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What Are the Different Greek Vowels?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are seven vowels that are found in the Greek alphabet. The Greek vowels are alpha, epsilon, eta and iota, along with omicron, upsilon and omega. Although the pronunciations sometimes differ, the alphabet has remained unchanged from ancient to modern Greek.

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and is represented in English by the letter "a." In Greek, the symbol for a capital alpha is the same as a capital A. The lowercase alpha symbol looks a bit like a doodled fish: α. The pronunciation of alpha has remained unchanged from ancient to modern Greek. It is pronounced like the "a" in Italian or Spanish.

Epsilon is similar to the short "e" in English. The symbol for the capital epsilon is identical to the capital E. The lower case epsilon character looks like a rounded, shorter capital E: ε. The pronunciation of epsilon has not changed over the centuries. It is pronounced much like the short "e" sound in American English, such as in "set."

Eta is the seventh Greek letter and third of the Greek vowels. The symbol for capital eta is the same as a capital H in English, but the lowercase symbol is similar to a lower case n: η. Unlike the first two Greek vowels, eta's pronunciation has changed from ancient to modern times. Although in ancient Greek eta represented a long "e" sound, in modern times, it has been shortened to sound more like epsilon.

Iota provides a long "i" or "e" sound. This vowel has remained unchanged throughout the language's history. Iota's symbols match closely with its English equivalents. In both English and Greek, the capital letter is written as "I." The lower case letter is nearly identical, but the Greek symbol is not dotted as the English version is.

The only vowel written exactly the same in English and in Greek, omicron is the fifteenth letter in the Greek alphabet and fifth of the Greek vowels. Just as in English, it is represented by a circle for both capital and lowercase letters: O, o. The pronunciation, a short "o" sound similar to that in British English, has remained unchanged.

Written as a "u" or a "y" in English, upsilon is pronounced similarly to eta or iota in modern times but was pronounced more like the French "u" in ancient Greek. The uppercase symbol looks like an English Y. The lowercase appears similar to the English u: υ.

Omega is both the final letter and the final vowel in the Greek alphabet. In ancient Greek, omega represented a long "o" sound. In modern Greek, however, it has been shortened to sound much more like omicron. The uppercase symbol for omega looks like an open "O" set on a base: Ω. The lowercase letter is similar to a rounded "w": ω.

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