Greek alphabet

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Greek alphabet
Font alphabet
languages Greek
Usage time since ≈ 800 BC Chr.
ancestry Protosinaitic script
 →  Phoenician script
  →  Greek alphabet
Derived Armenian alphabet
Old Italian alphabet
Gothic alphabet
Glagolitic alphabet
Cyrillic alphabet
Coptic alphabet
Latin alphabet
Unicode block U + 0370 – U + 03FF
U + 1F00 – U + 1FFF
ISO 15924 Grek
Signpost in Greek script on Ikaria . Font: Transport

The Greek alphabet ( ancient Greek ἑλληνικός ἀλφάβητος hellēnikós alphábētos ; modern Greek ελληνικό αλφάβητο ellinikó alfávito , also ελληνική αλíφαβήτα ellinikí has been the Greek script since the 9th century. Is written. The Greek alphabet today comprises 24 letters, as well as in the Latin alphabet as capital letters (uppercase) and lowercase letters occur (lowercase).

The Greek script is a further development of the Phoenician script and was the first alphabet script in the strict sense. From the Greek alphabet come u. a. the Latin, Cyrillic and Coptic alphabet (see Derivation of Latin and Cyrillic from Greek letters ).


Classic characters

character Var. 1) Name 2)
(ancient Greek spelling)
new smell. Name
(neo-Greek spelling)
Ancient Greek.
Ancient Greek.
Pronunciation 3)
New smell.
Transcription 4)
New smell.
Α, α Alpha ( ἄλφα ) álfa ( άλφα ) a [ a ], [ ] a, αι  = e [ a ]
Β, β ϐ Beta ( βῆτα ) víta ( βήτα ) b [ b ] v [ v ]
Γ, γ Gamma ( γάμμα ) gám (m) a ( γάμ (μ) α ) G [ g ] g, γγ  = ng, γκ  = (n) g 5) ,
γχ  = nch, γξ  = nx
[ ɣ ], [ ʝ ]
Δ, δ Delta ( δέλτα ) délta ( δέλτα ) d [ d ] d [ ð ]
Ε, ε ϵ Epsilon ( ἔ ψιλόν ),
originally egg ( εἶ )
épsilon ( έψιλον ) e [ e ] e, not applicable before  ι [ ɛ ]
Ζ, ζ Zeta ( ζῆτα ) zíta ( ζήτα ) z [ zd ], [ dz ] z [ z ]
Η, η Eta ( ἦτα ) íta ( ήτα ) ē [ ɛː ] i [ i ]
Θ, θ ϑ Theta ( θῆτα ) thíta ( θήτα ) th [ ] th [ θ ]
Ι, ι Iota ( ἰῶτα ) ióta ( ιώτα ) i [ i ], [ ] i, αι  = e [ i ], [ j ]
Κ, κ ϰ Kappa ( κάππα ) káp (p) a ( κάπ (π) α ) k [ k ] k, γκ  = (n) g 5) [ k ], [ g ]
Λ, λ Lambda ( λάμβδα ) lámda ( λάμδα ) l [ l ] l [ l ]
Μ, μ My ( μῦ ) mi ( μι ) m [ m ] m, μπ  = (m) b 6) , μψ  = (m) bz 6) [ m ]
Ν, ν Ny ( νῦ ) ni ( νι ) n [ n ] n, ντ  = (n) d 6) [ n ]
Ξ, ξ Xi ( ξῖ ) xi ( ξι ) x [ ks ] x [ ks ], [ gz ]
Ο, ο Omikron ( ὄ μικρόν ) micron ( όμικρον ) O [ o ] o, οι  = i, ου  = ou [ ɔ ]
Π, π ϖ Pi ( πῖ ) pi ( πι ) p [ p ] p, μπ  = (m) b 6) [ p ], [ b ]
Ρ, ρ ϱ Rho ( ῥῶ ) ro ( ρω ) r (h) [ r ], [ ] r [ r ]
Σ, σ ς , 7) ϲ 8) Sigma ( σῖγμα ) sígma ( σίγμα ) s [ s ], [ z ] s [ s ]
Τ, τ Dew ( ταῦ ) taf ( ταυ ) t [ t ] t, ντ  = (n) d 6) [ t ], [ d ]
Υ, υ ϒ Ypsilon ( ὔ ψιλόν ) ýpsilon ( ύψιλον ) y, at αυ,
ευ, ου
: u
[ y ], [ ] y, ου  = ou, otherwise after
v or  f
[ i ], [u], [v], [f]
Φ, φ ϕ Phi ( φῖ ) fi ( φι ) ph [ ] f [ f ]
Χ, χ Chi ( χῖ ),
originally Chei ( χεῖ )
chi ( χι ) ch [ ] ch [ x ], [ ç ]
Ψ, ψ Psi ( ψῖ ) psi ( ψι ) ps [ ps ] ps, μψ  = (m) bz 6) [ ps ], [ bz ]
Ω, ω Omega ( ὦ μέγα ) oméga ( ωμέγα ) O [ ɔː ] O [ ɔ ]

