printed books. Such texts may range in da ...
. In 1982, a new, simplified orthography, known as "monotonic", was adopted for official use in Modern Greek by the Greek state. It uses only a single accent mark, the acute (also known in this context as ''tonos'', i.e. simply "accent"), marking the stressed syllable of polysyllabic words, and occasionally the diaeresis to distinguish diphthongal from digraph readings in pairs of vowel letters, making this monotonic system very similar to the accent mark system used in
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

. The polytonic system is still conventionally used for writing Ancient Greek, while in some book printing and generally in the usage of conservative writers it can still also be found in use for Modern Greek. Although it is not a diacritic, the
comma The comma is a punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, wh ...

has a similar function as a
silent letter In an alphabetic writing system, a silent letter is a letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signif ...
in a handful of Greek words, principally distinguishing (''ó,ti'', "whatever") from (''óti'', "that").Nicolas, Nick.
Greek Unicode Issues: Punctuation
". 2005. Accessed 7 Oct 2014.

## Romanization

There are many different methods of rendering Greek text or Greek names in the Latin script. The form in which classical Greek names are conventionally rendered in English goes back to the way Greek loanwords were incorporated into Latin in antiquity. In this system, is replaced with , the diphthongs and are rendered as and (or ) respectively; and and are simplified to and respectively. Smooth breathing marks are usually ignored and rough breathing marks are usually rendered as the letter . In modern scholarly transliteration of Ancient Greek, will usually be rendered as , and the vowel combinations as respectively. The letters and are generally rendered as and ; as either or ; and word-initial as . Multiple different transcription conventions exist for Modern Greek. These differ widely, depending on their purpose, on how close they stay to the conventional letter correspondences of Ancient Greek-based transcription systems, and to what degree they attempt either an exact letter-by-letter
transliteration Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of h ...

or rather a phonetically-based transcription. Standardized formal transcription systems have been defined by the
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic discipline ...
(as
ISO 843 ISO 843 is a system for the and/or of into .
International Organization for Standardization It was rele ...
), by the
United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) is one of the nine expert groups of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and deals with the national and international standardization of geographical names. Ev ...
, by the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order ...
, and others.

# History

## Origins

During the
Mycenaean period Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features ...
, from around the sixteenth century to the twelfth century BC,
Linear B Linear B is a syllabic script In the linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The tradition ...
was used to write the earliest attested form of the Greek language, known as
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of lan ...
. This writing system, unrelated to the Greek alphabet, last appeared in the thirteenth century BC. In the late ninth century BC or early eighth century BC, the Greek alphabet emerged. The period between the use of the two writing systems, during which no Greek texts are attested, is known as the
Greek Dark Ages The Greek Dark Ages is the period of Greek history The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern nation-state of Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country locate ...
. The Greeks adopted the alphabet from the earlier
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes t ...

, one of the closely related scripts used for the
West Semitic languages The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of ancient Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hami ...
, calling it Φοινικήια γράμματα 'Phoenician letters'. However, the Phoenician alphabet is limited to consonants. When it was adopted for writing Greek, certain consonants were adapted to express vowels. The use of both vowels and consonants makes Greek the first
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

in the narrow sense, as distinguished from the
abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to th ...

s used in
Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication u ...

, which have letters only for consonants. Greek initially took over all of the 22 letters of Phoenician. Five were reassigned to denote vowel sounds: the glide consonants (''
yodh Yodh (also spelled jodh, yod, jod, or yud) is the tenth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signif ...
'') and ('' waw'') were used for (Ι, ''
iota Iota (uppercase: Ι, lowercase: ι; ) is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alpha ...

'') and (Υ, ''
upsilon Upsilon (; or ; uppercase Υ, lowercase υ; el, ''ýpsilon'' ) or ypsilon is the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is der ...
'') respectively; the consonant (''
aleph Aleph (or alef or alif, transliterated ʾ) is the first letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, sig ...

