What Do You Know About The 23 Greek Alphabet? Versatile Alphabet

What Do You Know About The Greek Alphabet? Ancient Vs Modern Greek

History of Greek Alphabet

Greek alphabet is the origin of all modern European alphabets. So, What is the origin of the Greek alphabet? Who first used the Greek alphabet? What is the Greek alphabet? How many letters are there in the Greek alphabet? What are the names of the Greek alphabet?

The Greek alphabet developed through time. Some letters have been added, others have been taken off. The Greeks added more sounds to the alphabet. They invented the vowel sounds as well. There were two main branches of the Greek alphabet.

There are different fonts and writing styles associated with the Greek alphabet. Geek alphabet has lowercase letters and uppercase letters. Greek alphabet were used as numerals in other languages. What is the early evidence for the Greek alphabet? What is the history of the early Greek alphabet?

What Is The Greek Alphabet?

The Greek alphabet is “an alphabet that has been used from ancient times for writing the Greek language, that is of Semitic origin but differs from Semitic alphabets in having characters for the vowels, and that has given rise directly or indirectly to various other alphabets”

What is The Origin of The Greek Alphabet?

Greek alphabet is a writing system that was developed in Greece about during the 8th century BC. It is adapted from the North Semitic alphabet,  the earliest fully developed writing system,  by the Phoenicians, people live in in Lebanon, Syria and Israel of today.

Greek alphabet was not the first writing system that was used to write Greek; the Linear B script was the writing system used to write Greek during Mycenaean times, several centuries before the Greek alphabet.  The Linear B script was lost around c.1100 BC, since that date there was no writing system until they developed the Greek alphabet.

How Was The Greek Alphabet developed?

As mentioned above, the Greek alphabet derived from the Semitic alphabet. the Semitic alphabet didn’t have vowels, so the Greek developed the vowels. The question is: why did they need vowel? Apparently, people can read and write without vowels before. There are different theories about that.

One reason for the Greek to develop vowels was to write down especially epic poetry. They needed a certain meter for the epic poetry called Dactylic Hexameter. So, the Greek reassigned some consonant symbols in the Semitic alphabet to represent vowels. 

They turned four Semitic consonants, Aleph, He, Yod, and Ayin, into symbols for the sounds of the Greek vowels a, e, i, and o. The Semitic Waw became the Greek Digamma. It was eventually lost, but Latin retained as the letter F. 

Then, the Greek added more letters to the alphabet. they generally put them at the end of the alphabet to keep the same order of the Semitic alphabet. So, when they added a u vowel, Upsilon, they placed it at the end. Later, they developed long vowels, called Omega, and still added  at the very end of the alphabet. 

The Greek added more letters to represent the (aspirated labial and velar stops) Phi [now: Φ] and Chi [now: Χ], and (stop sibilant clusters) Psi [now: Ψ] and Xi/Ksi [now: Ξ] to the end of the alphabet. 

2 Main Variations in the Greek Alphabet

Before the 5th century BCE the Greek alphabet could be divided into two main groups: eastern Ionic Greeks, called Ionic alphabet, and western Ionic Greek, called  Chalcidian alphabet. The eastern Ionic used the Χ (Chi) for the ch sound and the Ψ (Psi) for the ps, but Western and mainland Greeks used Χ (Chi) for k+s and Ψ (Psi) for k+h.

Athens  made a decision to standardize all official documents by approving the 24-character Ionic alphabet. This decision was issued in 403/402 B.C. The 24-character Ionic alphabet the dominant Greek form. The Chalcidian alphabet probably developed by time to the Italic alphabet.

Writing Directions of the Greek Alphabet

The writing system adopted from the Phoenicians, Semitic alphabet, was written and read from right to left. This direction of writing was called “retrograde”.  the Greeks first wrote their alphabet the same way as the Semitic alphabet from right to left. 

By time the Greeks developed a system of circling the writing around and back on itself, called boustrophedon or boustrophedon. Sometimes the letters were upside down,  from up/down as well as from left/right. 

Letters that would appear different are Alpha, Beta Β, Gamma Γ, Epsilon Ε, Digamma Ϝ, Iota Ι, Kappa Κ, Lambda Λ, Mu Μ, Nu Ν, Pi π, Rho Ρ, and Sigma Σ. Some of the Greek letters were symmetrical others were not. Vertical symmetry means that the right side of the letter is the reflection of the left side.

Horizontal symmetry means that the bottom of the letter is a reflection of the top. Alpha was sometimes nonsymmetrical not as alpha (A) of the modern language. The letters that the Greeks added to the end of the alphabet were symmetrical.

Here is a list of the Greek alphabet:

Letter

Upper Case

Lower Case

Alpha

Beta

Gamma

Delta

epsilon 

Zeta

Eta

theta 

Iota

Kappa

Lamda

Mu

Nu

Xi

Omicron

Pi

Rho

Sigma

Tau

Upsilon

Phi

Chi

psi 

omega

Α

Β 

Γ 

Δ 

Ε 

Ζ 

Η 

Θ 

Ι 

Κ 

Λ 

Μ 

Ν 

Ξ 

Ο 

Π 

Ρ 

Σ 

Τ 

Υ 

Φ 

Χ 

Ψ 

Ω

α 

β 

γ 

δ 

ε 

ζ 

η 

θ 

ι 

κ 

λ 

μ 

ν 

ξ 

ο 

π 

ρ 

σ 

τ 

υ 

φ 

χ 

ψ 

ω

There was no punctuation in early inscriptions and one word ran into the next.  It is believed that boustrophedon followed the left-to-right form of writing. It was mentioned that the normal direction was followed by the 5th century B.C. 

