Greek Words and Phrases: Learn How to Say it

by William Reid

Although Greek is notoriously tough to learn, you can sound like a native in no time by using these greek words. It’s always welcomed when visitors attempt to pick up the language of their destination. Although learning to say thank you” in Greek is relatively straightforward, there is much more to the language than that!

What is our suggestion? Keep this blog close at hand as you travel throughout Greece and the Greek Islands to ensure that you never find yourself unable to communicate due to a lack of knowledge of the Greek language.

Greek words

Introduction to the Greek Language

Unlike any other, Greek is its own language. Many of the words we use today have their roots in the language of Ancient Greece, and our alphabet dates back thousands of years. The Greek alphabet is notoriously tricky to master for most tourists. You may not be able to read Greek at first, but once you’ve memorized the letters, you’ll be able to understand simple words and phrases. This can come in handy on your travels throughout Greece and the Greek islands, where many signs are only written in Greek.

However, learning the alphabet isn’t necessary if you want to pick up some everyday Greek phrases and a few words here and there. Just by learning to recognize the sound of a few essential terms, you can become a “good traveler.”

Here you will learn some valid Greek words and phrases you will likely encounter during your time in Greece. Whether or not you decide to use some of these phrases again is up to you.

Language and Pronunciation in Greece

Greek pronunciation isn’t that horrible. However, a couple of letters require a bit more attention than the others.

  • γ Gamma is pronounced like a “y” before an “e,” “u,” or I but as an “r” before any other letter. You may need to practice this if you want to communicate effectively in English.
  • The “r” in “ρ Ro” is rolled.
  • “χ Chi” is pronounced similarly to the “ch” in the Greek words “Ich,” but it can also sound like the “h” in the Scottish word “loch” or the “j” in Spanish.

Aside from these letters, learning Greek pronunciation won’t be that difficult; nevertheless, like with any language, you may require some practice before you become fluent.

Greek Words and How to Pronounce Them

The eminent Greek linguist Georgios Babiniotis claims that there are more than one hundred thousand words and phrases in the Greek language.

Not many of the words are common parlance, as you might expect. Some of them are listed below.

Yes – Neh – Ναι

Neh means “Yes” in Greek. When taking messages or answering the phone, we also rely on Neh. Please be aware that this word implies “No” in many different languages, which might be somewhat confusing!

No – Óchi – Όχι

The Greek words for “No” is “chi” or “hi,” which is a short word that many English speakers may have trouble pronouncing. It can also be pronounced with a harsh ‘h’ sound, as in “oh-hee.” Also, you would be correct if you thought the word seemed familiar—all caps for the Ochi holiday in my piece. To distinguish themselves from their companions, Greeks typically make a tsk sound (not an ‘ohi’ sound). While not precisely courteous, it is information worth having.

Have a good day (Kaliméra)! Καλημέρα

One of the most widely used words in Greece is “kalimera.” It is a compound word whose individual parts signify “excellent” and “day,” respectively. Kaliméra, which means “good day” in its native Tupi language, is typically used when seeing someone for the first time in the day or waiting until the afternoon. It is acceptable for use till 1-2 pm.

Hárika pol, nice to meet you

Just say this when you meet someone for the first time instead of smiling awkwardly. Your politeness and knowledge of even little Greek will leave a lasting impression.

Kalispéra, good evening Καλησπέρα

It’s lovely to see you tonight; in Greek, the greeting is kalospéra. It can be used after four or five o’clock in the afternoon when you might feel it’s too late for ‘kaliméra.

Even if it’s still early in the evening, some people start using the term “kalispera” around noon.

Kalinhta kasvu (Good night)

‘Kalinchta’ is used to bid someone farewell on a night when you know you won’t be seeing them again soon.

After an evening dinner at a pub, this can come in handy as you prepare to depart. When you check out, you can use the word “kalinhta” to request your room key from a hotel’s front desk clerk.

Eff-Kha-RI-STO – Thank you.

Someone courteous when traveling is a good tourist. The word Effkharisto will be your go-to when in Greece. Invest some more effort towards perfecting the pronunciation. The spelling and pronunciation are identical, thank goodness!

Souvlaki – Greek Dish

There should be at least one classic Greek dish on any list of necessary Greek terms. Souvlaki is a well-liked type of street food since it can be gobbled, costs little money, and provides a lot of calories.