'') was used for (Α, ''
alpha Alpha (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἄλφα, ''álpha'', modern pronunciation ''álfa'') is the first letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A s ...

''); the pharyngeal ('''') was turned into (Ο, ''
omicron Omicron (; uppercase Ο, lowercase ο, ) is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. This letter is derived from the Phoenician letter ayin: . In classical Greek, omicron represented the sound in contrast to ''omega'' and ''ου'' . In modern Gr ...

''); and the letter for ('' he'') was turned into (Ε, ''
epsilon Epsilon (, ; uppercase Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minuscule'') in the written represe ...

''). A doublet of waw was also borrowed as a consonant for (Ϝ,
digamma Digamma, waw, or wau (uppercase: Ϝ, lowercase: ϝ, numeral: ϛ) is an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the ...
). In addition, the Phoenician letter for the emphatic glottal (''
heth Heth, sometimes written Chet, but more accurately Ḥet, is the eighth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that ...

'') was borrowed in two different functions by different dialects of Greek: as a letter for /h/ (Η,
heta Heta is a conventional name for the historical Greek alphabet letter Eta (Η) and several of its variants, when used in their original function of denoting the consonant . Overview The letter Η had been adopted by Greek from the Phoenician alpha ...

) by those dialects that had such a sound, and as an additional vowel letter for the long (Η,
eta Eta (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἦτα ''ē̂ta'' or ell, ήτα ''ita'' ) is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is ...

) by those dialects that lacked the consonant. Eventually, a seventh vowel letter for the long (Ω,
omega Omega (; capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (o ...

) was introduced. Greek also introduced three new consonant letters for its aspirated plosive sounds and consonant clusters: Φ (''
phi Phi (; uppercase Φ, lowercase φ or ϕ; grc, ϕεῖ ''pheî'' ; Modern Greek: ''fi'' ) is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In Archaic Greek, Archaic and Classical Greek (c. 9th century BC to 4th century BC), it represented an Aspir ...
'') for , Χ (''
chiThe initialism CHI may refer to: Health *Catholic Health Initiatives Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) is a national Catholic healthcare system, with headquarters in Englewood, Colorado. CHI is a nonprofit, faith-based health system formed, in 19 ...
'') for and Ψ ('' psi'') for . In western Greek variants, Χ was instead used for and Ψ for . The origin of these letters is a matter of some debate.
Three of the original Phoenician letters dropped out of use before the alphabet took its classical shape: the letter Ϻ ('' san''), which had been in competition with Σ (''
sigma Sigma (uppercase Letter case is the distinction between the Letter (alphabet), letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minuscule'') in the written represent ...

'') denoting the same phoneme /s/; the letter Ϙ (''
qoppa Koppa or qoppa (; as a modern numeral sign: ) is a letter that was used in early forms of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from th ...
''), which was redundant with Κ (''
kappa Kappa (uppercase Κ, lowercase κ or cursive Cursive (also known as script, among other names) is any style of penmanship in which some characters are written joined together in a flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writin ...

'') for /k/, and Ϝ (''
digamma Digamma, waw, or wau (uppercase: Ϝ, lowercase: ϝ, numeral: ϛ) is an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the ...
''), whose sound value /w/ dropped out of the spoken language before or during the classical period. Greek was originally written predominantly from right to left, just like Phoenician, but scribes could freely alternate between directions. For a time, a writing style with alternating right-to-left and left-to-right lines (called ''
boustrophedon Boustrophedon is a style of writing, mostly seen in ancient manuscript A manuscript (abbreviated MS for singular and MSS for plural) was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriter A typewriter i ...

'', literally "ox-turning", after the manner of an ox ploughing a field) was common, until in the classical period the left-to-right writing direction became the norm. Individual letter shapes were mirrored depending on the writing direction of the current line.