Non-classical characters

character Var. 1) Name 2) transcription Pronunciation 3) Explanation
Ϝ, ϝ Ͷ, ͷ Digamma (woof) w [ w ] Archaic letter and later numeral for 6
Ϛ, ϛ stigma st [ st ] Medieval ligature for στ and substitute for Ϝ as a numerical symbol
Ͱ, ͱ Heta H [ h ] Historical derivative of Eta as a consonant
Ϻ, ϻ San s [ s ] Archaic letter, alternative to sigma
Ϙ, ϙ Ϟ, ϟ Koppa q [ k ] Archaic letter and later numeral for 90
Ͳ, ͳ Ϡ, ϡ Sampi ss [ s: ] Ionic letter, later numeral for 900
Ϸ, ϸ Scho sch [ ʃ ] Bactrian letter
1) Alternative glyph for the letter
2) Name of the letter in German transcription
3) Reconstructed pronunciation in the 5th century BC Chr .; see also Ancient Greek Phonology
4) The modern Greek transcription is not handled uniformly. The transcription used here is based on the Modern Greek naming convention used in Wikipedia .
5) The n is omitted at the beginning of the word.
6) Not before voiceless consonants; there is no m or n at the beginning of the word.
7) Only and always at the end of a word, unless it is followed by an apostrophe. (Example: μέσα can be shortened to μες or μεσ ' .)
8th) The C-like shape of the sigma, known as the lunar sigma , is still used regularly in the church context.

Names of the letters

The names of the letters have no meaning in Greek. Most of them were taken from Phoenician . There the letter names designate terms to which a sound value has been assigned according to the acrophonic principle . For example, aleph means “ox” and beth means “house”.

The names of some vowels go back to Byzantine times. Their names in classical times differed in part, e.g. B. the letters omicron and omega were simply called οὖ [oː] and [ɔː]. Only coincided than the pronunciation of the two sounds, one distinguished the letters in their names Mikrón and méga ( Omikron means "little O" Omega "big O"). The situation is similar with the names Epsilon ("simple E") and Ypsilon ("simple Y"), which were introduced to distinguish them from the letter combinations ει and οι with the same name.


The ancient and modern phonetic values ​​of the Greek letters differ quite significantly because the profound phonetic changes that the Greek language underwent in over two and a half millennia were not reflected in the orthography. Therefore, ancient and modern Greek words are often identical or very similar in the typeface, although their pronunciation is fundamentally different.