There were some changes in the shape of the letters. The iota turned into to something  known as an i vowel. the Eta, ἦ, lost its top and bottom rung turning into the letter H of today’s alphabet. The Mu, something like: //, became symmetrical which is today’s M. 

Between 635 and 575, retrograde, writing from right to left, and boustrophedon, circling the writing around and back on itse, stopped. By the middle of the 5th century, the Greek letters we know were almost in place. 

The Greek Alphabet Pronunciation

Words in the Greek language are pronounced the way they are written. there are no magic “e” type letters.  As well, letters are always pronounced the same way, with the exception of a few diphthongs, a double vowel sound that can occur when there are two vowels side by side.

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters, some of them representing sounds that are not part of the English language. To create sounds not included in the alphabet, two letters are combined. For example: the b sound is created by putting together “m” and “p,”. the j sound is created with a combination of “t” and “z,”.

The Greek language does not have a sh or soft ch sound. The sh or the soft ch sound are pronounced properly when they are written using the letter “s”.  Here is a list with the Greek letters, the pronunciation and the sound while speaking:

Name

Pronounced

When speaking,

sounds like

alpha

AHL-fah

ah

vita

VEE-tah

the letter v

gamma

GHAH-mah

the letter y when it comes before e, u, i; otherwise like a soft gargle gh

thelta

THEL-tah

hard th as in “there”

epsilon

EHP-see-lon

eh

zita

ZEE-tah

the letter z

ita

EE-tah

ee

thita

THEE-tah

soft th as in “through”

iota

YO-tah

ee

kappa

KAH-pah

the letter k

lamtha

LAHM-thah

the letter l

mu

mee

the letter m

nu

nee

the letter n

xee

ksee

the letter x

omikron

OH-mee-kron

oh

pi

pee

the letter p

ro

roh, roe

a rolled r

sigma

SEEGH-mah

the letter s

tau

tahf

the letter t

upsilon

EWP-see-lon

ee

phi

fee

the letter f

chi

hee

a light gargly ch as in “challah”

psi

psee

ps as in “chips”

omega

oh-MEH-ghah

somewhere between “awe” and “oh”

Here is a list of some Greek diphthongs: 

ΑΥ, αυ

au

av or af

ΕΥ, ευ

eu

ev or ef

ΟΥ, ου

ou

oo

ΑΙ, αι

ai

eh

Greek Alphabet Font

AS mentioned earlier, there was no punctuation in the Greek writing. There was a handwriting called the “Epigraphical style” (Hunger). This form of writing falls regularly within the space of two lines with only individual letters (e. g. Nu) rising above or going below these boundaries. The Greeks did not have a cursive hand before the Hellenistic Age. 

There was a Documentary handwriting style. It was the common form of writing. It was developed from the epigraphical style. It tries constantly to combine two, three, or more letters. It employs numerous space saving abbreviations without affecting the meaning. 

There was a Literary handwriting style. The Literary handwriting used for literary texts and books. The literary hand avoids combining letters. It always remained basically a majuscule script running between two lines.

The so-called Hook style was popular in the 1st century b.c. and the 1st century a.d. Many papyri of the 2d and 3d centuries a.d reflects another stylistic form called the Strict style. Eta, Mu, Nu, Pi, and Omega are enlarged. Delta, Kappa, Lambda, and Chi are flattened. 

On the other hand, letters such as Beta, Theta, Epsilon, and Sigma are kept extremely small. Omicron, Sigma, and Omega are frequently written in such small form that they cannot fill the space between the two lines. Apostrophes, and punctuation marks are found in papyri of the Strict style.

The “Biblical style” developed out of the Strict style in the course of the 3d century. The most important characteristic feature of the Biblical style is the way to balance the different sizes of small and broad letters. Narrow letters are avoided except at the ends of lines.

In the Middle Byzantine period the uncial was used beside the newly introduced minuscule. Characteristic features of the liturgical uncial are pointed oval forms of the earlier round letters and a marked contrast between light upstrokes and heavy downstrokes. 

The Coptic style was a unique development of the uncial in the 6th to the 10th centuries. The Copts used the Greek uncial as the literary hand for writing their own literature. It showed unusually large individual letters, a small Alpha, and a deep-saddle form of Mu. 

Book minuscule, calligraphic minuscule, or simply minuscule was the writing style in the Byzantine period. It was developed out of the Byzantine cursive. The transfer of the works of ancient literature from uncial to the new minuscule writing was an important step the history of the transmission of texts. It was done in 9th and 10th centuries.

The minuscule, like the Byzantine cursive, was a four-line system of writing. It showed a way to combine two to ten, or even more, letters into a continuous unit. Some features of this style were writing above the line, a slight slope to the left and a round form popular from the late 10th century.

