Our Everyday Greek: Survival Guide for Greece Travelers: Names of Places in Greek

September 15, 2018
Dimitra Pontoporou

Let’s read the names of the cities on the road signs and say them correct. We provide a complete pronunciation guide with relevant examples.

Each vowel possesses only one sound, but different vowels may have the same sound. The vowels Oo and Ωω are pronounced the same (like the o in the word organism). The vowels Ιι, Ηη, Υυ, as well as the diphthongs (=pair of vowels), ΟΙ,οι, and ΕΙ,ει are all pronounced the same: the sound is like the i in the word idiom. Below are some examples regarding the names of Greek cities and islands.

Note that most Greek cities and islands are of feminine grammatical gender and take the article η. Nevertheless, there are exceptions in this rule. Also, most names of the rivers are considered of masculine grammatical gender and take the article o, because in ancient Greek the rivers were thought to be masculine gods.

The letters Oo and Ωω are pronounced the same: the sound is like the o in the word organism. ΗΦλώρινα (EE FLOrina), ΤαΙωάννινα (TA ioAnina).

Two consonants of the same kind are always pronounced as one: ΤαΙωάννινα(TA ioAnina), ηΘεσσαλονίκη (EE thesaloNEEki).

The Greek alphabet has three different letters, Ιι, Ηη, Υυ, which are all pronounced the same: the sound is like the i in the word idiom. A good example of a word that includes all three is the name of the capital of Lesbos island: Η Μυτιλήνη (EE mitiLEEni). Other examples are: ΟιΜυκήνες (EE miKEEnes), ηΛήμνος (LEEmnos), το Πήλιο(TO PEElio), ηΜύκονος (EE MEEkonos), ηΣαντορίνη (EE SantoREEni).

The diphthongs ΕΙ,ει, ΟΙ,οι, are also pronounced as the Greek letter ι = i (idiom). ΟιΔελφοί (EE deLFEE), ηΒέροια (EE VEria), οΠηνειός (O piniOS).

ΑΙ,αι is pronounced as the letter ε = e (-e-nergy). ΗαρχαίαΚόρινθος (EE arHEaKOrinthos), ηαρχαίαΣπάρτη (EE arHEaSparti). Ηαρχαία(EE arHEa) means the ancient.

ΟΥ,ου is pronounced like oo (b-oo-t). Η Νάουσα (EENaoosa), οι Οινούσες (EEiNOOses).

In some cases, the diphthong (=pair of vowels) ΑΥ,αυ is pronounced as af (-af-ter) and in other like av (c-ov-er). Το Ναύπλιον (ΤO NAfplion), η Επίδαυρος (EE ePEEdavros), but ηΑυλώνα (EE avLOna), ηΒραυρώνα (EE vraVROna).

The same goes for the diphthong ΕΥ,ευ. Sometimes it is pronounced as eph (-eph-emeral) and sometimes as ev (-Ev-elyn).Ο ποταμός Ευρώτας (OpotaMOSEVROtas). Οποταμός means the river.

Regarding the pronunciation of the consonants note that unlike the English B,b, the Greek Β,β, is pronounced like the English V, v (in the word verb). ΗΜονεμβασιά (EE monemvasiA), o Βόλος (O VOlos).

Δ,δ is pronounced like the th in the word that, while Θ,θ is pronounced like the th in the word theory. Below are some examples of the pronunciation as th in the word theory. ΗΑθήνα (EE aTHEEna), ηΘεσσαλονίκη (EE thesaloNEEki), ηΘάσος (EE THAsos), ηΚόρινθος (EE Korinthos). Here are some examples with the pronunciation of Θ,θ asth in the word that.ΗΡόδος (EE Rodos), ηΕπίδαυρος (EE ePEEdavros), οΆγιοςΔημήτριος (O AyiosdiMEEtrios).

English speaking people may confuse the Greek letter Χ,χ, which is pronounced like a heavy chi (similar to the ch in the word te-ch-nology), with the English X,x. The sound of the English X,x comes in Greek from the letter Ξ,ξ. Η Χίος (EE HEEos), but ηΝάξος (EE NAxos), ηΞάνθη (EE XAnthi).

Due to its resemblance to the English P,p the Greek letter Ρ,ρ, which in Greek is pronounced like the English r, may mistakenly be pronounced as P. The sound pf the English P,p comes in Greek from the letter Π,π. ΗΡόδος (EE Rodos), but ηΠάτρα(EE Patra).


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