Ancient Greek

Early form of the Greek alphabet. National Archaeological Museum, Athens

In the ancient pronunciation of Greek, the sound-letter assignment was quite clear. When representing the vowels , however, ancient Greek had to make do with seven letters for 12 phonemes . Alpha, Iota and Ypsilon could stand for long or short sounds. Was at the e and o-sounds contrast between Epsilon Omicron or for the short vowels [⁠ e ⁠] , [⁠ o ⁠] and Eta and Omega for the open long vowels [ ɛː ], [ ɔː ] distinguished . For the closed long vowels [ ] and [ ], however, the digraphs epsilon-iota (ει) and omicron-Ypsilon (ου) were used. It should also be noted that the diphthongs alpha-Ypsilon (αυ) and epsilon-Ypsilon (ευ) were pronounced as [au] and [eu].

The pronunciation established in school lessons in Western countries differs in some points from the pronunciation that is reconstructed today according to scientific criteria. In ancient times, theta, phi and chi were spoken as aspirated plosives and not as fricatives. In Greece itself today, the modern Greek pronunciation is used for all texts, including ancient Greek. In other Orthodox countries, too , the Byzantine pronunciation , which is close to modern Greek, is the basis for the pronunciation of Greek words instead of the ancient pronunciation.

Modern Greek

In modern Greek, the orthography is far less phonematic due to the change in sound . Due to the coincidence of many ancient Greek vowel phonemes, e.g. B. the sound [i] in Modern Greek can be written with ι, η, υ, ει, υι or οι. This means that learning Greek spelling is difficult even for native speakers.

The main change in the pronunciation of the consonants concerns voiced and aspirated plosives (β, γ, δ, θ, φ, χ) of ancient Greek, to fricatives have become. In addition, modern Greek uses digraphs to a greater extent , e.g. B. initial μπ, γκ and ντ stand for [b], [ɡ] and [d].


There is a fairly clear norm for the transcription of ancient Greek words into the Latin script (see table above). Only when rendering the letters η and ω (with or without macron ), the digraph ου ( ou or u ) and the simple υ (usually y, in diphthongs u; especially in the English-American language area also generally as u ), there are smaller ones Differences.

The transcription of modern Greek is not handled uniformly, an existing ISO standard has not yet been able to prevail. The transcription is partly based on the pronunciation, partly on the Greek script.

More characters

Some characters from the Phoenician alphabet existed in certain older forms of the Greek alphabet. They were abolished through the standardization of the alphabet. The letters Digamma, Koppa and Sampi remained as numerical symbols .

  • The digamma ( δίγαμμα, Ϝ ϝ ) emerged like the Ypsilon from the Phoenician Waw and originally referred to the sound [w] (as in English water ). When this sound ceased to exist in most dialects, the symbol became obsolete. The term digamma ("double gamma") is more recent and refers to the shape that looks like two gammas (Γ) placed on top of one another.
  • The San ( Ϻ ϻ ) corresponded to the Phoenician Zade . It mostly stood for [s], but was replaced by the Sigma early on. In the Arcadian-Cypriot dialect it had the sound value [ts].
  • The Koppa ( κόππα, Ϙ ϙ ) corresponded to the Phoenician Qoph , which denoted the Semitic [q] sound. In Greek, the koppa was initially used for [k] before [o] or [u].
  • The origin of the Sampi ( Ͳ ͳ ) is not clear, it could be derived from the San. The exact sound value cannot be deduced with certainty, possibilities are [ss] or [ks].

As a result of the adoption of the Greek alphabet for other languages, a character was added whose sound value did not exist in Greek:

Modern characters

In the 19th century, the small j was taken from the Latin alphabet under the name Jot ( Greek γιοτ , giot ), borrowed from the German, for representation within Greek words in a scientific context, in order to use the phoneme / j / in especially in early Greek and proto-Greek texts To be able to differentiate from the vowel / i /.

In the Unicode block Greek and Coptic , this letter was assigned the positions U + 037F and U + 03F3.