In the early 15th century the Byzantines tried to go back to the minuscule forms of the 9th to the 12th centuries. By the use of separation of letters and words, punctuation, and free standing accents, the MSS written in the revised style were made much more understandable.

After the invention of printing, the first book set wholly in Greek type was published at Milan in 1476. The cutting of Greek type fonts, difficult as it was at first, reached its maturity by the 1490s. At this time, and far into the 16th century, a reciprocal influence may be noted in MSS and printed books.

Here is a sample of the different fonts of the Greek script

Here is a chart for the Greek alphabet:

Alpha Greek Alphabet

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.  The uppercase symbol is Α; while the lowercase symbol is α. Alpha is commonly used in chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics, and science. 

In the Greek numeral system, the letter represented 1 (one). It presented the first/the beginning. In ancient Greek, alpha was pronounced either short or long “a”. (Ᾱᾱ, Ᾰᾰ). Letters that arose from alpha include the Latin letter A and the Cyrillic letter А.

It is also commonly used in mathematics in algebraic solutions representing quantities such as angles. Also, in mathematics, the letter alpha is used to denote the area underneath a normal curve in statistics to denote significance level when proving null and alternative hypotheses. 

The letter alpha represents different concepts in physics and chemistry, including alpha radiation, angular acceleration, alpha particles, alpha carbon and strength of electromagnetic interaction.  Alpha also stands for thermal expansion coefficient of a compound in physical chemistry.

In Modern Greek, vowel length has been lost, and all instances of alpha simply represent IPA: [a]. In the polytonic orthography of Greek, alpha can occur with several diacritic marks: any of three accent symbols (ά, ὰ, ᾶ), and either of two breathing marks (ἁ, ἀ), as well as combinations of these.

Alpha and Omega are used as a symbol in Christianity. It is declared that “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” in the Book of Revelation. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet ,so this phrase is interpreted to mean that God includes all that can be. 

Beta in Greek Alphabet

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase  symbol is Β, while the lowercase symbol is β. In the Greek numeral system, it has a value of two. Beta is especially used in finance, science, mathematics, statistics and typography.

symbol β is used as the speed parameter in relativity. The lowercase Beta (β) is used to indicate a beta ray or a beta particle which means a high-energy, high-speed electron in physics. There is a hurricane named after Beta. It was  7th major hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

The term Beta is also used in climbing jargon which sometimes gives information about the difficulty of the approach, quality of rock, equipment, as well as the most challenging point in mountaineering.

Gamma Greek Alphabet

Gamma is the third letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Γ,  while the lowercase symbol is γ. The uppercase Γ is used in mathematics, differential geometry, physics, electrical engineering etc. In the Greek numerals system, it has a value of three. 

The lowercase gamma (γ) is used to indicate gamma radiation in nuclear physics, and the activity coefficient in thermodynamics. The uppercase gamma (Γ) stands for the gamma function in math and the gamma distribution in statistics. The symbol gamma is used to denote shear strain in mechanical engineering as well.

Delta Greek Alphabet

Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Δ, the lowercase symbol is δ. It has the value of four, in the Greek numeral system. The letter D was drawn as a gate or a door at the beginning because it originally meant door in the the Phoenician.

The upper-case delta (Δ) is used to refer to “difference” or “change” in mathematics. The lowercase Delta (δ) is used to show a partial charge in molecular chemistry. Delta symbol used in law too. It meant “defendant”. 

Epsilon Greek Alphabet

Epsilon is the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ε, while the lowercase symbol is ε. It has a value of five in the Greek numeral system. It came from the Phoenician letter hē, which meant window. 

The lowercase epsilon is widely used in astronomy, computer science, chemistry, statistics, continuum mechanics and economics. The lowercase Epsilon (ε) refers to the open-mid front unrounded vowel in the International Phonetic Alphabet. 

The uppercase Epsilon is not used much today because it is the same as the letter E in Latin alphabet. The lowercase Epsilon (ε) is used to show normal strain in mechanical engineering. It is also used to show the Levi-Civita symbol, dual numbers, and the Heaviside step function in math. 

 Zeta in Greek Alphabet

Zeta is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is  Ζ, The lowercase symbol is ζ. It has the value of seven in the Greek numeral system. It originally meant weapon in the Phoenician. It came from the letter zayin. But the Greeks renamed the Phoenician letter zayin as Zeta. 

In modern pronunciation, it sounds like “z” as in the word “zoo”. The  lowercase zeta is used in mathematics, fluid and polymer dynamics. The uppercase Zeta (Z) is not used today because it is the same as the Z in Latin alphabet. 

The lowercase zeta (ζ) is used to represent the Riemann zeta function in math. It is used in engineering dynamics, quantum chemistry, physics, industrial materials technology. Tropical Storm Zeta is named after the Greek letter Zeta. 

Eta Greek Alphabet

Eta is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Η, while the lowercase symbol is η. It presents the number eight in the Greek numeral system. It is derived from the the Phoenician letter heth (or ḥēt). The letter Ḥet repeated (חחחחח) is used to show “haha” or LOL in Hebrew.