## Archaic variants

There were initially numerous local (epichoric) variants of the Greek alphabet, which differed in the use and non-use of the additional vowel and consonant symbols and several other features. Epichoric alphabets are commonly divided into four major types according to their different treatments of additional consonant letters for the aspirated consonants (/pʰ, kʰ/) and consonant clusters (/ks, ps/) of Greek. These four types are often conventionally labelled as "green", "red", "light blue" and "dark blue" types, based on a colour-coded map in a seminal 19th-century work on the topic, ''Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Alphabets'' by
Adolf Kirchhoff Johann Wilhelm Adolf Kirchhoff (6 January 1826 – 26 February 1908) was a German classical scholar and epigraphist. Biography The son of historical painter Johann Jakob Kirchhoff, he was born in Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, cap ...
(1867). The "green" (or southern) type is the most archaic and closest to the Phoenician. The "red" (or western) type is the one that was later transmitted to the West and became the ancestor of the
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

, and bears some crucial features characteristic of that later development. The "blue" (or eastern) type is the one from which the later standard Greek alphabet emerged.
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

used a local form of the "light blue" alphabet type until the end of the fifth century BC, which lacked the letters Ξ and Ψ as well as the vowel symbols Η and Ω. In the Old Attic alphabet, stood for and for . was used for all three sounds (correspondinɡ to classical respectively), and was used for all of (corresponding to classical respectively). The letter (heta) was used for the consonant . Some variant local letter forms were also characteristic of Athenian writing, some of which were shared with the neighboring (but otherwise "red") alphabet of
Euboia Euboea (, ) or Evia (, ; el, ; grc, ) is the second-largest in area and population, after . It is separated from in mainland by the narrow (only at its narrowest point). In general outline it is a long and narrow island; it is about l ...
: a form of that resembled a Latin ''L'' () and a form of that resembled a Latin ''S'' (). *Upsilon is also derived from waw (). The classical twenty-four-letter alphabet that is now used to represent the Greek language was originally the local alphabet of
Ionia Ionia (; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). Ancient ...
. By the late fifth century BC, it was commonly used by many Athenians. In 403 BC, at the suggestion of the
archon ''Archon'' ( gr, ἄρχων, árchōn, plural: ἄρχοντες, ''árchontes'') is a Greek word that means "ruler", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem αρχ-, meanin ...
Eucleides Eucleides ( grc-gre, Εὐκλείδης) was archon ''Archon'' ( gr, ἄρχων, árchōn, plural: ἄρχοντες, ''árchontes'') is a Greek word that means "ruler", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculi ...
, the Athenian Assembly formally abandoned the Old Attic alphabet and adopted the Ionian alphabet as part of the democratic reforms after the overthrow of the
Thirty Tyrants The Thirty Tyrants ( grc, οἱ τριάκοντα τύραννοι, ''hoi triákonta týrannoi'') were a pro-Spartan oligarchy installed in Classical Athens, Athens after its defeat in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BCE. Upon Lysander's request, the ...
. Because of Eucleides's role in suggesting the idea to adopt the Ionian alphabet, the standard twenty-four-letter Greek alphabet is sometimes known as the "Eucleidean alphabet". Roughly thirty years later, the Eucleidean alphabet was adopted in Boeotia and it may have been adopted a few years previously in
Macedonia Macedonia most commonly refers to: * North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in ...
. By the end of the fourth century BC, it had displaced local alphabets across the Greek-speaking world to become the standard form of the Greek alphabet.

