Writing Greek Letters on the Computer

Writing Greek Letters in HTML

Greek letters
Greek letter sigma.

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If you write anything scientific or mathematical on the internet, you will quickly find the need for several special characters that are not readily available on your keyboard. ASCII characters for HTML allow you to include many characters that don't appear on an English keyboard, including the Greek alphabet.

To make the correct character appear on the page, start with an ampersand (&) and a pound sign (#), followed by a three-digit number, and ending with a semicolon (;).

Creating Greek Letters

This table contains many Greek letters but not all of them. It only contains uppercase and lowercase letters that are not available on a keyboard. For example, you can type the capital alpha (A) in Greek with a regular capital ​A because these letters look the same in Greek and English. You can also use the code &#913 or &Alpha. The results are the same. Not all symbols are supported by all browsers. Check before you publish. You may need to add the following bit of code in the head part of your HTML document:

<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

HTML Codes for Greek Letters

Character Displayed HTML Code
capital gamma Γ &#915; or &Gamma;
capital delta Δ &#916; or &Delta;
capital theta Θ &#920; or &Theta;
capital lambda Λ &#923; or &Lamda;
capital xi Ξ &#926; or &Xi;
capital pi Π &#928; or &Pi;
capital sigma Σ &#931; or &Sigma;
capital phi Φ &#934; or &Phi;
capital psi Ψ &#936; or &Psi;
capital omega Ω &#937; or &Omega;
small alpha α &#945; or &alpha;
small beta β &#946; or &beta;
small gamma γ &#947; or &gamma;
small delta δ &#948; or &delta;
small epsilon ε &#949; or &epsilon;
small zeta ζ &#950; or &zeta;
small eta η &#951; or &zeta;
small theta θ &#952; or &theta;
small iota ι &#953; or &iota;
small kappa κ &#954; or &kappa;
small lamda λ &#955; or &lambda;
small mu μ &#956; or &mu;
small nu ν &#957; or &nu;
small xi ξ &#958; or &xi;
small pi π &#960; or &pi;
small rho ρ &#961; or &rho;
small sigma σ &#963; or &sigma;
small tau τ &#964; or &tau;
small upsilon υ &#965; or &upsilon;
small phi φ &#966; or &phi;
small chi χ &#967; or &chi;
small psi ψ &#968; or &psi;
small omega ω &#969; or &omega;

Alt Codes for Greek Letters

You can also use Alt codes—also called quick codes, quick keys, or keyboard shortcuts—to create Greek letters, as displayed in the table below, which was adapted from the website Useful Shortcuts. To create any of these Greek letters using the Alt codes, simply press the "Alt" key while simultaneously typing the listed number.

For example, to create the Greek letter Alpha (α), press the "Alt" key and type 224 using the keypad at the right side of your keyboard. (Do not use the numbers at the top of the keyboard located above the letter keys, as they will not work for creating Greek letters.)

Character Displayed Alt Code
Alpha α Alt 225
Beta β Alt 225
Gamma Γ Alt 226
Delta δ Alt 235
Epsilon ε Alt 238
Theta Θ Alt 233
Pi π Alt 227
Mu µ Alt 230
Uppercase Sigma Σ Alt 228
Lowercase Sigma σ Alt 229
Tau τ Alt 231
Uppercase Phi Φ Alt 232
Lowercase Phi φ Alt 237
Omega Ω Alt 234

History of the Greek Alphabet

The Greek alphabet went through several changes over the centuries. Before the fifth century B.C., there were two similar Greek alphabets, the Ionic and Chalcidian. The Chalcidian alphabet may have been the forerunner of the Etruscan alphabet and, later, the Latin alphabet.

It is the Latin alphabet that forms the basis of most European alphabets. Meanwhile, Athens adopted the Ionic alphabet; as a result, it is still used in modern Greece.

While the original Greek alphabet was written in all capitals, three different scripts were created to make it easier to write quickly. These include uncial, a system for connecting capital letters, as well as the more familiar cursive and minuscule. Minuscule is the basis for modern Greek handwriting.

Why You Should Know the Greek Alphabet

Even if you never plan to learn Greek, there are good reasons to familiarize yourself with the alphabet. Mathematics and science use Greek letters like pi (π) to complement the numeric symbols. Sigma in its capital form (Σ) can stand for sum, while the uppercase letter delta (Δ) can mean change.

The Greek alphabet is also central to the study of theology. For example, the Greek used in the Bible—called Koine (or "common") Greek—is different than modern Greek. Koine Greek was the language used by writers of the Old Testament Greek Septuagint (the earliest existing Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament, according to an article titled "The Greek Alphabet" published on the website BibleScripture.net. So, many theologians need to study ancient Greek to get closer to the original biblical text. Having ways to quickly produce Greek letters using HTML or keyboard shortcuts makes this process much easier.

Additionally, Greek letters are used to designate fraternities, sororities, and philanthropic organizations. Some books in English are also numbered using the letters of the Greek alphabet. Sometimes, both lowercase and capitals are employed for simplification. Thus, you may find that the books of the "Iliad" are written Α to Ω and those of the "Odyssey," α to ω.