Wiktionary:Ancient Greek romanization and pronunciation

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This page is an extension of Wiktionary:About Ancient Greek. See also Category:Ancient Greek IPA templates. There is also a page Modern Greek romanization.

The prescribed Romanization is the scientific transliteration; note that digraphs only affect pronunciation, not Romanization.

The prescribed pronunciation systems here reflect the main prestige dialects during the three ancient Greek development periods.

  • Classical Greek pronunciation reflects the conservative standard of the Attic-speaking regions of Attica, the northern Cyclades, Euboea and Chalcidice, and their colonies.
  • Koine Greek pronunciation reflects the majority mixed dialect of Alexander's empire, especially that of Alexandria, the principal philosophical and literary center of the Hellenistic Greeks, and where Judeo-Christian scripture was translated into Greek.
  • Byzantine Greek pronunciation reflects the habits of Constantinople and its close transitional dialects. Though it spanned almost all of Late Antiquity, it also spanned well into the Middle Ages until the 15th century (approximately 1200 years), as the Byzantine Roman world largely escaped the Dark Ages.
  • Contemporary Greek pronunciation reflects how people in modern Greece and Cyprus pronounce classical words today. The standard is based on the polished speech register of Demotic Greek, including additional polished Cypriot articulations (in parentheses) where these do not exist in Athens.

Letters[edit]

Letter Rom. Class. IPA Koine IPA Byzan. IPA Cont. IPA before αι ε ει ευ η ῃ ηυ ι οι υ υι Notes
Α α A Ā a ā [a/aː] [a/aː] [a] [a] In Classical polytonic, the length distinction of ([a]) and ([aː]) is not indicated usually in writing nor in transcription. However, if needs to be transcribed, ā suffices.
Β β B b [b] [b] [β] [v]
Γ γ G g [ɡ] [ɡ] [ɣ] [ɣ] [ʝ]
Δ δ D d [d] [d] [ð] [ð]
Ε ε E e [e] [ɛ] [e] [e]
Ϝ ϝ W w [w] N\A Not native to Attic-Ionic (lost in pre-classical times). If pronounced [w], Classical Attic kept it silent and Koine adapted it as ου. If pronounced [β~v], both Classical Attic and Koine adapted it as β.
Ζ ζ Z z [zd] [z/zz] [z/zz] [z/(z)z] Was metrically considered an interchangeably single or double consonant in Koine (typically double between vowels).
Η η Ē ē [ɛː] [eː] [i] [i] Finishes merging with ι/ϊ in Byzantine.
Θ θ Th th [tʰ] [tʰ] [θ] [θ]
Ι ι ϊ I Ī i ī ï [i/iː] [i/iː] [i] [i] In Classical polytonic, the length distinction of ([i]) and ([iː]) is not indicated usually in writing nor in transcription. However, if needs to be transcribed, ī suffices.
Κ κ K k [k] [k] [k] [k] [c]
Λ λ L l [l] [l] [l] [l]
Μ μ M m [m] [m] [m] [m]
Ν ν N n [n] [n] [n] [n]
Ξ ξ Ks ks [kʰs] [kʰs] [ks] [ks] See digraph exceptions further down.
Ο ο O o [o] [o] [o] [o]
Π π P p [p] [p] [p] [p]
Ρ ρ Rh rh r [hr/r] [(h)r/r] [r] [ɾ] Normal ρ is [r] and transcribed r. In Classical, is voiceless [hr] and transcribed rh, and ρρ or ῤῥ is voiceless [rhr] and transcribed rrh. Koine is [(h)r], and ῤῥ is [r(h)r]. All are voiced [r] in Byzantine onward, except in Atticist writings.
Σ σ ς S s [s] [s] [s] [s] See digraph exceptions further down.
Τ τ T t [t] [t] [t] [t] See diagraph exceptions further down.
Υ υ ϋ Hu Hū hu hū u ū ü [ʉ/ʉː] [y/yː] [y] [i] Originally not a front vowel, the influential Athens dialect articulates it as [y/yː] earlier on. Merges with ι in 10th century Byzantine Greek, but merges with ου in the Old Athenian dialect until it becomes extinct in the 20th century.
Φ φ Ph ph [pʰ] [pʰ] [ɸ] [f]
Χ χ Kh kh [kʰ] [kʰ] [x] [x] [ç]
Ψ ψ Ps ps [pʰs] [pʰs] [ps] [ps] See digraph exceptions further down.
Ω ω Ō ō [ɔː] [oː] [o] [o] Merges with ο late in Koine.