## Letter names

When the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, they took over not only the letter shapes and sound values but also the names by which the sequence of the alphabet could be recited and memorized. In Phoenician, each letter name was a word that began with the sound represented by that letter; thus '''', the word for "ox", was used as the name for the glottal stop , ''
bet Black Entertainment Television (BET) is an American cable television Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent ...
'', or "house", for the sound, and so on. When the letters were adopted by the Greeks, most of the Phoenician names were maintained or modified slightly to fit Greek phonology; thus, ''ʾaleph, bet, gimel'' became ''alpha, beta, gamma''. The Greek names of the following letters are more or less straightforward continuations of their Phoenician antecedents. Between Ancient and Modern Greek, they have remained largely unchanged, except that their pronunciation has followed regular sound changes along with other words (for instance, in the name of ''beta'', ancient /b/ regularly changed to modern /v/, and ancient /ɛː/ to modern /i/, resulting in the modern pronunciation ''vita''). The name of lambda is attested in early sources as besides ; in Modern Greek the spelling is often , reflecting pronunciation. Similarly, iota is sometimes spelled in Modern Greek ( is conventionally transcribed word-initially and
intervocalic In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pr ...
ally before
back vowel A back vowel is any in a class of vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, ...
s and ). In the tables below, the Greek names of all letters are given in their traditional polytonic spelling; in modern practice, like with all other words, they are usually spelled in the simplified monotonic system. In the cases of the three historical sibilant letters below, the correspondence between Phoenician and Ancient Greek is less clear, with apparent mismatches both in letter names and sound values. The early history of these letters (and the fourth sibilant letter, obsolete san) has been a matter of some debate. Here too, the changes in the pronunciation of the letter names between Ancient and Modern Greek are regular. In the following group of consonant letters, the older forms of the names in Ancient Greek were spelled with , indicating an original pronunciation with ''-ē''. In Modern Greek these names are spelled with . The following group of vowel letters were originally called simply by their sound values as long vowels: ē, ō, ū, and . Their modern names contain adjectival qualifiers that were added during the Byzantine period, to distinguish between letters that had become confusable. Thus, the letters and , pronounced identically by this time, were called ''o mikron'' ("small o") and ''o mega'' ("big o") respectively. The letter was called ''e psilon'' ("plain e") to distinguish it from the identically pronounced digraph , while, similarly, , which at this time was pronounced , was called ''y psilon'' ("plain y") to distinguish it from the identically pronounced digraph . Some dialects of the Aegean and Cypriot have retained long consonants and pronounce and ; also, has come to be pronounced in Cypriot.

## Letter shapes

Like Latin and other alphabetic scripts, Greek originally had only a single form of each letter, without a distinction between uppercase and lowercase. This distinction is an innovation of the modern era, drawing on different lines of development of the letter shapes in earlier handwriting. The oldest forms of the letters in antiquity are majuscule forms. Besides the upright, straight inscriptional forms (capitals) found in stone carvings or incised pottery, more fluent writing styles adapted for handwriting on soft materials were also developed during antiquity. Such handwriting has been preserved especially from papyrus manuscripts in Egypt since the Hellenistic period. Ancient handwriting developed two distinct styles: uncial writing, with carefully drawn, rounded block letters of about equal size, used as a book hand for carefully produced literary and religious manuscripts, and Greek cursive, cursive writing, used for everyday purposes. The cursive forms approached the style of lowercase letter forms, with Ascender (typography), ascenders and descenders, as well as many connecting lines and ligatures between letters. In the ninth and tenth century, uncial book hands were replaced with a new, more compact writing style, with letter forms partly adapted from the earlier cursive. This Greek minuscule, minuscule style remained the dominant form of handwritten Greek into the modern era. During the Renaissance, western printers adopted the minuscule letter forms as lowercase printed typefaces, while modeling uppercase letters on the ancient inscriptional forms. The orthographic practice of using the letter case distinction for marking proper names, titles, etc. developed in parallel to the practice in Latin and other western languages.

# Derived alphabets

The Greek alphabet was the model for various others: * The Etruscan alphabet; * The
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived ...

, together with various other Old Italic script, ancient scripts in Italy, adopted from an archaic form of the Greek alphabet brought to Italy by Greek colonists in the late 8th century BC, via Etruscan language, Etruscan; * The Gothic alphabet, devised in the 4th century AD to write the Gothic language, based on a combination of Greek and Latin uncial models; * The Glagolitic alphabet, devised in the 9th century AD for writing Old Church Slavonic; * The
Cyrillic script The Cyrillic script ( ) is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia and is used as the national script in various Slavic languages, Slavic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, Mongolic, Uralic languages, Uralic, Caucas ...
, which replaced the Glagolitic alphabet shortly afterwards. * The Coptic Alphabet used for writing the Coptic language. The Armenian alphabet, Armenian and Georgian alphabet, Georgian alphabets are almost certainly modeled on the Greek alphabet, but their graphic forms are quite different.