The uppercase letter eta (Η) is used as a symbol of enthalpy in Chemistry. The lowercase letter η is also used to denote conformal time in Cosmology and efficiency in Telecommunications. It also used to represent viscosity in Rheology, and elasticity in Economics. The star system, Eta Carinae, takes its name from the Greek letter Eta.

The letter eta is used  in many areas such as physics, mathematics, astronomy, statistics, oceanography, atmospheric science, biology, thermodynamics. The lowercase letter eta (η) is also used to represent the quantum efficiency in optics and pseudorapidity in experimental particle physics. It is also used to represent baryon–photon ratio in cosmology.

Theta Greek Alphabet

Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is ϴ, while the lowercase symbol is  θ. It has a value of nine, in the Greek numeral system. Theta also referred to death in Greek and Latin epigraphy. It was derived from Phoenician letter Teth (or ṭēt) and it meant wheel.

The uppercase and lowercase letters are used in various areas such as geometry, trigonometry, meteorology, population genetics, econometrics, statistics. The letter theta is used to denote an angle in geometry the same as unknown variable in trigonometry.

It also denotes the voiceless dental fricative in the International Phonetic Alphabet. The lowercase theta (θ) is used to refer to the potential temperature in meteorology and the Watterson estimator in population genetics. the uppercase theta (ϴ) is used to denote the dimension of temperature and dimensionless temperature.

Lota Greek Alphabet

Iota is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ι, while the lowercase symbol is ι. It represents number ten in the Greek numeral system. The Greek letter is derived from the letter Yodh (or yōd) in Phoenician language. It meant  “hand” in Phoenician language. 

Lota was the foundation to the name of the letter J (jota) in Spanish and Portuguese alphabets. The lowercase iota is used in some programming languages, logic, mathematics, celestial mechanics …etc. 

The uppercase iota (Ι) is used to represent the identity matrix in linear algebra. This Greek letter is used to talk about something very small or tiny in the English language. There is also an expression like “not one iota” which refers to the same meaning “Not even the smallest amount”.

It is also mentioned in Bible (Matthew 5:18): “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished”. As well, the word “jot” which means “not at all”, also comes from the Greek letter iota.

Kappa Greek Alphabet

Kappa is the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Κ, while the lowercase symbol is κ. It has the value of 20 in the Greek numeral system. The Greek letter is derived from the Phoenician letter kaph (or kāp). It  meant “palm of a hand” in the Phoenician language. 

Kappa represents the “k” sound in both ancient and modern languages. It is used in areas such in cosmology, physics, thermodynamics, engineering, biology, psychology, pharmacology, and macroeconomics. 

The uppercase kappa is also used in chemistry, mathematics and statistics. The lowercase kappa is used to denote the connectivity of a graph in graph theory or the curvature of a curve in differential geometry. 

The uppercase Kappa is used to denote the denticity of the compound in chemistry. An ordinal which is also a cardinal in math and statistics is also represented by the uppercase Kappa. the lowercase letter kappa represented The multiplication factor in engineering and the compressibility of a compound in thermodynamics. 

The letter Kappa is also used to denote the curvature of the universe in cosmology and the von Kármán constant in physics and engineering. Also, Einstein’s gravitational constant is represented by the lowercase kappa.

Lambda In Greek Alphabet

Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Λ, while the lowercase symbol is λ.  It has the value of number 30 in the Greek numeral. It is derived from the Phoenician letter lamed (or lāmed). It originally meant “goad”. 

Lambda represents “l” sound in modern English. In physics, the lowercase letter lambda (λ) used to denote the wavelength. In measure theory that is a branch of maths, a lowercase lambda represents the Lebesgue measure. Lambda calculus or λ-calculus is derived from the Greek letter lambda.

The uppercase and lowercase lambda are used in many areas such as neurobiology, criminology, electrochemistry, ecology, electronics engineering, science, solid-state electronics, politics, astrophysics, etc. The symbol of the letter Lambda shows the cosmological constant in cosmology.

Mu Greek Alphabet

Mu is the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Μ, while the lowercase symbol is μ. It has the value of 40 in the Greek numeral. It is derived from the Phoenician letter mem (or mēm). The capital Mu (M) is the same as the Latin M.

The lowercase symbol is commonly used in academic fields such as math, physics, pharmacology, engineering, computer science, biology, chemistry etc. The lowercase Mu (μ) is used to denote the population mean in statistics as well as magnetic permeability. It also represents coefficient of friction and micron (micrometer). elementary particles, linear density, and muon in physics are denoted by the lowercase Mu.

The symbol “μ” is also used to represent a measure and integrating factor, Möbius function. Mimalization, and Ramanujan–Soldner constant are denoted by “μ”  in math. There are other uses of this letter in orbital mechanics, music (as Mu major chord), and linguistics. It is not used today because it is identical to Latin M. 

Nu Greek Alphabet

Nu is the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ν, while the  lowercase symbol is ν. it represents the number of 50 in the Greek numerals. It is derived from the Phoenician language nun (or nūn), which was used to mean serpent. 

The uppercase Nu (N)  isn’t used now because it looks like the Latin N. The lowercase nu is used in various areas like statistics, thermodynamics, physics, material science and chemistry. The lowercase letter Nu stands for Polymerase (DNA directed) nu In biology. 