Vowel digraphs[edit]

Spelling Rom. Class. IPA Koine IPA Byzan. IPA Cont. IPA Notes
Αι αι Ai ai [aɪ] [ɛː] [e] [e] Merges with ε in late Koine among the Hellenists and in Alexandria, and treated as an allophone of it from then on.
ᾼ ᾳ Āi āi [aːj] [aː] [a] [a] Classically spelt ΑΙ. In Koine, becomes collated simply as α as they merge.
Αυ αυ Au Āu au āu [aʊ/aːʊ] [aw/aːw] [av] [av] See αυ/ευ/ηυ exceptions further down.
Ει ει Ei ei [eː] [iː] [i] [i] In the learned Koine pronunciation of the foreign Romans, ει was typically an allophone of η immediately before other vowels, and an allophone of ι everywhere else. Alexandrians treated it as an allophone of in all circumstances, a trend that would become standard in Byzantine.
Ευ ευ Eu eu [eʊ] [ɛw] [ev] [ev] See αυ/ευ/ηυ exceptions further down.
ῌ ῃ Ēi ēi [ɛːj] [eː] [i] [i] Classically spelt ΗΙ. In Koine, becomes collated simply as η as they merge.
Ηυ ηυ Ēu ēu [ɛːʊ] [eːw] [iv] [iv] See αυ/ευ/ηυ exceptions further down.
Οι οι Oi oi [oɪ] [yː] [y] [i] Merges together with and υι in Koine, even earlier in Athens.
Ου ου Ou ou [oː] [uː] [u] [u] Becomes [uː] earlier on in Athens, remaining an allophone of [oː] until ω fills that pronunciation.
Υι υι ϋι Hui hui ui üi [yː] [yː] [y] [i] Merges with in Koine, and earlier on in Athens.
ῼ ῳ Ōi ōi [ɔːj] [oː] [o] [o] Classically spelt ΩΙ. In Koine, becomes collated simply as ω as they merge.
Ωυ ωυ Ōu ōu [ɔːy] [oːy] [oy] [oi] Non-Attic Greek diphthong (originally pronounced [ɔːʊ]), separated into two separate vowels, ωϋ, when loaned into Classical Attic onward.

Consonant digraphs and exceptions[edit]