Text from 1821 ( Konstantinos Nikolopoulos ) with the three ligatures mentioned

There are also ligatures from the Byzantine period . These were developed in lowercase handwriting, and some of them continued to be used in early letterpress printing. However, today only three of them are in use:

  • the stigma ( Ϛ ϛ ), composed of sigma and tau
  • the combination of omicron and Ypsilon as a replacement for the frequently required vowel connection "ου" with the sound value / u / ( Ȣ ȣ , in modern typography also Ʊ  ʊ )
  • the ligature for "και" (Ϗ &) dt. "and" common analogous to the " ampersand " (&)

Alcohol and accents

Example for the glyph Ͱ for [h] using the example
ἭΡΑ ( Hera )

When the letter H, which originally stood for [h], was given the sound value [ ɛː ], the character Ͱ ( Heta ) was developed by halving the H so that the [h] sound could still be reproduced. Later, the spiritus asper developed from this , a diacritical mark that looks like a superscript small c and stands above the initial vowel. In analogy to the Spiritus asper, the Spiritus lenis , which has the shape of a mirror-inverted Spiritus asper, was later developed for a vowel initial sound without [h].


  • Rough breathing (): ὕδωρ HYDOR ( "water"), ῥυθμός rhythmos ( "Rhythm"), Ἕλλας Hellas ( "Greece")
  • Spiritus lenis (): ἐγώ ego ( "I"), Ἔρως Eros ( "love")

Ancient Greek had a musical accent with three different tones. These can be meaningful, e.g. B. pan means "everything" with a rising-falling tone, while the same word in a rising tone is the name of the god Pan . The musical accent changed into a dynamic accent as early as the Hellenistic period , as it occurs in German and most other European languages. In order to be able to pronounce the ancient texts correctly, three characters were developed to denote the tones:

  • the acute , Greek Oxeia , (´) for the high tone, e.g. Διοτίμα Diotíma
  • the grave accent , Greek Bareia , (`) for the bass, e.g. καὶ αὐτὸς τιμῶ kaì autòs timô (I also honor myself)
  • the circumflex , Greek perispomenē , (῀) for the rising and falling tone, ex. Φαῖδρος Phaîdros

In modern Greek (which no longer has an h sound and also no longer knows any tones) these accents and spirit were abolished in 1982. The accents were replaced by a single character, the tonos (τόνος), which today marks the stressed syllable in polysyllabic words. This simplified system is called "monotonic" (μονοτονικό monotoniko ); Every now and then, however, the old, “ polytonic ” accent system ( πολυτονικό polytoniko) including spirit is still used - both in literary productions and in private everyday texts.


  1. In the Unicode standard there are two different standalone characters for Greek acute and tonos (U + 0384) and Latin acute (U + 00B4), but only one unified combining character (U + 0301) that is used for both writing systems may.

More diacritical marks

The trema (¨) indicates in ancient Greek that two vowels do not form a diphthong , but are spoken in two syllables. So Ἀτρεΐδης (" Atride ", "Son of Atreus ") is spoken in four syllables as Atre-idēs . In modern Greek, the trema marks the separate pronunciation of one of the digraphs (οϊ, οϋ, αϊ, εϊ), e.g. the “boat” καΐκι, i.e. / ka'iki / would be without the trema / keki /.

In the long diphthongs ēi , ōi and āi , the i fell silent early on. From the 12th century it was set as Iota subscriptum ("signed Iota") under the preceding vowel, e.g. τῇ instead of τηῖ , (dative of the definite article feminine, the) . In capital letters, the iota is usually set as iota adscriptum ("added iota") next to the preceding vowel, e.g. Ἅιδης, pronounced: Hādēs (" Hades ", "underworld"). In modern Greek, the iota subscriptum was abolished in the course of the 1982 reform.


The ancient Greek characters are also numerals. There were two ways of counting, the Thesian and the Milesian , probably derived from Miletus. The use of both counting methods is already documented in the Iliad .

The thesian way of counting was not rediscovered until 1935 by Peter Friesenhahn and was proven beyond doubt in the Iliad and the Septuagint . It assigns the corresponding ordinal number as a value to the letters Alpha to Omega, depending on their location in the alphabet. Alpha is one and Omega is twenty-four. Homer's chants are numbered in this way.

