Our Everyday Greek: Survival Guide for Greece Travelers: Signs to Historic Places

September 24, 2018
Dimitra Pontoporou

The yellow signs you will see on the side of the roads and on deviations, while traveling in Greece, lead to historical and archaeological sites. Not all of them are written in both Greek and English. You may need to be able to read the site names, particularly if you want to visit places and spots off the beaten track. Quite often there is a time adjective that indicates the chronological period during which the monument was built. Προϊστορικός(pro+istoriKOS) means pre+historic, μυκηναϊκός(mikinaiKOS) means Mycenean, αρχαίος(arHEos) means ancient and βυζαντινός(vizantiNOS) means byzantine.


It is easy to remember the Greek word for prehistory, because the English one derives from it. Its first compound is the prefix pre-, in Greek pro-, and the second history from the Greek word ιστορία. The Greek word αρχαίος is familiar to English speaking persons from the word achaeo+logy, archaeo+metry, etc. The words μυκηναϊκός, μινωικός, ελληνιστικός, ρωμαϊκός, βυζαντινόςindicate names of historical eras familiar. These words are familiarto you from the relevant English words: Mycenaean, Minoan, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine.

The most common nouns that indicate the category of the historic site are the following. Τάφος, νεκροταφείο, οικισμός, κάστρο, μονή, ναός.

Thewordοοικισμόςis familiar to you, because English words that begin with eco- as their first compound come from the Greek word οοίκοςor ηοικία, the house. The word exists both in masculine and in feminine grammatical gender. Thereafter οοικισμόςis a place with many houses, a settlement.

The word τοκάστροis similar to the English word castle. The word ημονήmeans the monastery, τομοναστήρι(monaSTEEri) in Greek. The first compound of the word monastery / μοναστήρι, both in Greek and in English, is the word μόνη(moni), which means alone. A monastery is the place where the persons live in isolation from the community leading an ascetic and lonely life away from the crowds.

Οναόςis the Ancient Greek name for the church, still in use today. The word οτάφοςis familiar to English speaking persons from the word epitaph (epi+taphos). It means the grave. Τονεκροταφείοis the place where people are buried, the cemetery. The first compound of this word, νεκρο-, is familiar to you from the word necropsy. Τhe second compound is οτάφος. After the word ναόςusually follows either the word Αγίου / Αγίας / Αγίων. They all mean Saint. The first one is the adjective in the masculine grammatical gender, the second oen the feminine grammatical gender and the third one the Genitive plural of both words.


Greek word    Pronunciation          Meaning

Οπροϊστορικός         oproistoriKOS           prehistoric

Ομυκηναϊκός o mikinaiKOS           Mycenaean

Ομινωικός     οminoiKOS   Minoan

Οαρχαίος       oarHEos        ancient (masculine grammatical gender)

Ηαρχαία         EEarHEa       ancient(feminine grammatical gender)

Ο ελληνιστικός, -η    oelinistiKOS, -EE     hellenistic

Ο ρωμαϊκός, -ή         oromaiKOS, -EE       roman

Οβυζαντινός  ovizantiNOS byzantine (masc. gram. gender)

Ηβυζαντινή    EEvizantiNEE          byzantine (femin. gram. gender)

Οναός onaOS           the temple, the church

ΗΜονή           EEmoNEE     the monastery

ΟΆγιος           oAyios            Saint (male)

ΗΑγία             EEaYEEa      Saint (female)

Ηοικία EEiKEEa       thehouse

Οοικισμός      oikiSMOS      thesettlement

Τονεκροταφείο          tonekrotaFEEo         the cemetery

Οτάφος           oTAfos           the grave



Here are some examples of common signs to historic places. Can you read them loud?

Προϊστορικόςοικισμός = prehistoric settlement

Μυκηναϊκοίτάφοι      = Mycenaeangraves

Ναός του Αγίου Δημητρίου = SaintDemetrioschurch

Ελληνιστική οικία     = Hellenistichouse

Ρωμαϊκό νεκροταφείο = Romancemetery

Βυζαντινός ναός= byzantine church



i (ill), ee (beer), e (ever), o (organ), oo (boot), y (yes), h (helium), th (theory), d (the). The capitalized syllables are accented.


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