The lower-case letter Nu “ν” is used in the Modal μ-calculus in theoretical computer science. It also represents the degree of freedom in statistics, neutrino, kinematic viscosity, and the frequency of a wave in physics. In chemistry, the letter is used as a symbol for the stoichiometric coefficient. 

XI In Greek Alphabet

Xi or Csi is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ξ, while the lowercase symbol is ξ. It represents number 60 in the Greek numeral. In both ancient and modern languages, the letter is pronounced as “ksi”. The csi/xi is derived from the Phoenician language sāmek, which meant fish. 

The capital letter (Ξ) is used in statistical mechanics and particle physics. the lowercase xi (ξ) represents the original Riemann Xi function, the damping ratio and the extent of a chemical reaction. The lowercase letter is also used as a symbol for the initial mass function and the correlation function in astronomy.

Omicron In Greek Alphabet

Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ο, while the lowercase symbol is ο. It represents number 70 in the Greek numeral. It is derived from the Phoenician letter ayin (ayn or ain), which was shaped like a circle. it meant “eye” in Phoenician language. 

Uppercase and lowercase omicron are used only in mathematics. Omicron is also known as the little O. Omicron is widely used as a symbol of the fifteenth star in a constellation group. Omicron Persei (or ο Persei) is another star system in the constellation of Perseus.

Pi In Greek Alphabet

Pi is the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is  Π, while the lowercase symbol is π. It represents number 80 in the Greek numerals. It is pronounced as “p”. It is derived from the Phoenician letter pē, which meant mouth. 

The capital letter pi is used in mathematics and chemistry. The lowercase letter pi (π) has been used as a symbol for mathematical constant. The lowercase letter pi is used in microeconomics and macroeconomics as well. This symbol is also called Archimedes’ constant or Ludolph’s number. 

In particle physics, pi is used to represent pion or pi meson. In maths, the greek symbol pi (π) is approximately 3.14159265. The lowercase letter pi is used to denote the homotopy group and prime-counting function in mathematics. In science and engineering, the uppercase pi (Π) is used to indicate the viscous stress tensor and the osmotic pressure.

Rho Greek Alphabet

Rho is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ρ, while the lowercase symbol is ρ. It represents 100 in the Greek numeral. IT is derived from the Phoenician letter rēš. It meant head. The lowercase rho (ρ) is used in economics, mathematics, ecology, molecular biology, computer programming and statistics.

In mathematics, this Greek symbol refers to Dickman’s function, the plastic number, the prime constant. In physics. It is used to represent “density”, “resistivity”. In particle physics, It is also used in “a rho meson” which is a short-lived hadronic particle.

Sigma Greek Alphabet

Sigma is the 18th letter of the Modern Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Σ, while the lowercase symbol is σ. It is used to represent the “s” sound in Ancient and Modern Greek.  It has the value of 200 in the numeral system. It has its roots from the Phoenician letter šīn. It meant tooth.

The uppercase sigma (Σ) means to sum up in mathematics. The lowercase sigma (σ) is used to represent standard deviation in math and statistics. It is used to represent a shielding constant in chemistry and sum of divisors in math. Here is one of the math problems with Sigma:

Sum What?

Sum whatever is after the Sigma:

Σ

 n

so we sum n

But What Values of n ?

The values are shown below

and above the Sigma:

4

Σ

n=1

 n

it says n goes from 1 to 4,

which is 1, 2, 3 and 4

OK, Let’s Go …

So now we add up 1,2,3 and 4:

4

Σ

n=1

 n = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10

Tau Greek Alphabet

Tau is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Τ, while  the lowercase symbols is τ. It has the value of 300 in the Greek numeral. It is derived from the letter tāw in the Phoenician alphabet. It is the last letter of the  Phoenician alphabet. The Roman T and Cyrillic Т are derived from the letter Tau. 

Tau would be equal to two times pi, or about 6.283. it would help learning radians in an easier way. The lowercase letter is used in biology, physics, mathematics, mechanics, topology. In physics, tau (Τ) is used to refer to torque, tauon, and shear stress. 

The lowercase letter tau (τ) is used as a symbol for a specific tax amount in economics. Tau was used to symbolize “life” in ancient times too. The uppercase form of the letter looks like the Latin and English letter T. 

Upsilon Greek Alphabet

Upsilon is the 20th letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Υ, while the lowercase symbol is υ. It has the value of number 400 in Greek numeral. It was derived from wāw in the Phoenician language. It meant “hook”.

V and Y and, much later, U and W are derived from the Greek letter Upsilon. the uppercase is used to represent the upsilon function in mathematics. The lowercase is used as a general variable. In astrology, the same letter is used for the sign of Aries.

Phi Greek Alphabet

Phi is the 21st letter of the Modern Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Φ, while the lowercase symbol is φ. It represents the value of 500 in Greek numerals. The sound changed to “f” some time in the 1st century AD. In English, φ is pronounced like “f” but spelled ‘ph’.

The lowercase letter phi (φ) is used to represent the golden ratio. Besides, the capital letter (Φ) is used in mathematics, statistics, electrical engineering. The lowercase letter phi (φ) is also used to indicate wave functions, the magnetic flux in physics. 