# Other uses

## Use for other languages

Apart from the daughter alphabets listed above, which were adapted from Greek but developed into separate writing systems, the Greek alphabet has also been adopted at various times and in various places to write other languages. For some of them, additional letters were introduced.

### Antiquity

* Most of the Iron Age alphabets of Asia Minor were also adopted around the same time, as the early Greek alphabet was adopted from the Phoenician Alphabet. The Lydian and Carian alphabets are generally believed to derive from the Greek alphabet, although it is not clear which variant is the direct ancestor. While some of these alphabets such as Phrygian language, Phrygian had slight differences from the Greek counterpart, some like Carian alphabet had mostly different values and several other characters inherited from pre-Greek local scripts. They were in use c. 800–300 BC until all the Anatolian languages were extinct due to Hellenization. * The original Old Italic script, Old Italic alphabets was the early Greek alphabet with only slight modifications. * It was used in some Paleo-Balkan languages, including Thracian language, Thracian. For other neighboring languages or dialects, such as Ancient Macedonian language, Ancient Macedonian, isolated words are preserved in Greek texts, but no continuous texts are preserved. * The Greco-Iberian alphabet was used for writing the ancient Iberian language in parts of modern Spain. * Gaulish language, Gaulish inscriptions (in modern France) used the Greek alphabet until the Roman conquest * The Hebrew language, Hebrew and Aramaic language, Aramaic text of the Bible was written in Greek letters in Origen's Hexapla. * The Bactrian language, an Iranian languages, Iranian language spoken in what is now Afghanistan, was written in the Greek alphabet during the Kushan Empire (65–250 AD). It adds an extra letter for the ''sh'' sound . * The Coptic alphabet adds eight letters derived from Demotic (Egyptian), Demotic. It is still used today, mostly in Egypt, to write Coptic language, Coptic, the liturgical language of Egyptian Christians. Letters usually retain an Uncial script, uncial form different from the forms used for Greek today. The alphabet of Old Nubian is an adaptation of Coptic.

### Middle Ages

* An 8th-century Arabic language, Arabic fragment preserves a text in the Greek alphabet, as does a 9th or 10th century psalm translation fragment. * An Ossetic language, Old Ossetic inscription of the 10th–12th centuries found in Arxyz, the oldest known attestation of an Ossetic language. * The Old Nubian language of Makuria (modern Sudan) adds three Coptic letters, two letters derived from Meroitic script, and a digraph of two Greek gammas used for the
velar nasal The voiced velar nasal, also known as agma, from the Greek word for 'fragment', is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans ...

sound. * Various South Slavic languages, South Slavic dialects, similar to the modern Bulgarian language, Bulgarian and Macedonian languages, have been written in Greek script. The modern South Slavic languages now use modified Cyrillic alphabets.

### Early modern

* Turkish language, Turkish spoken by Eastern Orthodox Church, Orthodox Christians (''Karamanlides'') was often written in Greek script, and called ''Karamanli Turkish, Karamanlidika''. * Tosk language, Tosk Albanian language, Albanian was often written using the Greek alphabet, starting in about 1500. The printing press at Moschopolis published several Albanian texts in Greek script during the 18th century. It was only in 1908 that the Bitola, Monastir conference standardized a Albanian alphabet, Latin orthography for both Tosk and Gheg language, Gheg. Greek spelling is still occasionally used for the local Albanian dialects (Arvanitika) in Greece. * Gagauz language, Gagauz, a Turkic language of the northeast Balkans spoken by Orthodox Christians, was apparently written in Greek characters in the late 19th century. In 1957, it was standardized on Cyrillic, and in 1996, a Gagauz alphabet based on Latin characters was adopted (derived from the Turkish alphabet). * Surguch, a Turkic language, was spoken by a small group of Eastern Orthodox Church, Orthodox Christians in northern Greece. It is now written in Latin or Cyrillic characters. * Urum language, Urum or Greek Tatar, spoken by Orthodox Christians, used the Greek alphabet. * Judaeo-Spanish language, Judaeo-Spanish or Ladino, a Jewish dialect of Spanish, has occasionally been published in Greek characters in Greece.

