Buying a ferry ticket to Santorini? Need directions to the Parthenon? Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Take my free Greek travel phrase guide with pronunciations and strike up a conversation with ease.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece or Cyrus, you’ve come to the right place. I’m a firm believer in learning a few choice phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting, so that’s exactly what I’m going to give you.
While English might be an international language, it doesn’t mean we should be lazy and assume everyone speaks it nor neglect to make an effort. But since you’re here, I know that’s not you. After all, why travel unless you learn more about people, culture and language?
As part of my on-going series of creating travel phrase guides, today I’m going to share some of the most common and useful Greek phrases.
To help me, I’ve asked a dear Greek friend, (whom I met in my French class) to help create this guide and provide all the important pronunciations, so you won’t have to learn the Greek alphabet!
You’ll be speaking Greek faster than you can say “It’s all Greek to me”!
See what I did there?
Ok, enough with the language jokes, let’s take a quick look at the Greek language so you’re a bit more clued up on its origin, use, and vocabulary.
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed bringing it together. If you have any requests for other languages, let me know in the comments section!
Where is Greek spoken?
Greek is the official language of Greece (also called the Hellenic Republic) and the Republic of Cyprus. I know, shocking, right?
Outside of these countries, there are big Greek and Cypriot communities in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, South Africa and Russia, but also in neighbouring countries, such as Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Spoken by about 13 million people, Greek belongs to the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European language family.
A Brief History of Greek
The Greek language has a long and rich history stretching all the way back the thirteenth century B.C. to the present.
The earliest form of the language is called “Linear B” (13th century B.C). This form of Greek used by writers such as Homer (8th century B.C.) and Plato (4th century B.C.) is called “Classical Greek.”
Modern Greek, which is what you’ll encounter in your travels, is a descendant of Proto-Greek, the ancestor of all Greek dialects.
The 24 letters of Greek alphabet was developed from the Phoenician alphabet and has been in use since the late 9th or early 8th century BC.
The word alphabet itself comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: άλφα [alpha] and βήτα [beta].
The Greek alphabet gave rise to the Latin, Cyrillic, Gothic and various other alphabets.
Now for the tricky stuff!
In 1982, the Greek language was greatly simplified with the introduction of the monotonic system. Since then, only the acute accent and the double dots are used instead of the many other little marks that could surround a letter.
As a general rule, all Greek words of more than one syllable, with a few exceptions, are written with an accent which indicates where you should put the emphasis.
It’s estimated that around 30% of the English vocabulary consists, directly and indirectly, of words of Classical Greek origin. Most of them are technical and scientific terms.
Words of Greek origin are often used at the beginning of a word, such as:
Some other words of Greek origin include;
|Academy||Akademeia ‘grove of Akademos’, a legendary Athenian of the Trojan War tales on whose estate Plato taught his school.|
|Alphabet||alphabetos, from alpha + beta, first two letters of the Greek alphabet|
|Athlete||athletes ‘contestant in the games’, from athlein ‘to contest for a prize’|
|Bishop||episkopos ‘watcher, overseer’, a title for government officials, later taken over in a Church sense, fromepi- ‘over’ + skopos ‘watcher’|
|Catholic||katholikos, from kata ‘about’ + genitive case of holos ‘whole’|
|Cosmos||kosmos ‘orderly arrangement’|
|Dinosaur||deinos ‘terrible’ + sauros ‘lizard’|
|Diploma||diploma ‘license, chart’|
|Drama||drama (genitive of dramatos) ‘play, action’ from dram ‘to act, perform’|
|Exodus||exodus ‘going out’, from ex- ‘out’ + hodos ‘way’|
|Genesis||genesis ‘origin, creation’|
|Method||methodus ‘scientific method of inquiry’ from meta- ‘after’ + hodos ‘way’|
|Metropolis||metropolis ‘mother city’ from meter ‘mother’ +polis ‘city’|
|Monarchy||monarkhia ‘absolute rule’ from monos ‘alone’ + arkhein ‘to rule’|
|Psalm||psalmos ‘song sung to a harp,’|
|Rhythm||rhythmos ‘measured flow, movement’|
|Syntax||syntaxis ‘a putting together’ from syn- ‘together’ + tassein ‘arrange’|
|Thesaurus||thesauros ‘treasury, storehouse’|
P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the pronunciation column, turn it to landscape mode. For some reason tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!
Want the infographic to take with you? Scroll to the bottom of the page.
|Good evening||Καλό βράδυ||ka-lo vra-dee|
|Good night||Καλή νύχτα||ka-lee nee-hta|
|How are you?||Τι κάνεις?||tee ka-nees|
|I’m well, and you?||Είμαι καλά, εσύ?||ee-me ka-la|
|Good, thanks||Καλά, ευχαριστώ||ka-la e-fha-ree-sto|
|Excuse me||Με συγχωρείτε||me see-ho-ree-te|
|I don’t understand||Δεν καταλαβαίνω||den ka-ta-la-ve-no|
|Do you speak English?||Μιλάτε Αγγλικά?||mee-la-te ag-lee-ka|
|How much is…?||Πόσο κάνει…||po-so ka-nee|
|Where is…?||Που είναι…||pwee-neh|
|May I please have…?||Θα μπορούσα να έχω…||tha mpo-ru-sa na e-ho|
|I don’t eat…||Δεν τρώω||den tro-o|
|I’m a vegetarian||Είμαι χορτογάφος||ee-me hor-to-fa-gos|
|the bill, please||Τον λογαριασμό παρακαλώ||ton lo-ga-ria-smo pa-ra-ka-lo|
|Straight ahead||Όλο ευθεία||o-lo ef-thee-a|
|Turn left||Στρίψτε αριστερά||stree-pste a-ree-ste-ra|
|Turn right||Στρίψτε δεξιά||stree-pste the-xee-a|
|Bus stop||Στάση λεωφορείου||sta-see le-o-fo-ree-u|
|Train station||Στάση τραίνου||sta-see tre-nu|
|I need a doctor||Χρειάζομαι ένα γιατρό||hree-a-zo-me yee-atro|
|I don’t feel well||Δεν αισθάνομαι καλά||then e-stha-no-me ka-la|
|Call the police!||Καλέστε την αστυνομία||ka-le-ste tin a-sti-no-mia|
Ready to improve your Greek? Visit my handy language resource guide.
Plus, if you want to know how the experts learn languages, I asked 11 top polyglots to share their language learning secrets. Find out how they start learning a new language, overcome plateaus, and maintain multiple languages.
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Over to you!
Which of these phrases are the most useful? What other languages would you like a travel phrase guide for? Are you planning a trip to Greece or have already been there?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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