Introduction to Modern Greek Alphabet:
Lesson 4

By Linas

Now take a look at the Greek word for I buy which is written agorázo and pronounced more or less ahorázo:


This is no big surprise: you’ve got the letter z in the end which is pretty much the same as in English and only a bit (but not that much) different when it is in lowercase. You also have the Greek letter for g or gamma Γ. Look at both of these letters and this word in lowercase:


The letter zita Ζζ still does look like a z but gamma Γγ is kind of different. The letter gamma is the third letter in the Greek alphabet and it usually means something third in English, or stands in international words such as gamma rays which are electromagnetic waves of very short wavelength (way shorter than visible light and even shorter than X-ray).

The letter gamma is pretty interesting so it’s worth further exploration. This letter was adopted by the Semites who called the letter gami which meant a throwing stick (because, well, it looked like one) until the Greeks took the letter and changed its name to gamma. It’s notable that the letter has moved from it’s pronunciation as g and it is now usually pronounced more like a h or wh. I will still transcribe it as g but know that it is more of a wh or g(uh) sound.

For example, here’s the Greek word for I which is written ego:


The Latin word ego is the same. The word used to be pronounced egó but then it changed its pronunciation to ehó when the Greek gamma changed its pronunciation to wh.

Try writing the Greek word for milk which is gála:


Answer: γάλα
Not correct. Please try again.

Try the word for angle which is written gonía (with an omega ω):


Answer: γωνία
Not correct. Please try again.

Well, here’s the deal with the letter gamma Γγ:

The combination of the letter Γγ and the i sound (we already know three ways to write it in Greek and there are six) or ε together make the sound y (from yet).

Here’s an example, the word for for which is written gia and pronounced (ya):


If you want to write for why (or because), you have to write for what which is written giatí and pronounced yatί:


Answer: γιατί
Not correct. Please try again.

Pretty cool stuff. For a harder one, try writing the Greek name George written as in a phrase I see George which is then written Giórgo with the stressed o being omega ω and the second o being the simple omicron o and pronounced Yórwho:


Answer: Γιώργο
Not correct. Please try again.

If you can pronounce that, you can understand the basics of the letter gamma. The exciting thing is, though, there’s even more to this letter. For example, if the letter is in the beginning of the word, it might be written like this:


That was the word marble] which is written like gkazá and pronounced like whazá in Greek. The beginning is written γκ but it still is pronounced like the letter G.

That’s how we might have γκ the beginning of the word or γ for this letter pronounced as wh. Well, look at these combinations now:

The combinations


not in the beginning of the word and


are pronounced as ng in the English word finger.

The same γκ combination not in the beginning or double gamma and you have a different sound, more similar to that English g. This sound, is, for example, used in the Greek word for English which is aggliká:


Try writing the word for England which is written agglía:


Answer: Αγγλία
Not correct. Please try again.

Thus the letter gamma Γγ is pretty tricky: it is probably the trickiest Greek letter. As we have it out of the way, let’s learn a few more letters. Here’s the Greek word for thank you - can you guess how it is pronounced?


I’m even going to let you look at its lowercase version before you take your guess:


Well, the word is pronounced more or less efharisto. You can see how ευ is pronounced as ef. We have already learned that this combination is usually pronounced ev but sometimes, when it sounds better (try saying both and comparing to find out for yourself that it sounds better in this case), it is pronounced ef. You can also see two new letters here: the letter chi Χχ and the letter sigma Σσ. Let’s talk about them both now.

The letter chi Χχ is pretty similar to the letter Γγ in that it is pronounced like a h in hat or the combination of χ and the i sound (whichever way it is written) or ε together make the sound more similar to ch form Loch Ness.

The word for thousand which is hília uses this letter:


Answer: χίλια
Not correct. Please try again.

Same for the word for Khan which is Hános:


Answer: Xάνος
Not correct. Please try again.

You could also try writing the word for I have which is ého (with an omega ω):

I have

Answer: έχω
Not correct. Please try again.

Nice. Let’s now look into the letter sigma Σσ which the English letter for s. The letter is a bit peculiar in that its lowercase form is different if it is anywhere else (σ) or the end of the word (ς). Here are the three forms:


It is not very hard to remember that it is S if you only think that is bottom part has been flipped to the other side. Try writing the word for today which is símera and it uses the letter eta Ηη for the í:


Answer: σήμερα
Not correct. Please try again.

To test the version of the letter sigma in the end of the word as well, write the word for you as in I see you which is sas:


Answer: σας
Not correct. Please try again.

Let’s end with writing the capital version of the word for Savior which is Sotíras with the omega ω and eta η letters respectively:


Answer: Σωτήρας
Not correct. Please try again.

Fine. We have learned the letters gamma Γγ, zita Ζζ, sigma Σσς and hi Χχ or simply γ, ζ, σ, χ as well as the γγ or γκ (when it’s not in the beginning) to ng transformation, the pronunciations of the letters γ and χ and some other useful things. All in all, we know the letters α, γ, δ, ε, ζ, η, ι, κ, λ, μ, ν, ξ, ο, π, ρ, σ, τ, υ, χ, ω and that is 20 letters or 5/6 of the letters of the entire Greek alphabet. We only have 4 remaining letters until we know all of them.