## In mathematics and science

Greek symbols are used as symbols in mathematics, physics and other sciences. Many symbols have traditional uses, such as lower case epsilon (ε) for Limit (mathematics), an arbitrarily small positive number, lower case pi (π) for the Pi, ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, capital sigma (Σ) for summation, and lower case sigma (σ) for standard deviation. Formerly, the Greek letters were used for Tropical cyclone naming#North Atlantic Ocean, naming North Atlantic hurricanes if the normal list ran out. This happened only in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, 2005 and 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, 2020 hurricane seasons for a total of 15 storms, the last one being Hurricane Iota. In May 2021 the World Health Organization, World Health Organisations announced that the variants of SARS-CoV-2 of the virus would be named using letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid stigma and simplify communications for non-scientific audiences.

## Astronomy

Greek letters are used to denote the brighter stars within each of the eighty-eight constellations. In most constellations, the brightest star is designated Alpha and the next brightest Beta etc. For example, the brightest star in the constellation of Centaurus is known as Alpha Centauri. For historical reasons, the Greek designations of some constellations begin with a lower ranked letter.

## International Phonetic Alphabet

Several Greek letters are used as phonetic symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Several of them denote fricative consonants; the rest stand for variants of vowel sounds. The glyph shapes used for these letters in specialized phonetic fonts is sometimes slightly different from the conventional shapes in Greek typography proper, with glyphs typically being more upright and using serifs, to make them conform more with the typographical character of other, Latin-based letters in the phonetic alphabet. Nevertheless, in the Unicode encoding standard, the following three phonetic symbols are considered the same characters as the corresponding Greek letters proper:For chi and beta, separate codepoints for use in a Latin-script environment were added in Unicode versions 7.0 (2014) and 8.0 (2015) respectively: U+AB53 "Latin small letter chi" (ꭓ) and U+A7B5 "Latin small letter beta" (ꞵ). As of 2017, the International Phonetic Association still lists the original Greek codepoints as the standard representations of the IPA symbols in questio

On the other hand, the following phonetic letters have Unicode representations separate from their Greek alphabetic use, either because their conventional typographic shape is too different from the original, or because they also have secondary uses as regular alphabetic characters in some Latin-based alphabets, including separate Latin uppercase letters distinct from the Greek ones. The symbol in Americanist phonetic notation for the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is the Greek letter lambda , but in the IPA. The IPA symbol for the palatal lateral approximant is , which looks similar to lambda, but is actually an inverted lowercase ''y''.

## Use as numerals

Greek letters were also used to write numbers. In the classical Ionian system, the first nine letters of the alphabet stood for the numbers from 1 to 9, the next nine letters stood for the multiples of 10, from 10 to 90, and the next nine letters stood for the multiples of 100, from 100 to 900. For this purpose, in addition to the 24 letters which by that time made up the standard alphabet, three otherwise obsolete letters were retained or revived:
digamma Digamma, waw, or wau (uppercase: Ϝ, lowercase: ϝ, numeral: ϛ) is an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the ...
for 6, koppa (letter), koppa for 90, and a rare Ionian letter for [ss], today called sampi , for 900. This system has remained in use in Greek up to the present day, although today it is only employed for limited purposes such as enumerating chapters in a book, similar to the way Roman numerals are used in English. The three extra symbols are today written as , and respectively. To mark a letter as a numeral sign, a small stroke called ''Greek numerals#keraia, keraia'' is added to the right of it.