The milesic counting method is constructed with minor deviations from that used in Phoenician. The Hebrew alphabet also uses this technique for numerical values. Alpha to Theta take the values ​​one to nine, Iota to Koppa, not to be confused with Kappa, the tens values ​​parallel to the previous one, namely ten, twenty ... to ninety, and Rho to Sampi the corresponding hundreds, so that Alpha then also a thousand can mean.


Clay tablet with Linear B inscription from Mycenae

Earlier Aegean writing systems

The Greek language had already been recorded in writing a few centuries before the creation of the Greek alphabet. The Mycenaean culture used from the 14th to 12th centuries BC The syllabary script Linear B , which was developed from the Linear A script of the Minoan Crete . After the fall of the Mycenaean culture, however, it fell into oblivion again during the so-called " dark centuries " (12th – 9th centuries BC). Only in Cyprus was the Cypriot script , which was close to the Cretan-Minoan scripts. The Greek alphabet is not related to linear B.


Phoenician Greek
Phoenician aleph.svg Aleph Α alpha
Phoenician beth.svg Beth Β beta
Phoenician gimel.svg Gimel Γ gamma
Phoenician daleth.svg Daleth Δ delta
Phoenician he.svg Hey Ε epsilon
Phoenician waw.svg Waw Ϝ Digamma
Phoenician zayin.svg Zajin Ζ Zeta
Phoenician heth.svg Heth Η Eta
Phoenician teth.svg Teth Θ Theta
Phoenician yodh.svg Jodh Ι Iota
Phoenician kaph.svg Cap Κ Kappa
Phoenician lamedh.svg Lamed Λ Lambda
Phoenician mem.svg Mem Μ My
Phoenician nun.svg Now Ν Ny
Phoenician samekh.svg Samech Ξ Xi
Phoenician ayin.svg Ajin Ο Omicron
Phoenician pe.svg Pe Π pi
Phoenician sade.svg Sade Greek San 02.svg San
Phoenician qoph.svg Qoph Ϙ Koppa
Phoenician res.svg Resch Ρ Rho
Phoenician sin.svg Shin Σ Sigma
Phoenician taw.svg Taw Τ dew
Phoenician letters and their Greek equivalents

The Greek alphabet is derived from the Phoenician alphabet . The exact circumstances as well as the place and time of the creation are largely unknown. The takeover probably happened in the 9th century BC. BC, even if some researchers assume an earlier date. Euboea , Crete , Rhodes and Cyprus are suggested as places of origin . The first traditional Greek inscriptions, on the Dipylon jug from Athens and the Nestor cup from Pithekussai , date from the second half of the 8th century BC. Chr.

The Phoenician alphabet, like the other Semitic scripts, was a consonant script . In Greek, however, the vowels played a far greater role than in the Semitic languages , which is why separate letters were required for them. For this purpose Phoenician letters, which denoted sounds that did not occur in Greek, were converted into vowel symbols. It is unclear whether the creation of the vowel signs was a planned innovation or a mere misinterpretation of the Phoenician system. The Aleph for the crackling sound [ʔ] became the Alpha for [a], the He for [h] the Epsilon for [e], the Jodh for [j] the Iota for [i] and the Ajin for the special Semitic throat sound [ʕ] the omicron for [o]. From the Phoenician Waw two letters developed in Greek: the consonantic digamma for [w] and the vowelic Ypsilon for [u] (later [y]). As a result, the Greek alphabet was the first script that represented both consonants and vowels using separate characters, and thus the first alphabet script in the narrower sense. It can be assumed, however, that the development of the vowel characters took place in a single step, since they are already present in the earliest known Greek inscriptions and no scriptural monuments are known in which Greek was written in a consonant script.

