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Breathings Accents Iota Subscript Diaeresis Crasis


Greek does not have an \h\ letter, but may have an initial \h\ sound on words that begin with a vowel or rho, called aspiration. Aspiration is indicated by breathing marks (᾽  and ῾ ), which appear over all words that begin with either a vowel or rho.

Breathing MarkErasmian (U.S.) PronunciationGreek Example
 ᾽ SmoothUnaspiratedεὐλογέω \eoo-lo-'geh-oh\ (to speak well of [eulogy])
 ῾ Rough\h\ as in 'heuristic'εὑρίσκω \heoo-'ree-skoh\ (to find)

Note: Rough breathings are not pronounced in Modern Greek, and the marks themselves were in 1982 eliminated from official Greek use.

Words beginning with ρ or υ are always rough (including υι), e.g.: ῥαββί \rhah-'bee\ (rabbi); ὕδωρ \'hoo-dohr\ (water); υἱός \hwee-'os\ (son). The only exception is the letter name ὖ ψιλόν.†

With lowercase letters, breathing marks appear above the leading vowel or rho (ἀ ἁ ἐ ἑ ἠ ἡ ἰ ἱ ὀ ὁ ὐ ὑ ὠ ὡ ῥ). With uppercase letters, the breathings appear beside (Ἀ Ἁ Ἐ Ἑ Ἠ Ἡ Ἰ Ἱ Ὀ Ὁ Ὑ Ὠ Ὡ Ῥ).

In the case of an initial dipthong, the breathing mark appears above the second vowel (as in εὐλογέω and εὑρίσκω, above). But if two leading vowels do not form a dipthong, the breathing mark appears over the first vowel as in ἐάν \eh-'ahn\ (if ever) (or in the case of an iota subscript [see Iota Subscripts below]: ᾠδή \oh-'day\ ode).

*In some Classical texts (though not in the GNT) medial ρρ also is written with breathings as ῤῥ.1

Haralambous: Grammar rules normally prohibit a smooth breathing on an initial letter upsilon... Once again, rules of grammar do not always apply: in ancient Greek encounters quite often initial letters upsilon with smooth breathings. 2

1. Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York [etc.]: American Book Company, 1920), available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library: (in lieu of, 13, p. 10.

2. Yannis Haralambous, Guidelines and Suggested Amendments to the Greek Unicode Tables (PDF), May 2002, Page personnelle : Yannis Haralambous, (accessed 02 May 2007 30 Sep 2018), 3.4 Letters Capital Upsilon With Smooth Breathing, p. 21.


 ´ Acute
 ` Grave
 ῀ Circumflex

Note: Modern Greek uses only the acute accent. Monotonic orthography replaced polytonic orthography in 1982 when the Greek parliament eliminated diacritics, except for acute, from official use.

Accents, when present, always fall on one of the last three syllables of a word.*

In lexical form, words have either of two accents, the acute or the circumflex, or in the case of some small words, no accent (except τις τι, which may or may not be listed with a grave, τὶς τὶ, to differentiate it from τίς τί).

The acute and circumflex both mark stress, and for purposes of pronunciation are effectively identical, except that within a sentence a final acute may be suspended, in which case it changes to an unstressed grave accent. The grave accent is simply a placeholder for where the stress would be otherwise.†

Certain small words may also throw their stress onto a preceding word, in which case the small word will have no accent and the preceding word will have two.

Chicago: Enclitics usually lose their accents (ἀρταξερξής τε), and in certain circumstances‡ the word preceding them gains a second accent (φοβεῖταί τις).1

*Translexis: Most regions of Greece have their local dialect.... However assuming your pronunciation is correct and you are putting the stress on the correct syllables (one of the most common errors for the student of Modern Greek) they should understand you.2

Smyth: The ancients regarded the grave originally as belonging to every syllable not accented with the acute or circumflex; and some Mss. show this in practice, e.g. πὰγρὰτής. Later it was restricted to its use as a substitute for the final acute.3

Winbery, Conrad (B-Greek, 1997): The rule of accent is that if a word with an acute on the antepenult (third from last syllable) or a circumflex on the penult (second from last), it receives a second accent (acute) on the ultima (last syllable)...[if] the word in question is followed by an enclitic (an accentless word that is deemed, for purposes of pronunciation and accentuation, an addendum to the preceding word).... The reason for this is the instinctive horror felt by a Greek speaker for an accent (pitch-mark in reality) more than three syllables from the end of a word.4

1. University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), Classical Greek, 10.135.

2. Translexis Limited, The Greek Language, (accessed 04 May 2007 30 Sep 2018), Regional Dialect and Accents.

3. Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York [etc.]: American Book Company, 1920), available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library:, 155, p. 38.

4. Carlton Winbery and Carl W. Conrad, Re: Two accents in one word??, 06 January 1997, B-Greek Mailing List Archives, (accessed 04 May 2007).

Flexible Word Order and Modal Particles

Iota Subscript (ͺ )

Iota subscripts occur only with the letters , , and (iota adscripts in the case of capitals [depending on the font]: , , and ).