Chi Greek Alphabet

Chi is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Χ, while the lowercase symbol is χ. It has the value of 600 in the Greek numeral. The letters are generally used in mathematics, statistics, chemistry, engineering. the Roman X and Cyrillic Х are derived from the Greek Chi.

The upper-case letter Χ is used as the symbol for The name of Jesus Christ in Christianity, as in X-mas etc. The lower-case letter χ is used as the symbol for The chi-square distribution in statistics. The electric susceptibility. It also represents The Euler characteristic in algebraic topology. 

Psi Greek Alphabet

Psi is the 23rd letter of the Modern Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ψ, while the lowercase symbol is ψ. It has the value of 700 in the Greek numeral. It is the sound “ps” as in “lips”.  It is one of the four consonants in the Greek alphabet that produce a double sound. 

Psi is the base for the letter Cyrillic Ѱ. It is used to indicate the polygamma function and the gamma function. It is also used to represent the super golden ratio, and the division polynomials in mathematics. 

Omega Greek Alphabet

Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. The uppercase symbol is Ω, while the lowercase symbol is ω. It has the value of 800 in the Greek numeral. It represents the long “o” sound, as in “obey”, while Omicron represents the short “o” sound. 

Omega is used to denote the end/the last. in chemistry, it is used as a symbol for oxygen-18. The capital omega (Ω) is used to represent ohm in physics. The uppercase letter is used in the fields of in mathematics, computer science and molecular biology. The lowercase omega (ω) is used in biochemistry, chemistry, physics, maths, computer science, sociology.

The lower case letter omega (ω) stands for the fitness in biology, frequency in the structural dynamics. It is also used to refer to the first uncountable ordinal number in math. The letter omega also appears as a symbol for the phonological word in linguistics.

How to Pronounce Greek Vowel Sounds?

Vowel sounds play an important role in Pronunciation in Greek language. There are The one-letter vowels, they are similar to some sounds in English language. There are double-vowel combinations in Greek. These types of vowel sounds are pronounced as follows:

The one-letter vowels are α, ε, η, ι, ο, ω, υ:

  • α sounds like a, as in the word “ant.”
  • ε sounds like e, as in the word “bed.”
  • η, ι, υ (all of them) sound like ee, as in the word “feet.”
  • ο and ω sound like ο, as in the word “fox.”

There are also double-vowel combinations in Greek: αι, ει, οι, υι, ου:

  • αι sounds exactly like ε, as in the word “bed.”
  • ει, οι, and υι sound exactly like η, ι, υ, as in the word “feet.”
  • ου sounds like οο, as in the word “pool.”

The last and most tricky double-vowel combinations are αυ, ευ, and ηυ:

  • αυ is pronοunced either as “af” or as “av.”
  • ευ is pronοunced either as “ef” or as “ev.”
  • ηυ is pronounced as “if” or as “iv.”

Diphthongs

 A diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds in a single syllable. The Diphthongs are αι, αυ, ει, ευ, οι, ου, ηυ, υι, ᾳ, ῃ, ῳ. They are pronounced as follows:

  • αι as in kite
  • αυ as ou in power
  • ει as in fat
  • υι as in lit
  • οι as in soil
  • ου as in troop
  • ευ as ĕh-oo *
  • ηυ as ĕh-oo *

How To Pronounce Greek Consonant Sounds?

Greek consonants are pronounced the same way as their corresponding English consonants. There are also the double consonant combinations γκ (g), γγ (g), μπ (b), ντ (d), τσ (ts), and τζ (j)

Greek consonants are divided into voiced consonants and unvoiced consonants, depending on whether we need to use our vocal cords or not. The voiced sounds are β, γ, δ, ζ, λ, μ, ν, ρ, along with the double consonant combinations μπ, ντ, γγ, γκ, and τζ.

The voiceless sounds are θ, κ, π, σ, τ, φ, χ, along with  the double consonant combination τσ. The letters ξ and ψ are called “double consonants” in Greek because they represent two consonant sounds each (ξ = κς  and ψ = πς). The letters ξ and ψ are voiceless. 

The Greek consonants are also divided according to  the part of the mouth that is used to produce them. They are divided into 6 groups: 

  • Labial (χειλικά; hiliká) π, β, φ, as well as the double consonant combination μπ.
  • Palatal (ουρανικά; uraniká) κ, γ, χ, as well as γγ and γκ.
  • Dental (οδοντικά; odondiká) τ, δ, θ, as well as ντ, τζ, and τσ.
  • Nasal (ρινικά; riniká) μ and ν.
  • Liquid (υγρά; igrá) λ and ρ.
  • Sibilant (συριστικά; siristiká) σ and ζ.

Stressed or unstressed Syllable in Greek

The word is divided into parts. These parts are called syllables. The word is at least one syllable which is called monosyllabic word, like “can”. A word can be more than one syllable, like “beautiful” 3 syllables. If the syllable is pronounced clearer and louder it is called stressed syllable. Monosyllabic words are not stressed. 