Corinthian vase with the names Perseus , Andromeda and Ketos in an early form of the Greek alphabet

Otherwise the Phoenician and Greek letters largely corresponded. Some consonant signs have been adjusted in their phonetic value: the Phoenician Tet for the emphatic [ ] became the Greek theta (Θ) for the aspirated [ ], the Phoenician Zajin for [z] became the zeta (Z), which was originally probable [dz] or [zd] was spoken. In Phoenician there were three different s-sounds, Samech , Sade and Schin , but in Greek there was only one. Therefore the Samech was converted to the Xi (Ξ) for [ks]; The Greek letter San (Ϻ) developed from the Sade, but was abandoned early on in favor of the Sigma (Σ), which emerged from the Shin . The Phoenician language differentiated between the Kaph for [k] and the Qoph for [q]. In Greek this became the letters Kappa (K) and Koppa (Ϙ), both of which were pronounced [k]. Because two letters turned out to be redundant for the same sound, the koppa was later abolished. The Phoenician Heth , which denoted a sound similar to h that does not occur in Greek, became the Greek Η, which was initially called Heta and stood for [h]. Only later did it become the vowel symbol for [ ɛː ].

The order of the letters was taken over by the Greeks from the Phoenicians. The newly developed characters Υ, Φ, Χ, Ψ and Ω have been added to the end of the alphabet. The Ypsilon, like the Digamma, was derived from the Phoenician Waw , and the Greeks re-formed the letter Omega (Ω) for [ ɔː ] from the Omicron. Genuinely Greek neoplasms without a Phoenician equivalent are Phi (Φ) for [ ], Chi (Χ) for [ ] and Psi (Ψ) for [ ps ].

Epichoric alphabets

Distribution of the epichoric alphabets according to Kirchhoff (1887)
Alphabets from Euboea , Ionia , Athens and Corinth

Originally the Greek alphabet, like the Phoenician, was left-handed, i.e. that is, it was written from right to left. After that it became furrow-wise, i.e. H. alternately left and right-handed (as a bustrophedon ), written, only later the right-handed writing direction prevailed. Until the 9th century AD, there were only today's capital letters, which were written without spaces between words or punctuation marks.

At first, the Greek script was by no means uniform. Local (so-called epichoric) alphabets with different characters were formed. They are named after the division of the Graecist Adolf Kirchhoff into three main groups and after the colors Kirchhoff used to mark them in his studies on the history of the Greek alphabet from 1887. The most important distinguishing feature are the so-called supplement characters, i.e. the characters Φ, Χ and Ψ that were created in addition to the Phoenician script. These supplement characters are completely absent from the “green” alphabets in Crete . The "red alphabets" that z. B. were used in Euboea and Laconia , have Φ and Ψ with the sound values ​​[ ] and [ ]. The "blue" alphabets are divided into two subgroups. The “light blue” variants in Attika use Φ and Χ for [ ] and [ ]. The “dark blue” alphabets in Corinth and Rhodes , for example , also have the symbol Ψ with the sound value [ps].


From the 5th century BC The Ionic variant of the Greek alphabet (usually referred to as the Ionic alphabet or Milesian alphabet) began to establish itself in other cities as well. In Athens , 403 BC. The Ionic alphabet was officially introduced under the archon Eukleides . The milesic alphabet had a few additional letters, at the same time letters that were no longer needed, such as the digamma, were eliminated. In the old Attic alphabet there was no distinction between long and short e and o sounds, both were written with epsilon or omicron . The omega (Ω) was developed for the long [ ɔː ] in the Milesian alphabet . Because the h sound was canceled in the Ionic dialect , the Η was converted into the vowel symbol for [ ɛː ] in Miletus . In Attica the sound sequences [ks] and [ps] had previously been written with ΧΣ and ΦΣ, now there were the letters Xi (Ξ) and Psi (Ψ) for them. Through the supremacy of Athens, the Milesian alphabet became the standard variant of the Greek script and gradually replaced the epichoric alphabets.

Late antiquity and the Middle Ages

Greek inscription with a dedication to Ptolemy VI. of Egypt, 2nd century BC Chr.