An iota subscript occurs when short-vowel diphthongs αι, ει, and οι are lengthened: αι to αι; ει to ηι; and οι to ωι. The ι is then subscripted. The subscript itself is not pronounced: , , and are pronounced identically to unsubscripted α, η, and ω, respectively.

Iota Adscript/SubscriptErasmian (U.S.) Pronunciation
(Ignore subscript/adscript)
Greek Examples
ᾼ ᾳSame as α (\ah\)ᾅδης \'hah-days\ (Hades)
ῌ ῃSame as η (\ay\)χρῄζω \'hray-dzoh\ (to need)
ῼ ῳSame as ω (\oh\)ζῷον \'dzoh-on\ (living creature)

Not One Iota

...ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου...
[...not the smallest letter (lit., not one iota) or stroke of a letter will pass from the law.... (Matthew 5:18 NET)]

Alas, this refers to the regular iota, being that the iota subscript is a Byzantine invention. Ironically, the subscripts came about precisely because the regular iotas at the end of long-vowel diphthongs did in fact pass away.

Smyth: "In , , the ι ceased to be written about 100 B.C. The custom of writing ι under the line is as late as about the eleventh century."1

1. Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York [etc.]: American Book Company, 1920), available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library: (in lieu of, 5a, p. 9.

Diaereses, or Diereses (¨  )

A diaeresis is like a little raised palm over a pair of vowels that says, not a diphthong. Diaereses (or diereses) occur only over the letters ι and υ, which are the second vowels of all diphthongs, indicating that both vowels are syllabic. For example, in Μωϋσῆς (Moses) the ω and υ are both pronounced \moh-oo-'says\.

Non-DiphthongsErasmian (U.S.) Pronunciation
(Both vowels separately)
Greek Examples
αϊ\ah-ee\Ἑβραϊστί \heh-brah-ee-'stee\ (in Hebrew)
Ῥωμαϊστί \rhoh-mah-ee-'stee\ (in Latin)*
αϋ\ah-oo\πραΰτης \prah-'oo-tays\ (gentleness)
ιϊ\ee-ee\διϊσχυρίζομαι \dee-ees-hoo-'ree-dzo-migh\ (to insist)
ιϋ\ee-oo\διϋλίζω \dee-oo-'lee-dzoh\ (to filter)
οϊ\o-ee\χοϊκός \ho-ee-'kos\ (of earth and dust)
οϋ\o-oo\προϋπάρχω \pro-oo-'pahr-hoh\ (double-compound verb προ+ὑπ+άρχω)
υϊ\oo-ee\ἁλληλουϊά \hah-lay-lou-ee-'ah\ (hallelujah)
ωϊ\oh-ee\πρωΐα \proh-'ee-a\ (morning)
ωϋ\oh-oo\Μωϋσῆς \moh-oo-'says\ (Moses)‡

*αϊ occurs in the GNT only in proper nouns.

ιι, ιυ, ωι, and ωυ do not occur in the GNT without diaereses (except ωι in the entirely unmarked passage ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι in Mark 15:34).

ωυ occurs in the GNT only in Μωϋσῆς.

Crasis (Coronis ᾽ )

Coronises are identical in appearance to smooth breathings, but occur over medial vowels instead of initial vowels. (Note that, unlike all words with breathings, all words with crasis have initial consonants.)

A word with a coronis is actually two adjoining words conjoined. The coronis marks crasis, which is the contraction that takes place between the final and initial vowels (or diphthongs) of the two conjoined words. For example, τοὔνομα (the name) is the crasis of τὸ (the) and ὄνομα (name), as in the following verse:

Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης ἦλθεν ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος ἀπὸ Ἁριμαθαίας, τοὔνομα Ἰωσήφ, ὃς καὶ αὐτὸς ἐμαθητεύθη τῷ Ἰησοῦ
[Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. (Matthew 25:57 NET)]

Note that whereas a compound word such as ϋπάρχω (to exist) is not exactly the sum of its two parts (ὑπό under + ἄρχω to begin or to rule), a crasis is exactly the sum of its two parts: κἀγώ (καί and/also + ἐγώ I) means and/also I.

Crases in the Greek New Testament
κἀγώκαὶ ἐγώ
κἀκεῖκαὶ ἐκεῖ
κἀκεῖθενκαὶ ἐκεῖθεν
κἀκεῖνοςκαὶ ἐκεῖνος
κἀμέκαὶ ἐμέ
κἀμοίκαὶ ἐμοί
κἄνκαὶ ἄν or καὶ ἐάν
τοὐναντίοντὸ ἐναντίον
τοὔνοματὸ ὄνομα

Notes on Crasis

The above exhibit three of the rules of contraction, αι + ε = α; ο + ε = ου; ο + ο = ου. Crasis in the GNT, however, is fairly limited; Classical Greek contains many more, diverse examples.


Copyright 2007-2024 Thomas Moore, Email: acct3 at, Support Forum Set Local Timezone
Tuesday, 16-Apr-2024 09:52:23 EDT





The Kata Biblon Grammar of the Greek New Testament is a grammar reference of the Greek New Testament and Septuagint.



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