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
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.
(Upper and lower case Greek letters are shown - if you have a graphical
browser - followed by
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.
Alpha may be long or short and is pronounced O as in "not."
Like English B.
Like English hard G in "good."
When Gamma occurs before Gamma, Kappa, Mu, Xi or Chi, it is pronounced like
the NG in "hang."
Like English D.
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."
Pronounced ZD, although sometimes also DZ or Z.
A long EH sound like the E in "bet.".
Pronounced as an aspirated T something like the TH in "hothouse"
when spoken rapidly.
Iota may be long or short and is pronounced EE as in "see."
The iota-subscript should be pronounced.
An unaspirated K something like the K in "skin."
Like English L.
Like English M.
Like English N.
Like English X in "box."
A short vowel of uncertain quality, but probably
like the O in "no" but tending to AW in "awe."
was originally a long O as in "no,"
but later was pronounced like OO in "too."
Unaspirated P something like the P in "spin."
Like English S.
When Sigma occurs before Beta, Gamma, Delta or Mu, it is pronounced like
Z in "zoo."
Unaspirated T something like the T in "stop."
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
Aspirated P something like the PH in "uphill" when spoken rapidly.
Aspirated K something like the KH in "blockhead" when spoken rapidly.
Pronounced PS as in "lapse."
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
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
Allen, W. S., Vox Graeca, 3rd ed., Cambridge, 1978.
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.
Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A., Oxford Classical
Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1996, s.v. pronunciation, Greek.
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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