In the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, the rough breathing (Ancient Greek: δασὺ πνεῦμα dasỳ pneûma or δασεῖα daseîa: modern Greek δασεία dasía; Latin spīritus asper), is a diacritical mark used to indicate the presence of an /h/ sound before a vowel, diphthong, or rho. It remained in the polytonic orthography even after the Hellenistic period, when the sound disappeared from the Greek language. In the monotonic orthography of Modern Greek phonology, in use since 1982, it is not used at all.
The absence of an /h/ sound is marked by the smooth breathing.
The rough breathing comes from the left-hand half of the letter H. In some Greek dialects, the letter was used for [h] (Heta), and this usage survives in the Latin letter H. In other dialects, it was used for the vowel [ɛː] (Eta), and this usage survives in the modern system of writing Ancient Greek, and in Modern Greek.
The rough breathing ( ῾ ) is placed over an initial vowel, or over the second vowel of an initial diphthong.
- αἵρεσις haíresis "choice" (→ Latin haeresis → English heresy)
- ἥρως hḗrōs "hero"
- ὕμνος hýmnos "hymn"
- ῥυθμός rhythmós "rhythm"
Inside a word
In some writing conventions, the rough breathing is written on the second of two rhos in the middle of a word. This is transliterated as rrh in Latin.
- διάῤῥοια diárrhoia "diarrhoea"
In crasis (contraction of two words), when the second word has a rough breathing, the contracted vowel does not take a rough breathing. Instead, the consonant before the contracted vowel changes to the aspirated equivalent (i.e., π → φ, τ → θ, κ → χ), if possible, and the contracted vowel takes the apostrophe or coronis (identical to the smooth breathing).
- τὸ ἕτερον → θοὔτερον (not *τοὕτερον) "the other one"
- tò héteron → thoúteron
Under the archaizing influence of Katharevousa, this change has been preserved in modern Greek neologisms coined on the basis of ancient words, e.g. πρωθυπουργός ("prime minister"), from πρῶτος ("first") and ὑπουργός ("minister"), where the latter was originally aspirated.
There is a polytonic Greek code range in Unicode, covering precomposite versions (breathing mark + vowel etc.). Editing these is facilitated by dedicated Greek word processors such as Nanos (www.e-ternals.com/nanos).