Greek spelling alphabet

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The Greek spelling alphabet is a spelling alphabet (or "phonetic alphabet") for Greek, i.e. a set of names given to the alphabet letters for the purpose of spelling out words. It is used by the Greek State, the Greek army, the navy and the police.


To an English reader, a spelling alphabet may be felt to be redundant for this language, as Greek characters are pronounced differently in English for historical reasons: like "Mew Pie Knee". In Greek, however, the pronunciation of those letters can be considerably less diverse: "Me Pea Knee". This necessitates a spelling alphabet. In fact, less than half of the Greek alphabet is uniquely distinguishable in noisy conditions, with the following potential collisions:

beta, zeta, eta, theta (...ita) mu, nu, xi, pi, phi, chi, psi ( epsilon, upsilon (...psilon)

Also Alpha and Delta are avoided to not be confused with the NATO alphabet.

Social aspects of pronunciation[edit]

The phonetic descriptions of the symbols in this table represent phonetic variations of the sounds in the Greek language that correspond to Standard Modern Greek. Therefore, it has carried a sense of higher class in most aspects of life, in the same way as Received Pronunciation in English.

The opposite happens with regional dialects though. Greek is a language rich in regional dialects each one with its own distinct phonetic variations from Standard Greek. These allophones cannot be found in the chart below. It is to be noted, though, that using these allophones was once considered as a sign of humble origin and lack of education, but this belief has shifted over the years.

The Greek alphabet contains seven vowels and seventeen consonants, a total of twenty-four symbols. In addition, there are seven vowel diphthongs, namely: "αι" /ɛ/, "ει"/ɪ/, "οι"/ɪ/, "αυ"/af/ or /av/, "ευ"/ɛf/ or /ɛv/, "ου"/u/ and "υι"/iː/. [1]

The spelling alphabet[edit]

Letter letter name spelling name meaning
Α alpha αστήρ astír ('star')
Β beta Βύρων Výron ('Byron')
Γ gamma γαλή galí ('cat')
Δ delta δόξα dóxa ('glory')
Ε epsilon Ερμής Ermís ('Hermes')
Ζ zeta Ζεύς[2] Zeús ('Zeus')
Η eta Ηρώ Iró ('Hero')
Θ theta θεά theá ('goddess')
Ι iota ίσκιος ískios ('shadow')
Κ kappa κενό kenó ('blank')
Λ lambda λάμα láma ('blade')
Μ mu μέλι méli ('honey')
Ν nu ναός naós ('church')
Ξ xi Ξέρξης Xérxis ('Xerxes')
Ο omicron οσμή osmí ('smell')
Π pi Πέτρος Pétros ('Peter')
Ρ rho ρήγας rígas ('king')
Σ sigma σοφός sofós ('wise')
Τ tau τίγρης tígris ('tiger')
Υ ipsilon ύμνος ímnos ('hymn')
Φ phi Φωφώ Fofó (woman's name)
Χ chi χαρά hará ('joy')
Ψ psi ψυχή psihí ('soul')
Ω omega ωμέγα oméga


  1. ^ [1].
  2. ^ Alternative Police variant "Ζωή" (Zoi)

See also[edit]