A Brief Guide to
Ancient Greek Pronunciation

© 1999, John Opsopaus


This guide will help you to pronounce Ancient Greek according to current scholarly reconstructions of Attic pronunciation in the fifth century BCE. The purpose of trying to pronounce Ancient Greek correctly is that it allows our invocations to be more authentic (and, we imagine, more pleasing to the ears of the Gods), and that it permits us to appreciate ancient Greek poetry better.

Pronunciation Guide


(Upper and lower case Greek letters are shown - if you have a graphical browser - followed by
{beta-code transcription} and the name of the letter.)

Diphthongs are pronounced by slurring together the individual vowel sounds, except as noted below. Also note that the terms "long" and "short" refer to the length of the sounds (in time), not to whether they are long or short like English vowels. In emphatic speech (ceremonial etc.), long vowels should take approximately twice as much time as short. Doubled consonants are pronounced by lengthening the consonant's sound.

A {A} (Alpha)
Alpha may be long or short and is pronounced O as in "not."
B {B} (Beta)
Like English B.
{G} (Gamma)
Like English hard G in "good." When Gamma occurs before Gamma, Kappa, Mu, Xi or Chi, it is pronounced like the NG in "hang."
{D} (Delta)
Like English D.
E {E} (Epsilon)
The exact quality of epsilon is not clear, but it seems to be a short vowel like AY in "bay" but tending to E in "bet."
Z {Z} (Zeta)
Pronounced ZD, although sometimes also DZ or Z.
H {H} (Eta)
A long EH sound like the E in "bet.".
{Q} (Theta)
Pronounced as an aspirated T something like the TH in "hothouse" when spoken rapidly.
I {I} (Iota)
Iota may be long or short and is pronounced EE as in "see." The iota-subscript should be pronounced.
K {K} (Kappa)
An unaspirated K something like the K in "skin."
{L} (Lambda)
Like English L.
M {M} (Mu)
Like English M.
N {N} (Nu)
Like English N.
{C} (Xi)
Like English X in "box."
O {O} (Omicron)
A short vowel of uncertain quality, but probably like the O in "no" but tending to AW in "awe." The diphthong was originally a long O as in "no," but later was pronounced like OO in "too."
{P} (Pi)
Unaspirated P something like the P in "spin."
P {R} (Rho)
Tongue-trilled R.
{S} (Sigma)
Like English S. When Sigma occurs before Beta, Gamma, Delta or Mu, it is pronounced like Z in "zoo."
T {T} (Tau)
Unaspirated T something like the T in "stop."
Y {U} (Upsilon)
Pronounced like a German ü as in "für." In some dialects it was more like the OO in "too," and this is the sound it has in the diphthongs {AU} and {EU}.
{F} (Phi)
Aspirated P something like the PH in "uphill" when spoken rapidly.
{X} (Chi)
Aspirated K something like the KH in "blockhead" when spoken rapidly.
{Y} (Psi)
Pronounced PS as in "lapse."
{W} (Omega)
A long AW sound as in "awe."


Acute (´)
The acute accent represents a high or rising pitch, perhaps a musical fifth in emphatic or ceremonial speech, perhaps less in informal speech. To get the effect, raise the pitch as at the end of an English question. The accent returns to the neutral pitch on the next syllable. When the acute stands on a long vowel, it may raise the pitch in only the second half of the vowel.
Grave (`)
The grave may represent the neutral pitch or perhaps a partial raising (say, a musical third).
Circumflex (^)
The circumflex occurs only on long vowels or diphthongs, and represents a raised pitch on the first part and a lowered on the second (as depicted by the sign). It is effectively an acute followed by a grave.

Sources and Further Reading

  1. Allen, W. S., Vox Graeca, 3rd ed., Cambridge, 1978.
  2. Daitz, S. G., The Pronunciation and Reading of Ancient Greek: A Practical Guide, 2nd rev. ed., Jeffrey Norton, 1984. The best way to learn the ancient pronunciation. Available from Audio-Forum.
  3. Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A., Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1996, s.v. pronunciation, Greek.
  4. Stanford, W. B., The Sound of Greek: Studies in the Greek Theory and Practice of Euphony, Univ. California, 1967. A bit dated now, but still a good discussion.

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Last updated: 2006-01-20