How to speak Greek – The Greek alphabet and 20 useful Greek words

In this basic Greek for beginners article, you can find everything you need to know about the Greek alphabet. I will also show you 20 Greek words that you will find useful!

It’s all Greek to me

This is what most people say when they try to read the Greek alphabet for the first time. But don’t panic!

Many of the letters are similar to the Latin letters you might be more familiar with. And if you remember your Maths classes, you may recognize some other Greek letters, like pi (π) or tau (τ).

Read on to find out more about the Greek alphabet and the way words are pronounced!

The Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters, of which 17 are consonants and 7 are vowels (marked in red below).

Α / α / “a” as in “apple”

Β / β / “v” as in “various”

Γ / γ / “y” as in “yes” (it’s also close to the French “r”)

Δ / δ / “th” as in “the”

Ε / ε / “e” as in “pen”

Ζ / ζ / “z” as in “zip”

Η / η / “e” as in “me

Θ / θ / “th” as in “theory”

Ι / ι / “e” as in “me

Κ / κ / “k” as in “key”

Λ / λ / “l” as in “love”

Μ / μ / “m” as in “mother”

Greek alphabet - How to pronounce letters

Ν / ν / “n” as in “nephew”

Ξ / ξ / “x” as in “fox

Ο / ο / “o” as in “orange”

Π / π / “p” as in “people”

Ρ / ρ / rolling “r” as in “rrright”

Σ / σ / “s” as in “seat”

Τ / τ / “t” as in “ten”

Υ / υ / “e” as in “me

Φ / φ / “f” as in “father”

Χ / χ / “ch, h” almost as in “hit” (a bit harsher)

Ψ / ψ / “ps”, almost like in “absent”

Ω / ω / “o” as in “orange”

Apart from the 24 letters, we also have a few letter combinations.

Greek alphabet - Double letters

The vowel combinations above are marked in red, and the consonant combinations are marked in black.

As the Greek alphabet doesn’t have letters for the sounds “b”, “d”, “g”, “j” and “ch”, we use the combinations above.

Reading Greek is easy… Honest!

Once you’ve learnt how to read and pronounce each individual letter in the Greek alphabet, you can read and pronounce ANY Greek word!

This is because in terms of pronunciation, Greek is very straightforward when compared to English.

What I mean by this, is that in English, the same letter can be pronounced in many different ways. Think of the letter “a” in “apple”, “ball” and “flakes” – it sounds very different!

In Greek, however Greek letters sound the same every time we read them, with the exceptions of letters Γ and Χ. 

For example, the letter “α” sounds the same in all the following words – μαμά, αέρας, καλημέρα, παρακαλώ, αρχή. It always sounds like “a” in the word “apple”. Easy, eh!

Letter combinations in Greek

If you have read this far, you may have noticed that a few letters are pronounced in exactly the same way. This will make your life easier when speaking, but it will confuse you at first if you decide to study Greek.

  • There are three letters and two letter combinations (Η, Ι, Υ, ΕΙ, ΟΙ) that sound like “e” in “me
  • There is one letter and one letter combination (E and AI) that sound like “e” in “pen”
  • There are two letters (Ο and Ω) that sound like “o” in “orange”.

The above is pretty much all you need to know if you want to read Greek. Speaking our language properly is another matter altogether!

However, if you are here for a visit, you are unlikely to need more than a few words. And I’ve got those for you here….

20 useful Greek words

If you are planning a trip to Greece, you may want to learn a few Greek words before you travel.

Although English is widely spoken, an effort to speak Greek will attract some smiles, and possibly some treats!

Here are 20 words that you are likely to find useful during your holiday in Greece.


If you were disappointed not to find the word “malakas” in this table, I am sorry!

Not sure what it means? I guarantee that by the end of your vacation in Greece, you will have heard it often enough to work it out 🙂 

Kimolos Greece is a relaxing islandHi! I am Vanessa, a travel writer from Athens in Greece. I hope you have found this introduction to Greek useful! Are there any other Greek words you’d like to know? Please leave a question or a comment below! You can also get in touch through my Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.



More travel guides about Greece

Have a look at these other Greek travel guides:

20 useful words for your Greek holiday

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