In the 3rd century BC In BC Aristophanes of Byzantium in Alexandria developed the tone signs to differentiate between tones . These accents, originally intended as reading aids, were needed for poetic and theater texts, especially since the decentralized accent began to give way to a centralized one. The minuscules did not develop until the Byzantine period, probably in Syria in the 9th century from a simplification of everyday writing ( italics ). In the 12th century, the unpronounced iota moved under the preceding vowel (iota subscriptum) .

In late antiquity, in Greece, as in western Europe, new forms of writing emerged that were better suited to the new writing materials and techniques. From this emerged the medieval Greek book script, first the so-called uncials , then, via intermediate stages, the minuscules.

Modern times

During antiquity only uppercase letters ( uppercase knew) used for writing letters and books only italics were written, created with the minuscule first time those lowercase letters (Common), which still live on in the Greek publications. The usual assignment of using capital letters at the beginning of names and possibly sentences, however, only emerged in the early modern period; In the Middle Ages, manuscripts were initially written completely in the uncial, later completely in minuscule, with the capital letters at most for headings and the like. Ä. Awards were needed.

In the early modern period, there were numerous ligatures and abbreviations in the printed font that later disappeared. Only the stigma (Ϛ, ϛ), the ligature of sigma and tau, and the combination of omicron and ypsilon (Ȣ and ȣ, represented in modern typography with Ʊ and ʊ) have survived to this day.

At the same time, a cursive script has developed in Greece , some of which is based on different forms of Greek minuscules than the print script commonly used today. But there are also some variants in the printed script that are similar to the written forms, such as ϑ for θ, ϰ for κ or ϖ for π. Some letters in cursive script resemble forms of Latin script, such as the Vita to b , the Ita to the n or the Psi to the y . This cursive script, in which not all letters are connected, is also the basis of today's personal handwriting by Greek writers.

The orthography for ancient Greek, developed in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, initially remained binding for modern Greek as well, although many phonetic distinctions were no longer required. It was not until 1982 that the alphabet was simplified by abolishing the spirit and introducing a single, pure stress accent instead of the three accents.

Further use

In addition to the Greek, the Greek alphabet was used in ancient times for a few other ancient languages. These included languages ​​spoken in Asia Minor such as Phrygian and Lydian , the Thracian language spoken in the Balkans , and some other extinct languages ​​such as Bactrian in Central Asia . Of all these languages, however, only sparse written sources have survived.

Today the Greek alphabet is practically only used for the Greek language. In addition, only a few minority languages ​​spoken in Greece such as Aromanian or Arvanite are recorded in Greek script. In addition, the Karamanlı , a Christian Orthodox minority from Turkey , write their Turkish dialect in Greek. In all of these minority languages, however, written use is very rare.

The mathematical and scientific notation often uses Greek letters. For example, angles are usually designated with Greek lowercase letters. Many special functions are named after Greek letters, as are mathematical and physical constants . The most famous examples are the circle number and the lemniscatic constant . Therefore, the Greek alphabet plays an essential role in the formula set .

The Greek alphabet is widely used to number rankings.

  • In the Bayer designation of stars in constellations, the Greek letters stand for the order according to the apparent brightness.
  • In behavioral research, the alpha animal denotes the leader of a herd, followed by the beta animals and the lowest ranking animals are called omega animals .
  • In physics, a distinction is made between alpha , beta and gamma radiation .
  • In stages of development of software Alpha and Beta also is used.
  • For numbering in biology and chemistry.
  • As a typographic element in logos .
  • As a brand name (such as the Italian vehicle manufacturer Lancia ).

