Pronouncing the Greek Alphabet

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

Whether you are traveling to Greece, enjoy eating in a local Greek restaurant, or just a curious person, it can be educational and helpful to know some Greek. 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." The exception to this rule is 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 a 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
Name Pronounced When speaking,
sounds like
A, α alpha AHL-fah ah
Β, β vita VEE-tah the letter v
Γ, γ gamma GHAH-mah the letter y when it comes before e, u, i; otherwise like a soft gargle gh
Δ, δ thelta THEL-tah hard th as in "there"
Ε, ε epsilon EHP-see-lon eh
Ζ, ζ zita ZEE-tah the letter z
Η, η ita EE-tah ee
Θ, θ thita THEE-tah soft th as in "through"
Ι, ι iota YO-tah ee
Κ, κ kappa KAH-pah the letter k
Λ, λ lamtha LAHM-thah the letter l
Μ, μ mu mee the letter m
Ν, ν nu nee the letter n
Ξ, ξ xee ksee the letter x
Ο, ο omikron OH-mee-kron oh
Π, π pi pee the letter p
Ρ, ρ ro roh, roe a rolled r
Σ, σ, ς sigma SEEGH-mah the letter s
Τ, τ tau tahf the letter t
Υ, υ upsilon EWP-see-lon ee
Φ, φ phi fee the letter f
Χ, χ chi hee a light gargly ch as in "challah"
Ψ, ψ psi psee ps as in "chips"
Ω, ω omega oh-MEH-ghah somewhere between "awe" and "oh"

Common Diphthongs

A diphthong is a sound that is formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable. The sound starts in one vowel and then moves toward the other. Some examples in English are coin and loud. This chart outlines some Greek diphthongs.

ΑΥ, αυ au av or af
ΕΥ, ευ eu ev or ef
ΟΥ, ου ou oo
ΑΙ, αι ai eh
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Gaifyllia, Nancy. "Pronouncing the Greek Alphabet." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Gaifyllia, Nancy. (2020, August 27). Pronouncing the Greek Alphabet. Retrieved from Gaifyllia, Nancy. "Pronouncing the Greek Alphabet." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).