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Culture

Our Everyday Greek: Omikron, O, and Omega, Ω, in Greek Words: 4 Spelling Tips

October 9, 2018
Dimitra Pontoporou

Greek alphabet has different vowels that possess the same sound. The OmikronΟ,οand Omega Ω,ωletters both possess the sound o, like in the word -o-rganism.

What is the difference between these two letters? The difference is that Ο,οpossesses always a short sound, while Ω,ω possesses always a long sound, let’s say twice the duration of the short Ο,ο. For Ancient Greeks it was important to indicate the long and the short sound o. For them it was also important that certain categories of words would end in the long o: Ω, ωor in the short o:Ο, ο, which means that they had grammatical rules regarding the spelling of the words. Some of them we still keep today, though in modern Greek we generally haven’t preserved the long and the short sounds of the syllables.

GREEK ΕΓΩ AND FREUDIAN EGO

The Greek ΕΓΩ, εγώ is different than the English EGO regarding the sound and the spelling. We really do not know how the words, their spelling and their sounds, were invented. Undoubtedly, some words, like the word I, were of particular importance. Therefore, we may quite safely assume that ancient Greeks carefully decided how it would sound and how it would be written. The Greek word ΕΓΩ, from which the Freudian ego derives, begins with an open Ε,ε, still not wide open like the alfa sound Α,α. Greek Ε,ε is a sound that remains inside the mouth, while exhaling. ΕΓΩ continues with a sound Γ,γ that comes from inside. It is rooted deep into the throat and comes up, while the tongue folds back for a moment getting ready to bring the sound forth. ΕΓΩ ends with the long Omega and not with the short Omikron.

Does this spelling reflect a perception of self, that unfolds from inside and is proud of its “being”? Most probably. This speculation is strengthened by two facts: active voice verbs in the first person singular also end in Ω,ω, while neuter grammatical gender words, which usually refer to objects and animals, end in the short O,o.

It is probably not accidental that Ωis the last letter of the Greek alphabet.Ω is the first letter of the godΩκεανός =Ocean, from which all creatures and gods emerged, and the gate to Hades. Jesus Christ has said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. Isn’t the shape of Ω, like a gate opening to the Beyond?

Try to say loud the Greek ΕΓΩand the English EGO and sense how does each word feel.

 

SPELLING MADE EASY

When do we use Ο,ο in a word and when do we use Ω,ω?

 

RULE ONE

Action verbs, that is all verbs of active grammatical voice, always end in Ω,ωin the Present tense, first person Singular. Also, the word ΕΓΩ, εγώ, ends in Ω,ω.

Examples:

Εγώθέλω (eYOTHElo) = I want,

εγώκάνω (eYOKAno)= I do,

εγώτρώω (eYOTROo) = I eat.

 

RULE TWO

Neuter grammatical gender words, nouns and adjectives, that usually refer to objects or animals are written with the short Ο,ο in the final syllable.

Examples:

Τοούζο (TO OOzo) = Ouzo

Τοψυγείο (TO psiYEEo) = the refrigerator

Τοκαλό (TO kaLO) = the good

Τοκαλόούζο (TO kaLOOOzo) = the good ouzo

Τοπρόβατο (TO PROvato) = the sheep

 

RULE THREE

Masculine grammatical gender nouns and adjectives end in -ος.

Examples:

Οκαιρός (O keROS) = the weather

Οκαλός (O kaLOS) = the good

Οκακός (O kaKOS) = the bad

Οκαλόςκαιρός (O kaLOSkeROS) = the good weather

 

RULE FOUR

The names of men which end in -ος are always written with Ο,ο.

ΟΓιώργος (O yiOryos )= George

ΟΠέτρος (O PEtros) = Peter

ΟΠαύλος (O PAvlos) = Paul

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