In Greek, only the last three syllables of the word can be stressed. This means that the stressed syllable would be one of the last three regardless how many syllables the word is. There is an accent mark to be placed over the stressed syllable, for example the greek word Αθηνά

If the word is one letter vowel, α, ε, η, ι, ο, υ, ω, the stressed vowel looks  ά, έ, ή, ί, ό, ύ, ώ.  The digraphs have the stress mark placed over the second vowel, καρπούζι (watermelon) and αύριο (tomorrow). As for the diphthongs, if it is stressed, the mark is to be placed over the first vowel.

As it is mentioned above the monosyllabic words are not stresses. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In Greek, as in English, Some words are spelled exactly the same but they have different meanings, which is called homophones. In Greek, if the words are monosyllabic and homophones; one of them is to be stressed to avoid confusion.

Here is an example: 

  • που – πού

The unstressed που means the conjunction “that” in English. While the stressed πού means the interrogative “where”. 

Short And Long Greek Vowels

As in English language, Greek has short and long vowel sounds. There is a short [o], is referred to by the letter omicron (ο), and a longer [o:], is referred to by the letter omega (ω). Omicron is pronounced as in British English “hot”, whereas omega is pronounced as in “cow”, with the mouth a bit more open than in omicron.

There is a short [e], denoted by the letter epsilon (ε), and a longer [ε:], denoted by the letter eta (η). Epsilon is pronounced as in “net”, whereas eta is pronounced as the first constituent of the glide [εi] in “cake”, but longer. there are another three vowels, [a], [i], and [y], which can be pronounced as either short or long.

 The letter alpha (α) represents either the short [a] as in “farmer”, or a longer [a:]. The letter iota (ι) represents either a short [i] or a longer [i:], as in “heet”. finally, the letter upsilon (υ) represents either a short [y], which is a rounded [i] as in French “une”, or a longer [y:]. Diphthongs are always long, except when the diphthongs αι or οι appear at the very end of nouns, adjectives, verbs, they are short.

AS it is mentioned before, In Greek, the stress can only be placed over any of the last three syllables of the word. There are some rules to know which syllable is to be stressed. Ultima (λήγουσα) means the last syllable in the word. Penult  (παραλήγουσα)is the second-last syllable. Antepenult (προπαραλήγουσα) is the third syllable from the end.

IF the Ultima is a long vowel sound, the antepenult can’t be stressed. Only an acute accent mark is possible on the antepenult. A stressed long penult receives an acute accent mark if the ultima is long. A stressed long penult receives a circumflex if the ultima is short. The grave accent can appear only on the ultima.

Aspiration The Sound [h] in English

Ancient Greek had the sound [h] as in English language, too, at the beginning of some words. In ancient Greek time, there was only uppercase letters. So, the word ΙΠΠΟΣ (“horse”) was written ΗΙΠΠΟΣ. It was so confusing because the same letter, eta, to represent the long vowel [ε:], and there were words that started with the vowel eta, followed by another vowel, as in ΗΕΡΙΟΣ (“in the air”). 

The sound of aspiration (the [h]), however, still existed in the language: as an initial sound in words starting with a vowel or with the consonant rho (ρ, [hr]), and within the so-called aspirated consonants θ [th], φ [ph], and χ [kh]. 

Greek grammarians split up the letter H into two halves, one like this: |- and one like that: -|. They used the first symbol to indicate the aspiration, and the second for the absence of it. yet, it didn’t last this way and was changed.

Greek Numerals

The Ancient Greeks used letters to represent numbers and the physical sciences. The alphabet system allocated a numeric value to individual letters of the Greek alphabet with some additional symbols. The numbers 1, 2, 3, … had not yet been invented, which were later created by the Arabs.

The Greek numerical system represented all integers from 1 to 999 with the Greek letters, along with the help of punctuation marks, which were:

The stress mark ‘ : after the letter

The comma , : before the letter

The dot . : between letters

The diaeresis ¨ : above the letter.

The Greek numerals are also known by the names Milesian numerals, Alexandrian numerals, or alphabetic numerals. there were two Greek numerals, the acrophonic or alphabetic numerals. The acrophonic system was used until around 100 BCE and inspired the Roman numeral system. 

Here’s a list of acrophonic numerals:

Acrophonic Numeral

Modern Number

I

1

II

2

III

3

IIII

4

Γ

5

Γ I

6

Γ II

7

Γ III

8

Γ IIII

9

Δ

10

Δ Γ

15

ΔΔ

20

 

50

H

100

X

1000

M

10000

Starting in the 4th century BC, the acrophonic system was replaced with a quasi-decimal alphabetic system, sometimes called the Ionic numeral system. Each unit (1, 2, …, 9) was assigned a separate letter, each tens (10, 20, …, 90) a separate letter, and each hundreds (100, 200, …, 900) a separate letter.

They extended the 24-letter Greek alphabet to 27-letter Greek alphabet by using three obsolete letters: fau ϝ, (also used are stigma ϛ or, in modern Greek, στ) for 6, qoppa ϟ for 90, and sampi ϡ for 900. To differentiate between  numerals and letters they are followed by the “keraia”, a symbol similar to an acute sign.