 At this point, you’d need weeks to sample each of the hundreds of Greek delicacies available.


Please / Parakaló

Thank you very much/Please/Thank you Parakaló, pronounced as. The Greek term for “you are welcome” is pronounced “pa-ra-ka-lo,” which is much simpler than the equivalent ‘efharistó. Even though you won’t hear it very often, we use the same term to mean “please.”

Best wishes; a toast; cheers; yiá mais;

Let’s pretend you’re in a Greek tavern, and the waiter has brought you your food and drinks; it’s time to lift your glasses and cheers. To our health is wished, or yiámas, the appropriate expression to use.

The word yia is also used in the expressions yiá ssou and yiá ssas. Hygiene, hygienic, and several other English comments share etymological roots with the Greek word Hygeia, from which the abbreviated version derives.

Neró Water

Since Greece is a warm country (at least in the summer), the word for “water” may prove to be the most useful one you pick up. Try to keep in mind the words ‘mikró’ (little) and ‘megálo’ (large) the next time you went to the store to pick up a case of water (big). Here are several other ways to keep cool in the Greek summer and drink plenty of water. Remember that watermelon (karpozi) is your new best friend.

May LEH-neh (pronounced: Hi, I’m…

Even if you don’t feel comfortable introducing yourself to everyone you encounter in Greece, it’s still a good idea to learn how. You must know, what you can say if you meet the love of your life off the coast of Santorini!

Please excuse me – Siggnómi –

The Greek word for “excuse me” also means “I am sorry,” which is another difficult to pronounce. Try saying “see-ghno-mee” with a gentle “g” sound to offer you an idea of how to pronounce it. However, you shouldn’t worry because the English term “sorry” is often used among Greek words.

Eff-Kha-ri-STO – Thank You

Someone courteous when traveling is a good tourist. The word Effkharisto will be your go-to when in Greece. Invest some more effort towards perfecting the pronunciation. The spelling and pronunciation are identical, thank goodness!

See-GHNO-mee – Sorry/Excuse me

Daytime crowds in Athens are expected, especially in the city’s most popular attractions. Use this to draw someone’s attention if you encounter an obstruction in your path, and politely request to be allowed to continue. If you accidentally step on someone’s foot, you should apologize again as you pass through.

Hello and goodbye – “Yiá,” “yiássou,” and “yiássas.”

The more complicated kaliméra, kalispéra, and kalinhta might be replaced with the simpler yiássou or yiássas as a typical welcome. This is a greeting and farewell in one, as it signifies “to your health” in its exact translation.

When speaking to a single individual, you would use the form ‘Yiássou,’ pronounced ‘yah soo. ‘Yiássas,’ often spelled ‘geia sas,’ is polite to use when speaking to multiple people or addressing an elderly person.

The emphasis on this term is critical, so I want to stress it a bit now.

So while the stress in the term maláka is on the second syllable, the word malaká, emphasizing the final syllable, denotes gentle or softly. To properly use it, you must highlight the right syllable.

Greek words

You should probably start by studying the Greek alphabet.

A Greek alphabet is a necessary tool for any student of the language. Unless your only goal is to learn Greek through transliteration, you can ignore everything else. That is something you should not do, in my opinion.

There is no reason to put off learning the Greek alphabet since it is simple. Learning a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet can be intimidating for many linguists. Many people have the misconception that learning a foreign script is difficult because of how, well, foreign it looks.

I suggest you practice writing the Greek words daily to internalize it. If you commit to learning five new letters daily, you will have mastered the alphabet in just five days.

  • Have a seat and note down the initial on some paper.
  • Three times while pronouncing it aloud, write it down. There should be a mix of capitals and lowercase letters.
  • You can return to the same workout later in the day and repeat it once or twice.
  • Put in the time required for five letters at once.
  • Now try it out with single words. Make sure to say the words aloud as you did the letters.
  • To do this, read the preceding five letters the following day and then add five more.
  • After five days, you should have covered every letter.

Although Greek is not widely spoken now, it has played an essential role in shaping Western civilization, democracy, and philosophy. At least 3500 years of Greek literature have survived, making it the world’s oldest living written language. A branch of the Indo-European language family, Hellenic includes Greek. Therefore, Greek is likely connected to most European languages, albeit as a distant relative.

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