Romanization of Greek is the transliteration (letter-mapping) or transcription (sound-mapping) of text from the Greek alphabet into the Latin alphabet. The conventions for writing and romanizing Ancient Greek and Modern Greek differ markedly, which can create confusion. The sound of the English letter B () was written as in ancient Greek but is now written as the digraph , while the modern sounds like the English letter V () instead. The Greek name became Johannes in Latin and then John in English, but in modern Greek has become ; this might be written as Yannis, Jani, Ioannis, Yiannis, or Giannis, but not Giannes or Giannēs as it would be for ancient Greek. The word might variously appear as Hagiοs, Agios, Aghios, or Ayios, or simply be translated as "Holy" or "Saint" in English forms of Greek placenames. Traditional English renderings of Greek names originated from Roman systems established in antiquity. The Roman alphabet itself was a form of the Cumaean alphabet derived from the Euboean script that valued as and as and used variant forms of and that became L and S. When this script was used to write the classical Greek alphabet, ⟨κ⟩ was replaced with ⟨c⟩, ⟨αι⟩ and ⟨οι⟩ became ⟨æ⟩ and ⟨œ⟩, and ⟨ει⟩ and ⟨ου⟩ were simplified to ⟨i⟩ (more rarely—corresponding to an earlier pronunciation—⟨e⟩) and ⟨u⟩. Aspirated consonants like ⟨θ⟩, ⟨φ⟩, initial-⟨ρ⟩, and ⟨χ⟩ simply wrote out the sound: ⟨th⟩, ⟨ph⟩, ⟨rh⟩, and ⟨ch⟩. Because English orthography has changed so much from the original Greek, modern scholarly transliteration now usually renders ⟨κ⟩ as ⟨k⟩ and the diphthongs ⟨αι, οι, ει, ου⟩ as ⟨ai, oi, ei, ou⟩. Modern scholars also increasingly render ⟨χ⟩ as ⟨kh⟩. The sounds of Modern Greek have diverged from both those of Ancient Greek and their descendant letters in English and other languages. This led to a variety of romanizations for names and placenames in the 19th and 20th century. The Hellenic Organization for Standardization (ELOT) issued its system in cooperation with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1983. This system was adopted (with minor modifications) by the United Nations' Fifth Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names at Montreal in 1987,Department of Technical Co-operation for Development
"Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names: Montreal, 18–31 August 1987", "Report of the Conference",
United Nations (New York), 1987.
United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, Working Group on Romanization Systems. ''Report on the Current Status of United Nations Romanization Systems for Geographical Names:''
. United Nations (New York), 2003. Accessed 6 Oct 2014.
by the United Kingdom's Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use (PCGN) and by the United States' Board on Geographic Names (BGN) in 1996,United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Romanization Systems and Policies
Romanization System for Greek
. 1996. Accessed 2 Oct 2014.
and by the ISO itself in 1997.International Organization for Standardization. "ISO 843:1997 (Conversion of Greek characters into Latin characters)". 2010. Romanization of names for official purposes (as with passports and identity cards) were required to use the ELOT system within Greece until 2011, when a legal decision permitted Greeks to use irregular forms (such as "Demetrios" for ) provided that official identification and documents also list the standard forms (as, for example, "Demetrios OR Dimitrios"). Other romanization systems still encountered are the BGN/PCGN's earlier 1962 system and the system employed by the American Library Association and the United States' Library of Congress. "Greeklish" has also spread within Greece itself, owing to the rapid spread of digital telephony from cultures using the Latin alphabet. Since Greek typefaces and fonts are not always supported or robust, Greek email and chatting has adopted a variety of formats for rendering Greek and Greek shorthand using Latin letters. Examples include "8elo" and "thelw" for , "3ava" for , and "yuxi" for .


The following tables list several romanization schemes from the Greek alphabet to modern English. Note, however, that the ELOT, UN, and ISO formats for Modern Greek intend themselves as translingual and may be applied in any language using the Latin alphabet.

Ancient Greek

The American Library Association and Library of Congress romanization scheme employs its "Ancient or Medieval Greek" system for all works and authors up to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, although Byzantine Greek was pronounced distinctly and some have considered "Modern" Greek to have begun as early as the 12th century. For treatment of polytonic Greek letters—for example, —see also the section on romanizing Greek diacritical marks below.

Modern Greek

The ISO, UN, and Greek, British, and American governments have all approved an essentially equivalent standard for ''transcription'' of Modern Greek into Latin letters; there remain minor differences in how they approach reversible ''transliteration''. The American Library Association and Library of Congress romanization scheme employs its "Modern Greek" system for all works and authors following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. In the table below, the special rules for vowel combinations () only apply when these letters function as digraphs. There are also words where the same letters stand side by side incidentally but represent separate vowels. In these cases each of the two letters is transcribed separately according to the normal rules for single letters. Such cases are marked in Greek orthography by either having an accent on the first rather than the second vowel letter, or by having a diaeresis over the second letter. For treatment of accents and diaereses—for example, —also see the section on romanizing Greek diacritical marks below.

