Tags: #alphabet

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Why Transcribe English into the Greek Alphabet

Transcribing English into the Greek alphabet is a good way to learn a new alphabet system. If you are studying Greek, it might help you know what a certain letter stands for (in terms of sound).

Another reason is basic encryption. Encrypting your physical writing is a daunting task. It can be hard to make a cipher that is readable for you and not others. But, you can encrypt English using an existing alphabet. These pre-built alphabets usually contain sounds that are similar to English. It is much easier than creating your own alphabet. Making the Greek alphabet fit into English phonetically can be difficult, especially since English has many sounds that Greek lacks, but it is doable.

Encrypting your writing using this method takes only a few hours to learn. While most writing systems look different enough from Latin to be unreadable by most, those who understand the alphabet will not have a hard time decrypting your writing. However, it is unlikely to run into such a person.

In many countries, Greek letters are used extensively in math, science, and engineering as variables. This may make the alphabet weaker if you write in English or any other language. Many fraternities and sororities also use Greek letters. This makes it more likely for you to run into someone who understands the Greek alphabet. Although it is unlikely to encounter a native speaker (excluding Greek) who can read the Greek alphabet, the possibility can make the use of this alphabet risky.

English to Greek Letters

The following table are Greek letters transcribed to English as best as possible. They do not represent how the Greek alphabet is actually pronounced.

Greek Letter English Letter Example
Α α A F[a]ther
Β β V (B) [V]ote ([B]oat)
Γ γ NG (G) Si[ng] ([G]o)
Δ δ D [D]en
Ε ε E M[e]t
Ζ ζ Z [Z]ebra
Η η E H[e]y
Θ θ TH [Th]e
Ι ι I Mach[i]ne
Κ κ K [K]ite
Λ λ L [L]ate
Μ μ M [M]ake
Ν ν N [N]o
Ξ ξ KS Mas[ks]
Ο ο O [O]ff
Π π P [P]ot
Ρ ρ R (not rolled) [R]adio
Σ σ/ς (Ϲ ϲ*) S, Z sometimes [S]it
Τ τ T [T]alk
Υ υ Y Similar to [y]es
Φ φ F [F]it
Χ χ KH, H in example alphabet Lo[ch] (Scottish)
Ψ ψ PS Ca[ps]
Ω ω OU Gr[o]w


  • *: Found in some older Greek writings
  • σ/ς: ς is written at the end of a word. Everywhere else, it is σ
  • Letters in parentheses () are older pronunciations. They are no longer used.
  • Letters in brackets [] are English equivalents
  • ου is similar to f[oo]d
  • μπ makes a “B” sound in modern Greek. You may still use Β
  • There is no “sh” sound. Replace with “s”.
  • There is no “ch” sound. Replace with “ts.”


Excerpted from The Mole & his Mother in Aesop's fables. Original text.

Α λιτουλ Μολ ουανς σεδ το χις Μοθερ:

“Ουαι Μοθερ, υου σεδ αι ουας μπλαινδ! Μπουτ αη αμ σουρ αι καν σι!”

Μοθερ Μολ σο σι ουδ χαυ το γετ σουτς κονσιτ αυτ οφ χιζ χεδ. Σο σι πουτ α μπιτ οφ φραγινσενς μπιφορ χιμ ανδ ασκδ χιμ το τελ ουατ ιτ ουας.

Θε λιτουλ Μολ πιρδ ατ ιτ.

“Ουαι, θατς α πεμπυλ!”

“Ουελ, μαι σον, θατ πρυυζ υουβ λοστ υουρ σενς οφ σμελ ας ουελ ας μπιυεγ μπλαινδ.”

Μοραλ: μποστ οφ ουαν θιγ ανδ υου ουιλ μπι φαυνδ λακιγ ιν θατ ανδ α φου οθερ θιγς ας ουελ.

To native English speakers, this looks like a foreign language. However, it's English disguised in Greek letters. In fact, you can paste this into a translator and hear the text. Just be sure not to boast that you know actually know Greek!

Why Phonetically

“So why encrypt the Greek alphabet or any other alphabet phonetically,” you may ask. English is not spelt phonetically. This means that it is hard to transcribe words accurately into other alphabets. It takes longer to decrypt a word letter-by-letter than by syllable.

Syllables can contain more than one letter. Take the word “pseudonym.” Going letter-by-letter gives you “ψεουδονιμ” (pse ou don i m; Greek has no “u” or “y” equivalent). Decrypting one letter at a time is not only inefficient, but you also have to figure out what the word is (spelling-wise). Sometimes, you forget the spelling of a word. However phonetically, you get “συδονιμ” (su-do-nim). We know what pseudonym approximately sounds like, so it is much easier to read.

Secondly, Greek has 24 letters; English has 26. Greek has no Q, W, U. Although these letters could be substituted (i.e. Q for Κ, W & U for ου), such substitutions could make it harder to read.