Our Everyday Greek: You Know the Names, But Can You Spell the Greek Islands in Greek?

June 5, 2019
Dimitra Pontoporou

The summer begins. It’s time to learn Greek words and common phrases for the sea and the Greek islands. Due to the fact that Greeks live in a country surrounded by the sea, which forms many peninsulas and islands, they use many words for the sea. H θάλασσα, the Greek word for the sea, is only one of them. In English literature is used the word archipelagos, which is Greek, το αρχιπέλαγος.


The open sea is το πέλαγος, (-pelagos). Greece is surrounded by water, the Aegean Sea to the East, το Αιγαίο Πέλαγος, and the Ionian Sea to the West, το Ιόνιο Πέλαγος. We often omit the word Πέλαγος and we just say Αιγαίο or Ιόνιο.


Το αρχιπέλαγος, archipelagos, is even wider than πέλαγος. The prefix αρχι- (archi-) means the top, first in a ranking, and το πέλαγος. This prefix archi- is found in English in words as archbishop, the first in the ranking of the bishops.


Το νησί (TO niSEE) is the island in Greek. It is a noun of neuter grammatical gender and takes the article το. Nevertheless, Greek islands are of female grammatical gender. We say η Μύκονος, η Κέρκυρα, η Χίος, η Λέσβος, η Σαντορίνη, η Λήμνος, η Σίφνος. Is the reason their beauty, or because they are thought of as the mother land? It can be for the same reason that the regions of Greece as η Πελοπόννησος, η Μακεδονία, η Ήπειρος, η Θράκη are of feminine grammatical gender too.


Η Μύκονος είναι νησί του Αιγαίου Πελάγους.

EE MEEkonos EEne niSEE TOO eYEoo peLAyoos.

Mykonos is an Aegean Sea island.

Η Σαντορίνη είναι νησί του Αιγαίου.

EE santoREEni EEne niSEE TOO eYEoo peLAyoos.

Santorini is an Aegean Sea island.

Η Κέρκυρα είναι νησί του Ιονίου Πελάγους.

EE KErkira EEne niSEE TOO ioNEEoo peLAyoos.

Corfu is an Ionian Sea island.

Η Ιθάκη είναι νησί του Ιονίου.

EE iTHAki EEne niSEE TOO ioNEEoo.

Ithaka is an Ionian Sea island.

Η Αμοργός, η Ρόδος, η Κως, η Χίος, η Λέσβος και η Λήμνος είναι νησιά του Αιγαίου.

EE amoRYOS, EE RODos, EE KOS, EE HEEos, EE LEsvos KE EE LEEmnos EEne nisiA TOO eYEoo.

Amorgos, Rhodes, Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Lemnos are Aegean Sea islands.

Η Ιθάκη, η Κέρκυρα, η Κεφαλλονιά, η Λευκάδα και η Ζάκυνθος είναι νησιά του Ιονίου.

EE iTHAki, EE KErkira, EE kefaloniA, EE lefKAda KE EE ZAkinthos EEne nisiA TOO ioNEEoo.


Greek word       Pronunciation    Meaning

Το πέλαγος       TO PElayos       the sea

Το Αιγαίο πέλαγος   TO eYEo PElayos   the Aegean Sea

Το Ιόνιο Πέλαγος     TO iOnio PElayos    the Ionian Sea

Το νησί TO niSEE    the island

Τα νησιά     TA nisiA            the islands

Η Μύκονος EE MEEkonos   Mykonos

Η Σαντορίνη      EE santoREEni Santorini

Η Αμοργός  EE amoRYOS   Amorgos

Η Ρόδος     EE ROdos  Rhodes

Η Κως  EE KOS      Kos

Η Χίος  EE HEEos   Chios

Η Λέσβος    EE LEsvos  Lesvos

Η Κέρκυρα  EE KErkira  Corfu

Η Ιθάκη       EE iTHAki   Ithaka

Η Ζάκυνθος EE ZAkinthos   Zante

Η Λευκάδα  EE leFKAda      Lefkada

η Κεφαλλονιά    EE kefaloniA     Cephalonia

Του πελάγους   TOO peLAyoos of the sea

Του Αιγαίου       TOO eYEoo      of the Aegean

Του Ιονίου   TOO ioNEEoo   of the Ionian

Το αρχιπέλαγος       TO arhiPElayos       the archipelagos

Η αρχή EE arHEE   the beginning, the power

Η Πελοπόννησος     EE peloPOnisos      Peloponnese

Η Μακεδονία     EE makedoNEEa    Macedonia

Η Θράκη     EE THRAki  Thrace

Η Ήπειρος  EE EEpiros Epirus


i (idiom), ee (bee), e (energy), o (organism), oo (boot), y (yes), h (helium), th (theory), d (the). The capitalized syllables are accented.


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