This alphabetic system operates on the additive principle in which the numeric values of the letters are added together to form the total. For example: 142 is represented as ρʹμβʹ. Here is a list for the numeral alphabet:

letter

Value

 

Letter

Value

 

Letter

Value

αʹ

1

 

ιʹ

10

 

ρʹ

100

βʹ

2

 

κʹ

20

 

σʹ

200

γʹ

3

 

λʹ

30

 

τʹ

300

δʹ

4

 

μʹ

40

 

υʹ

400

εʹ

5

 

νʹ

50

 

φʹ

500

ϛ

6

 

ξʹ

60

 

χʹ

600

ζʹ

7

 

οʹ

70

 

ψʹ

700

ηʹ

8

 

πʹ

80

 

ωʹ

800

θʹ

9

 

ϟʹ

90

 

ϡʹ

900

The Greeks also used the myriad to denote 10,000 (Μʹ) and the myriad myriad for one hundred million (ΜΜʹ). Using this alphabetic system, the Greeks did not use place value position like we do, so 653 could be written as χʹνʹγʹsince the χʹ represents 600 regardless of its placement.

Decimal

Symbol

Greek numeral

1

Ι

ena

5

Π

πέντε (peda)

10

Δ

δέκα (deka)

100

Η

ἧκατόν (hekaton)

1000

Χ

χίλιοι (khilioi)

10000

Μ

μύριοι (myrioi)

The Greek Alphabet in Math

The Greek alphabet stood for well known constants, variables, functions, and so on. Here is a list of the Greek alphabet used in math:

Name

Uppercase

Lowercase

Symbol

Meaning

Symbol

Meaning

Alpha

     

any angle, reference angle, direction angle (x-axis), significance level (probability of a type I error); sometimes: proportional to

Beta

 

Beta function, Beta distribution

 

any angle, direction angle (y-axis), probability of a type II error, beta distribution, regression coefficient

Gamma

 

Gamma function, Gamma distribution

 

any angle, direction angle (z-axis), Euler’s constant, gamma distribution

Delta

 

any change in a quantity

 

Kronecker’s delta, Dirac delta function, infinitesimal change

Epsilon

     

any positive quantity (especially a very small one)

Zeta

     

Riemann zeta function

Eta

       

Theta

     

any angle

Iota

       

Kappa

     

curvature of a function

Lambda

     

(Physics) Half-life, (physics) wave-length, (differential equations) zeros of a characteristic equation, (linear algebra) eigenvalues, (probability) parameter in the Poisson distribution, Lambda Calculus

Mu

     

(statistics) population mean, (mensuration) SI prefix “micro-“

Nu

       

Xi

     

Riemann Xi Function

Omicron

       

Pi

 

product operator, () Coproduct operator

 

Pi (constant), the ratio between a circle’s diameter and circumference approximately , Prime counting function

Rho

     

Degree of a vertex, radius in spherical coordinates, radius of curvature of a function

Sigma

 

summation operator

 

standard deviation

Tau

     

Torsion of a curve, suggested as a constant representing the ratio between a circle’s radius and circumference, equal to 2π

Upsilon

       

Phi

     

φ (), angle between z-axis and radius in spherical coordinates

Chi

     

(statistics) Chi-squared test

Psi

     

Polygamma Function

Omega

       

Reasons for using Greek Letters in Math

There are various reasons for different Greek letters to be used for constants in equations. They used letters from the Greek alphabet as symbols to represent various variables. Many letters from the Greek alphabet are used as constants within equations and formulas. 

Π, Θ , as well as α, β, θ are widely used representing the values or constants for a variety of values. They are more distinctive than the normal alphabet in everyday use. they are much easier to recognized from  the language text within mathematical work being written.

Greek Latin Alphabet

The Latin alphabet is certainly the world’s most recognizable form of written language in the Western world. Greek alphabets formed the Etruscan alphabet which is the direct predecessor of the alphabet used by the Romans to write the Latin language. 

The Greeks established their colonies in Today’ Italy, the people who lived there were called The Etruscans. They spread their culture and their language throughout their colonies. They introduced introduced the Euboean alphabet, the alphabet used by the Greeks who lived in Chalcis and Eretria. 

The Etruscans made some changes to the Euboean alphabet. They changed Sigma ”Σ,” to a symbol much closer to today’s English “s”. By time,  the Etruscan alphabet, which is originally derived from the Greek Euboean alphabet, became the father of the Latin alphabet itself.

Greek To English Alphabet

The influence of classical Greek on the English language was indirect. English got affected through Latin and French languages. It is said that more than 150,000 words of English are derived from Greek words. These include common words along with technical and scientific terms.

Some words are usually of Greek origin. For example, Words that starts with ‘ph-‘,  philosophy, physical, photo, are from Greek Origin. Many English words are formed from Greek morpheme, the smallest unit of a word. 

Western culture got affected by the Greek mythology. Some English expression are derived from ancient mythology and beliefs. The ‘Midas touch’ is a common expression derived from Greek mythology which means a near-magical ability to succeed at anything one undertakes. 

Conclusion

Greek alphabet is the origin of all modern European alphabets. It was developed through time. Some letters have been added, others have been taken of. There are different fonts and writing styles associated with the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet has 24 letters. Greek alphabet is still used in Maths, science, physics,…etc. 

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