Spelling Rom. Class. IPA Koine IPA Byzan. IPA Cont. IPA before αι ε ει ευ η ῃ ηυ ι οι υ υι Notes
ββ bb [bb] [bb] [ββ] [(v)v]
γγ ng [ŋɡ] [ŋɡ] [ŋɡ] [ŋɡ] [ŋɟ] In Contemporary pronunciation, in numerous irregular cases, is pronounced [ŋɣ] and [ŋʝ] respectively. Please consult (and preferably cite) a reputable Modern Greek pronunciation source for each word concerned.
γκ nk [ŋk] [ŋk] [ŋk] [ŋɡ] [ŋɟ]
γκτ nkt [ŋkt] [ŋkt] [ŋkt] [ŋkt]
γξ nks [ŋkʰs] [ŋkʰs] [ŋks] [ŋks]
γχ nkh [ŋkʰ] [ŋkʰ] [  ̃x] [ŋx] [ŋç] In Byzantine pronuncation, this phoneme becomes seriously endangered and merges with χ in common speech, later reintroduced under influence from Katharevousa.
δδ dd [dd] [dd] [ðð] [(ð)ð]
κβ kb [ɡb] [ɡb] [ɡβ] [ɡv]
κγ kg [ɡɡ] [ɡɡ] [ɡɣ] [ɡɣ] [ɡʝ]
κδ kd [ɡd] [ɡd] [ɡð] [ɡð]
κζ kz [ɡʱzd] [ɡʱz] [ɡz] [ɡz]
κθ kth [kʰtʰ] [kʰtʰ] [kθ] [kθ]
κκ kk [kk] [kk] [kk] [k(ʰ)] [c(ʰ)]
κξ kks [kkʰs] [kkʰs] [kks] [k(ʰ)s
κσ ks [kʰs] [kʰs] [ks] [ks]
κσμ ksm [ɡʱzm] [ɡʱzm] [ɡzm] [ɡzm]
κφ kph [kʰpʰ] [kʰpʰ] [kɸ] [kf]
κχ kkh [kkʰ] [kkʰ] [kx] [kx] [kç]
κψ kps [kʰpʰs] [kʰpʰs] [kps] [kps]
λλ ll [ll] [ll] [ll] [(l)l]
μβ mb [mb] [mb] [mb] [ɱv]
μμ mm [mm] [mm] [mm] [(m)m]
μπ mp [mp] [mp] [mp] [mb]
μπτ mpt [mpt] [mpt] [mpt] [mpt]
μφ mph [mpʰ] [mpʰ] [  ̃ɸ] [ɱf] In Byzantine pronuncation, this phoneme becomes seriously endangered and merges with φ in common speech, later reintroduced under influence from Katharevousa.
μψ mps [mpʰs] [mpʰs] [mps] [mps]
νδ nd [nd] [nd] [nd] [nð]
νζ nz [ːzd] [nz] [ndz] [nz] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and the ν is silent and audibly lengthens the preceding vowel instead.
νθ nth [ntʰ] [ntʰ] [  ̃θ] [nθ] In Byzantine pronuncation, this phoneme becomes seriously endangered and merges with θ in common speech, later reintroduced under influence from Katharevousa.
νν nn [nn] [nn] [nn] [(n)n]
νσ νς ns [ːs] [ns] [  ̃s] [ns] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and the ν is silent and audibly lengthens the preceding vowel instead. In Byzantine pronuncation, this phoneme becomes seriously endangered and merges with σ again in common speech, later reintroduced under influence from Katharevousa.
ντ nt [nt] [nt] [nt] [nd]
ντζ ntz [ːzd] [ndz] [ndz] [ndz] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and the ντ is silent and audibly lengthens the preceding vowel instead.
ντσ ντς nts [ːs] [nts] [nts] [nts] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and the ντ is silent and audibly lengthens the preceding vowel instead.
ξβ ksb [ɡʱzb] [ɡʱzb] [ɡzβ] [ɡzv]
ξγ ksg [ɡʱzɡ] [ɡʱzɡ] [ɡzɣ] [ɡzɣ] [ɡzʝ]
ξδ ksd [ɡʱzd] [ɡʱzd] [ɡzð] [ɡzð]
ξζ ksz [ɡʱzzd] [ɡʱzz] [ɡzz] [ɡ(z)z]
ξμ ksm [ɡʱzm] [ɡʱzm] [ɡzm] [ɡzm]
ππ pp [pp] [pp] [pp] [p(ʰ)]
πφ pph [ppʰ] [ppʰ] [pɸ] [pf]
ρρ ῤῥ rrh [rhr] [r(h)r] [rr] [(r)ɾ]
σβ sb [zb] [zb] [zβ] [zv]
σγ sg [zɡ] [zɡ] [zɣ] [zɣ] [zʝ]
σδ sd [zd] [zd] [zð] [zð]
σζ sz [zzd] [zz] [zz] [(z)z]
Σμ σμ sm [zm] [zm] [zm] [zm]
σσ ss [ss] [ss] [ss] [(s)s]
Τζ τζ tz [zd] [dz] [dz] [dz] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and is pronounced as ζ, not audibly lengthening the preceding vowel as νζ does.
τθ tth [ttʰ] [ttʰ] [tθ] [tθ]
Τσ τσ τς ts [s] [ts] [ts] [ts] Not viable in Classical Attic, where the spelling is rare, and is pronounced as σ, not audibly lengthening the preceding vowel as νσ does.
ττ tt [tt] [tt] [tt] [t(ʰ)]
ψβ psb [bʱzb] [bʱzb] [bzβ] [bzv]
ψγ psg [bʱzɡ] [bʱzɡ] [bzɣ] [bzɣ] [bzʝ]
ψδ psd [bʱzd] [bʱzd] [bzð] [bzð]
ψζ psz [bʱzzd] [bʱzz] [bzz] [b(z)z]
ψμ psm [bʱzm] [bʱzm] [bzm] [bzm]

αυ/ευ/ηυ exceptions[edit]

This table uses ευ as an example, but the same principles apply to αυ and ηυ, with α and η instead of ε.