Diacritical marks

The traditional polytonic orthography of Greek uses several distinct diacritical marks to render what was originally the pitch accent of Ancient Greek and the presence or absence of word-initial . In 1982, monotonic orthography was officially introduced for modern Greek. The only diacritics that remain are the acute accent (indicating stress) and the diaeresis (indicating that two consecutive vowels should not be combined). When a Greek diphthong is accented, the accent mark is placed over the ''second'' letter of the pair. This means that an accent over the ''first'' letter of the pair indicates vowels which should be taken (and romanized) separately. Although the second vowel is not marked with a superfluous diaeresis in Greek, the first-edition ELOT 743 and the UN systems place a diaeresis on the Latin vowel for the sake of clarity. 'Bámpīs Koutroúlīs'', Babis G. Kutrulisbr>
'Metatropī́ tou ellīnikoú alfavī́tou me latinikoús charaktī́res'' (ELOT 743), "Conversion of the Greek alphabet to Latin characters (ELOT 743)" Accessed 3 Oct 2014. 2008.
Apart from the diacritical marks native to Greek itself or used to romanize its characters, linguists also regularly mark vowel length with macrons () marking long vowels and rounded breves () marking short vowels. Where these are romanized, it is common to mark the long vowels with macrons over the Latin letters and to leave the short vowels unmarked; such macrons should not be confused or conflated with those used by some systems to mark eta and omega as distinct from epsilon, iota, and omicron.


Greece's early Attic numerals were based on a small sample of letters (including heta) arranged in multiples of 5 and 10, likely forming the inspiration for the later Etruscan and Roman numerals. This early system was replaced by Greek numerals which employed the entire alphabet, including the nonstandard letters digamma, stigma, or sigma-tau (placed between epsilon and zeta), koppa (placed between pi and rho), and sampi (placed after omega). As revised in 2001, ELOT 743 provides for the uncommon characters to be given (in Greek) as $ for stigma, + for koppa, and / for sampi. These symbols are not given lower-case equivalents. When used as numbers, the letters are used in combination with the upper ''keraia'' numeral sign ⟨ʹ⟩ to denote numbers from 1 to 900 and in combination with the lower ''keraia'' ⟨͵⟩ to denote multiples of 1000. (''For a full table of the signs and their values, see'' Greek numerals.) These values are traditionally romanized as Roman numerals, so that would be translated as Alexander III of Macedon and transliterated as ''Aléxandros III o Makedṓn'' rather than ''Aléxandros G or ''Aléxandros 3''. Greek laws and other official documents of Greece which employ these numerals, however, are to be formally romanized using "decimal" Arabic numerals.

Punctuation marks

Ancient Greek text did not mark word division with spaces or interpuncts, instead running the words together (''scripta continua''). In the Hellenistic period, a variety of symbols arose for punctuation or editorial marking; such punctuation (or the lack thereof) are variously romanized, inserted, or ignored in different modern editions. Modern Greek punctuation generally follows French with the notable exception of Greek's use of a separate question mark, the ''erotimatiko'', which is shaped like the Latinate semicolon. Greek punctuation which has been given formal romanizations include:

Uncommon letters

There are many archaic forms and local variants of the Greek alphabet. Beta, for example, might appear as round Β or pointed throughout Greece but is also found in the forms (at Gortyn), and (Thera), (Argos), (Melos), (Corinth), (Megara and Byzantium), and even (Cyclades).Jeffery, Lilian H. ''The local scripts of archaic Greece'', . Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1961. Well into the modern period, classical and medieval Greek was also set using a wide array of ligatures, symbols combining or abbreviating various sets of letters, such as those included in Claude Garamond's 16th-century ''grecs du roi''. For the most part, such variants—as and for π, for στ, and for —are just silently emended to their standard forms and transliterated accordingly. Letters with no equivalent in the classical Greek alphabet such as heta ( & ), meanwhile, usually take their nearest English equivalent (in this case, h) but are too uncommon to be listed in formal transliteration schemes. Uncommon Greek letters which have been given formal romanizations include:

See also

*Classical compound *Cyrillization of Greek *English words of Greek origin *Greek alphabet *List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names *Wiktionary's articles on Ancient Greek romanization and pronunciation, numerals, punctuation and Modern Greek transliteration.


External links

ELOT 743
a free online tool by the Greek government for official purposes using 2nd-edition ELOT transcription
Google Translate
a free online tool providing UN transliteration of Modern Greek. Also comes as application
a free online tool providing transliteration of Ancient Greek *
Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts
', tables in pdf format by Thomas T. Pedersen
Greeklish converter
Greeklish to Greek conversion and Greek transliteration with user-selectable options {{Romanization Category:Greek language Category:Hellenic scripts