## Use by student fraternities and sororities

In North America, many college Fraternities and sororities in North America, fraternities and sororities are named with combinations of Greek letters, and are hence also known as "Greek letter organizations". This naming tradition was initiated by the foundation of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the College of William and Mary in 1776. The name of this fraternal organization is an acronym for the ancient Greek phrase Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης (''Philosophia Biou Kybernētēs''), which means "Love of wisdom, the guide of life" and serves as the organization's motto. Sometimes early fraternal organizations were known by their Greek letter names because the mottos that these names stood for were secret and revealed only to members of the fraternity. The Greek letter names of most fraternal organizations today are meaningless and do not stand for anything, which Caroline Winterer states is "understandable, considering that general knowledge of the ancient Greek alphabet and language has almost entirely vanished." Different chapters within the same fraternity are almost always (with a handful of exceptions) designated using Greek letters as serial numbers. The founding chapter of each respective organization is its A chapter. As an organization expands, it establishes a B chapter, a Γ chapter, and so on and so forth. In an organization that expands to more than 24 chapters, the chapter after Ω chapter is AA chapter, followed by AB chapter, etc. Each of these is still a "chapter Letter", albeit a double-digit letter just as 10 through 99 are double-digit numbers. The Latin alphabet, Roman alphabet has a similar extended form with such double-digit letters when necessary, but it is used for columns in a table or chart rather than chapters of an organization.

# Glyph variants

Some letters can occur in variant shapes, mostly inherited from medieval History of the Greek alphabet#Later developments, minuscule handwriting. While their use in normal typography of Greek is purely a matter of font styles, some such variants have been given separate encodings in Unicode. * The symbol ("curled beta") is a cursive variant form of Beta (letter), beta (β). In the French tradition of Ancient Greek typography, β is used word-initially, and is used word-internally. * The letter delta (letter), delta has a form resembling a cursive capital letter D; while not encoded as its own form, this form is included as part of the symbol for the Greek drachma, drachma (a Δρ digraph) in the Currency Symbols (Unicode block), Currency Symbols block, at U+20AF (₯). * The letter
epsilon Epsilon (, ; uppercase Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minuscule'') in the written represe ...

can occur in two equally frequent stylistic variants, either shaped $\epsilon\,\!$ ('lunate epsilon', like a semicircle with a stroke) or $\varepsilon\,\!$ (similar to a reversed number 3). The symbol ϵ (U+03F5) is designated specifically for the lunate form, used as a technical symbol. * The symbol ("script theta") is a cursive form of theta (θ), frequent in handwriting, and used with a specialized meaning as a technical symbol. * The symbol ("kappa symbol") is a cursive form of
kappa Kappa (uppercase Κ, lowercase κ or cursive Cursive (also known as script, among other names) is any style of penmanship in which some characters are written joined together in a flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writin ...

(κ), used as a technical symbol. * The symbol ("variant pi") is an archaic script form of pi (π), also used as a technical symbol. * The letter rho (letter), rho (ρ) can occur in different stylistic variants, with the descending tail either going straight down or curled to the right. The symbol (U+03F1) is designated specifically for the curled form, used as a technical symbol. * The letter
sigma Sigma (uppercase Letter case is the distinction between the Letter (alphabet), letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minuscule'') in the written represent ...

, in standard orthography, has two variants: ς, used only at the ends of words, and σ, used elsewhere. The form ("lunate sigma", resembling a Latin ''c'') is a medieval stylistic variant that can be used in both environments without the final/non-final distinction. * The capital letter
upsilon Upsilon (; or ; uppercase Υ, lowercase υ; el, ''ýpsilon'' ) or ypsilon is the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is der ...
(Υ) can occur in different stylistic variants, with the upper strokes either straight like a Latin ''Y'', or slightly curled. The symbol ϒ (U+03D2) is designated specifically for the curled form ($\Upsilon$), used as a technical symbol, e.g. in physics. * The letter
phi Phi (; uppercase Φ, lowercase φ or ϕ; grc, ϕεῖ ''pheî'' ; Modern Greek: ''fi'' ) is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In Archaic Greek, Archaic and Classical Greek (c. 9th century BC to 4th century BC), it represented an Aspir ...
can occur in two equally frequent stylistic variants, either shaped as $\textstyle\phi\,\!$ (a circle with a vertical stroke through it) or as $\textstyle\varphi\,\!$ (a curled shape open at the top). The symbol (U+03D5) is designated specifically for the closed form, used as a technical symbol. * The letter
omega Omega (; capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (o ...