Further developments from the Greek script

The Latin alphabet goes back to a western Greek variant via the old Italian alphabet used by the Etruscans . Some differences in the phonetic value of Greek and Latin characters can be explained by the Western Greek origin; so, as in Latin, X stood for [ks] and not for [ ]. Other differences are due to the Etruscan tradition; z. For example, the Etruscan language did not have the sounds [ g ] and [ w ], which is why the Greek letters Γ and Ϝ were assigned the sound values ​​[k] and [f], respectively. The Romans adopted them in the form of the letters C and F. Later, the letters Y and Z were taken directly from the Greek alphabet in order to be able to reproduce Greek loanwords.

The Cyrillic alphabet was developed in the 10th century on the basis of a Greek uncial script . In addition to the characters in the Greek alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet contains characters from the Glagolitic alphabet for sounds that did not appear in Greek . The pronunciation of Greek had already changed at this time, which is why the Cyrillic letters В and И as well as Β and Η are pronounced as [v] and [i] in modern Greek. Originally, those Greek letters were also adopted whose pronunciation in Church Slavonic coincided with that of other letters, such as Ѳ (Fita), which goes back to the Greek Θ and was pronounced [f], and Ѡ (Omega). After the October Revolution Ѳ (Fita) and Ѯ (Ksi) were abolished, in Russian also the ι (Iota). The latter, however, was retained in Ukrainian , Belarusian and Kazakh as a vowel І (in Ukrainian also as Ї ), in Serbian and Macedonian as a consonant j.

The Copts in Egypt use for now only as a sacred language used Coptic language , the Coptic alphabet . This is a modification of the Greek alphabet, which was expanded with characters from the ancient Egyptian demotic script .

The extinct Gothic language was written using the Gothic alphabet . Bishop Wulfila developed this in the 4th century, also on the basis of the Greek alphabet. In addition, the Gothic script contains letters that were taken from the Latin alphabet or runic script .

The Armenian and Georgian script were both redeveloped in the 5th century by Saint Mesrop . Above all, the order of the letters shows Greek influence. The situation is similar with the Glagolitic alphabet, which was created in the 9th century by Cyrill of Saloniki , after whom the Cyrillic alphabet is named.

Typography and character encoding

The first known print with letters in Greek script is an excerpt from the Platonic dialogue Gorgias , contained in a Roman edition of the Noctes Atticae des Aulus Gellius from 1469. In the 16th century, the most important printer with Greek types was the Parisian printer Robert Estienne .

Since the introduction of photo typesetting, numerous digital typesetting such as the Sophia CF or the Demo CF have been created .

There are various standards for encoding Greek characters. ISO 8859-7 and Windows-1253 are two similar but incompatible 8-bit character encodings that comprise the characters of the Modern Greek script. The characters for Greek in Unicode , on the other hand, also include letters with diacritics for polytonic orthography.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Greek alphabet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Entry εἶ in Liddell-Scott-Jones .
  2. entry χεῖ in Liddell-Scott-Jones .
  3. Nick Nicholas (2004) from Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) names historical exceptions to this: “ There was a somewhat widespread practice in the nineteenth century of using final sigma word-medially to indicate a morphemic break. [...] For Example, the TLG text of Plutarch's Παροιμίαι αἷς Ἀλεξανδρεῖς ἐχρῶντο (dated 1839) has the spellings δυςκατανοήτων, δυςκληρούντων, δυςχείρωτοι, ἐπειςήγαγον, προςαγορεύεται, προςεδέξαντο, προςεδόκησαν, προςήκει, προςοφείλων, ὥςπερ . In each case, the final sigma marks a morpheme boundary. “This practice is reminiscent of the rules of using the long ſ and final s that were previously used in German orthography.
  4. Helmut Kind, Helmut Rohlfing: Gutenberg and the European early printing. On the acquisition history of the Göttingen incunabula collection. Wallstein, Göttingen 1995, ISBN 3-89244-204-5 , p. 66, ( online ).
  5. ^ Gabriel Christoph Benjamin Busch : Handbook of Inventions. Part 11: Containing the letters R and S. 4th, completely reworked and very enlarged edition. Bärecke, Eisenach 1821, p. 313 ( online ).