Spelling Rom. Class. IPA Koine IPA Byzan. IPA Cont. IPA before αι ε ει ευ η ῃ ηυ ι οι υ υι Notes
ευβ eub [eʊb] [ɛwb] [eββ] [e(v)v]
ευθ euth [eʊtʰ] [ɛʍtʰ] [eɸθ] [efθ]
ευκ euk [eʊk] [ɛʍk] [eɸk] [efk] [efc]
ευξ euks [eʊkʰs] [ɛʍkʰs] [eɸks] [efks]
ευπ eup [eʊp] [ɛʍp] [eɸp] [efp]
ευσ ευς eus [eʊs] [ɛʍs] [eɸs] [efs]
ευσβ eusb [eʊzb] [ɛwzb] [eβzβ] [evzv]
ευσγ eusg [eʊzɡ] [ɛwzɡ] [eβzɣ] [evzɣ] [evzʝ]
ευσδ eusd [eʊzd] [ɛwzd] [eβzð] [evzð]
ευσμ eusm [eʊzm] [ɛwzm] [eβzm] [evzm]
ευτ eut [eʊt] [ɛʍt] [eɸt] [eft]
ευτζ eutz [eʊzd] [ɛwdz] [eβdz] [evdz]
ευφ euph [eʊpʰ] [ɛʍpʰ] [eɸɸ] [e(f)f]
ευχ eukh [eʊkʰ] [ɛʍkʰ] [eɸx] [efx] [efç]
ευψ eups [eʊpʰs] [ɛʍpʰs] [eɸps] [efps]
ευ eu [eʊ] [ɛʍ] [eɸ] [ef] Specifically in the word-final position.

Consonant-ι exceptions[edit]

Even today, most words of learned Ancient Greek origin have ι pronounced as [i], always a full vowel in its own syllable. However, where ι is understood to have come from [j], a [j]-derived pronunciation may reasonably apply. [j] does not enter the spoken language until the Byzantine period, and some words (such as Ἰούλιος (Ioúlios)) do not today have retroactive [j] pronunciations. But when [j] does contextually apply, this is how.

Spelling Rom. Byzan. IPA Cont. IPA Notes
ι ϊ i [j] [ʝ]
γι gi [ɣj] [ʝ]
γγι ngi [ŋɡj] [ŋɟ]
γκι nki [ŋkj] [ŋɟ]
γχι nkhi [  ̃xj] [ŋç]
θι thi [θj] [θç]
κι ki [kj] [c]
κγι kgi [ɡɣj] [ɡʝ]
κκι kki [kkj] [(c)c]
κχι kkhi [kxj] [kç]
λι li [lj] [ʎ]
λλι lli [llj] [(ʎ)ʎ]
νι ni [nj] [ɲ]
ννι nni [nnj] [(ɲ)ɲ]
ξι ksi [ksj] [ksç]
πι pi [pj] [pç]
σι si [sj] [sç]
τι ti [tj] [tç]
φι phi [ɸj] [fç]
χι khi [xj] [ç]
ψι psi [psj] [psç]

Additional notes[edit]

  • A rough breathing mark (dasy pneuma) is designated by an h at the front of the word (both in IPA and Romanization). A smooth breathing mark (psilon pneuma) requires no notation. In Koine IPA, the rough breathing mark is marked as [(h)] because it's already a mostly dead phoneme. In Byzantine IPA onward, it is totally gone. When the rough breathing mark is on vowels or diphthongs, they should be preceded with h in romanization. Over ρ, the consonant is romanized rh. The mark is always on (or implied to be on) word-initial Ρ ρ Υ υ Υι υι, which are always romanized Rh rh Hu hu Hui hui. ρρ/ῤῥ is always romanized rrh.
  • Iota subscripts are romanized, but not pronounced for Koine. In Classical pronunciation an iota subscript is designated by a /j/ following the vowel.
  • A diaeresis should be noted in a Romanization with the umlaut set found in the Latin/Roman script set (at the bottom of the editing window).
  • In Classical IPA, acute accent is noted by   ́   on vowel, circumflex with    ̂  . In Koine, both are represented with   ˈ   at the beginning of corresponding syllable.
  • Macrons should be designated in IPA by the long vowel symbol ː. Long vowels (, , ) are denoted in the displayed forms of words, as well as romanizations, with a macron. The macron is omitted in combination with a circumflex accent, as a circumflex accent is already implicitly long.

See also[edit]