has at least three stylistic variants of its capital form. The standard is the "open omega" (Ω), resembling an open partial circle with the opening downward and the ends curled outward. The two other stylistic variants are seen more often in modern typography, resembling a raised and underscored circle (roughly ), where the underscore may or may not be touching the circle on a tangent (in the former case it resembles a superscript omicron similar to that found in the numero sign or masculine ordinal indicator; in the latter, it closely resembles some forms of the Latin letter Q). The open omega is always used in symbolic settings and is encoded in Letterlike Symbols (U+2126) as a separate code point for backward compatibility.

# Computer encodings

For computer usage, a variety of encodings have been used for Greek online, many of them documented in . The two principal ones still used today are ISO/IEC 8859-7 and Unicode. ISO 8859-7 supports only the monotonic orthography; Unicode supports both the monotonic and polytonic orthographies.

## ISO/IEC 8859-7

For the range A0–FF (hex), it follows the Unicode range 370–3CF (see below) except that some symbols, like ©, ½, § etc. are used where Unicode has unused locations. Like all ISO-8859 encodings, it is equal to ASCII for 00–7F (hex).

## Greek in Unicode

Unicode supports
polytonic orthography Greek orthographyThe orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean language, Mycenaean, was written in Linear ...
well enough for ordinary continuous text in modern and ancient Greek, and even many archaic forms for epigraphy. With the use of combining characters, Unicode also supports Greek philology and dialectology and various other specialized requirements. Most current text rendering engines do not render diacritics well, so, though alpha with Macron (diacritic), macron and acute accent, acute can be ''represented'' as U+03B1 U+0304 U+0301, this rarely renders well: . There are two main blocks of Greek characters in Unicode. The first is "Greek and Coptic" (U+0370 to U+03FF). This block is based on ISO 8859-7 and is sufficient to write Modern Greek. There are also some archaic letters and Greek-based technical symbols. This block also supports the Coptic alphabet. Formerly, most Coptic letters shared codepoints with similar-looking Greek letters; but in many scholarly works, both scripts occur, with quite different letter shapes, so as of Unicode 4.1, Coptic and Greek were disunified. Those Coptic letters with no Greek equivalents still remain in this block (U+03E2 to U+03EF). To write polytonic Greek, one may use combining diacritical marks or the precomposed characters in the "Greek Extended" block (U+1F00 to U+1FFF).

### Combining and letter-free diacritics

Combining diacritical mark, Combining and spacing (letter-free) diacritical marks pertaining to
Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the ...
:

## Encodings with a subset of the Greek alphabet

IBM code pages Code page 437, 437, Code page 860, 860, Code page 861, 861, Code page 862, 862, Code page 863, 863, and Code page 865, 865 contain the letters ΓΘΣΦΩαδεπστφ (plus β as an alternative interpretation for ß).

*Greek Font Society *Greek ligatures *Palamedes (mythology), Palamedes *Romanization of Greek

# Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * [Greek translation of ''Greek: a history of the language and its speakers'', London 1997] * * * * * * * – selections from the Gospels in Macedonian. * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Greek and Coptic
character list in Unicode
Unicode collation charts
including Greek and Coptic letters, sorted by shape
Examples of Greek handwriting
*

(Alan Wood)

a browser-based tool * Collection of free fonts

{{Authority control Greek alphabet, Greek letters,