The Greek Alphabet

You can't read anything until you know the alphabet, so if you want to read Greek, the alphabet is a logical place to start. We will start by learning how to pronounce the letters, then we will practice reading some verses from the Gospel of John. I have recorded a few samples so that you can compare your pronunciation to mine. After this we will learn the names of the letters and their order in the alphabet. The Greek alphabet has 24 letters. This table shows the Greek letters in the first row and their English equivalents in the second row:

Now we need to do a little housekeeping. The above table is displayed as a bitmap, which isn't usually the best way to display text. In order to proceed with the lessons, you will need to download Bill Mounce's Greek Font and install it on your machine. Please do that now, then reload this page. If the fonts are properly installed, you will see Greek letters in the table below.

The Greek Alphabet

The Greek alphabet is actually quite similar to our own alphabet. The following table shows the Greek letters and their English equivalents.

The first row, labelled "Caps", shows the capital Greek letters. The second row, labelled "Small", shows the lower-case Greek letters. The third row, labelled "Pron", shows how the letter is pronounced. (Actually, there are two different ways to pronounce New Testament Greek, but this is how we will be pronouncing it in these lessons.)

Caps
A
B
G
D
E
Z
H
Q
I
K
L
M
N
X
O
P
R
S
T
U
F
C
Y
W
Small
a
b
g
d
e
z
h
q
i
k
l
m
n
x
o
p
r
s,"
t
u
f
c
y
w
Pron
a
b
g
d
e
z
ê
th
i
k
l
m
n
ks
o
p
r
s
t
u
f
ch
ps
ô

In the first lesson, we will use both the Greek letters and the pronunciations listed in the third row of the table. Some of these pronunciations need explanation - do you pronounce "a" like "cat", "cake", or "father"? how do you pronounce ô? The following table gives the pronunciation for those letters which require explanation:

A
a
a
"father"
E
e
e
"end"
H
h
ê
"hey"
Q
q
th
"thick"
I
i
i
"it"
X
x
ks
"box"
O
o
o
"off"
S
s, "
s
"say"
U
u
u
"put" - or French "tu", or German "Brücke"
F
f
f
"five"
C
c
ch
"Bach" - say it the way your piano teacher did
Y
y
ps
"oops!"
W
w
ô
"grow"

Pronunciation practice: John 1

In this course, we will try to expose you to real examples of New Testament Greek in each lesson. Today's lesson uses the first chapter of the Gospel of John. The next paragraph has a bunch of squiggley, cryptic characters which may look quite threatening, but you will be able to pronounce it by the end of this lesson!

jEn ajrch'/ h\n oJ lovgo", kaiv oJ lovgo" h\n prov" tovn qeovn, kaiv qeov" h\n oJ lovgo".

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So we'll look at this verse one phrase at a time, starting with the first phrase. To help you learn to pronounce and understand it, I am giving you three different presentations of this phrase:

I will give the same information for each phrase. I suggest that you practice this way:


jEn ajrch'/ h\n oJ lovgo"

Listen

Greek jEn ajrch'/ h\n oJ lovgo"
Pron En archê ên ho logos
English In (the) beginning was the word

Accents and breathing marks: You have probably noticed lots of squiggly marks all around the letters. Most of these are accents and breathing marks.

Accents simply tell you which syllable is accented. They are always placed over a vowel. So far, we have seen two of the three possible accents. One accent is called the circumflex accent; it looks like a little rainbow on top of the vowel. For instance, we place the accent on the second syllable of ajrch'/. Another kind of accent is called the acute accent; it is a straight line that looks like "/". The acute accent tells you to accent the first syllable of lovgo". The third kind of accent is called a grave accent; it is a straight line that looks like "\". We haven't seen it yet, but it does the same thing as any other accent, it just tells you which syllable to stress when you pronounce the word.

So why do we need three different kinds of accents? Well, we really don't, and modern Greek only uses one. There are a few words where looking carefully at the accent can help clarify some ambiguities, but for the most part, you can ignore which accent is used. We will point out exceptions to this in future lessons.


kaiv oJ lovgo" h\n prov" tovn qeovn

Listen

jEn ajrch'/ h\n oJ lovgo"

order

1. Five letters ALMOST like the English order ..

a alpha

b beta

g gamma Careful!! Where's c!?

d delta

e epsilon

2. Four letters that spell Live! [zhqi!] in Greek ....

z zeta

h eta

q theta

i iota

3. More letters ALMOST in the English order ....

k kappa

l lambda

m mu

n nu

c xi Careful again!! Here's c!!

o omicron o-micron 'little o'

p pi

r rho (no q!!)

s sigma

t tau

u upsilon

4. The tack-ons at the end .... forget what

your calculus teacher told you about

the first three. The two consonants

sound as if they are pronounced separately

(p-hi,k-hi,p-si).

If you do them correctly, your dentures

will fly across the room.

f phi

x chi

y psi

w omega o-mega 'big o'

All Bigots Get Diarrhea Eventually

Zorro Ate The Ice Kap(pa)

Let's Munch Nuts EXcessively, Okay?

Pigs Really Stink Terribly

Under Five CHairs PSychiatrists Wink

a

b
g
d
e
z
h
q
i
k
l
m
n
x
o
p
r
s, "
t
u
f
c
y
w

en arcj jn ho logos, kai ho logos jn pros ton qeon, kai qeos jn ho logos panta di' autou egeneto, kai coris autou egeneto oude hen covered so far: agdejqiklmonoprstc(w) au ou not yet: bzxufy(w) eu