Greek language

RegionGreece, southern Mediterranean
Native speakers
13.4 million (2012)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 European Union
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1el
ISO 639-2gre (B)
ell (T)
ISO 639-3Variously:
ell – Modern Greek
grc – Ancient Greek
cpg – Cappadocian Greek
gmy – Mycenaean Greek
pnt – Pontic
tsd – Tsakonian
yej – Yevanic
  • 56-AAA-a
  • 56-AAA-aa to -am (varieties)
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Greek (Modern Greek: ελληνικά [eliniˈka], elliniká, "Greek", ελληνική γλώσσα [eliniˈci ˈɣlosa] (About this sound listen), ellinikí glóssa, "Greek language") is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries (3,400 years) of written records.[4] Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously.[5] The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic and many other writing systems.

The Greek language holds an important place in the history of the Western world and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works in the Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Greek is also the language in which many of the foundational texts in science, especially astronomy, mathematics and logic, and Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, are composed; the New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek. Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics.

During antiquity, Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world, West Asia and many places beyond. It would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire and develop into Medieval Greek.[6] In its modern form, the Greek language is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus, a recognised minority language in seven other countries, and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13.2 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Turkey, and the Greek diaspora.

Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages; Greek and Latin are the predominant sources of international scientific vocabulary.

Idealised portrayal of Homer


Greek has been spoken in the Balkan peninsula since around the 3rd millennium BC,[7] or possibly earlier.[8] The earliest written evidence is a Linear B clay tablet found in Messenia that dates to between 1450 and 1350 BC,[9] making Greek the world's oldest recorded living language. Among the Indo-European languages, its date of earliest written attestation is matched only by the now extinct Anatolian languages.


Proto-Greek-speaking area according to linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev

The Greek language is conventionally divided into the following periods:

Distribution of varieties of Greek in Anatolia, 1910. Demotic in yellow. Pontic in orange. Cappadocian Greek in green, with green dots indicating individual Cappadocian Greek villages.[11]
  • Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek: the continuation of Koine Greek, up to the demise of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century. Medieval Greek is a cover phrase for a whole continuum of different speech and writing styles, ranging from vernacular continuations of spoken Koine that were already approaching Modern Greek in many respects, to highly learned forms imitating classical Attic. Much of the written Greek that was used as the official language of the Byzantine Empire was an eclectic middle-ground variety based on the tradition of written Koine.
  • Modern Greek (Neo-Hellenic):[12] Stemming from Medieval Greek, Modern Greek usages can be traced in the Byzantine period, as early as the 11th century. It is the language used by the modern Greeks, and, apart from Standard Modern Greek, there are several dialects of it.


In the modern era, the Greek language entered a state of diglossia: the coexistence of vernacular and archaizing written forms of the language. What came to be known as the Greek language question was a polarization between two competing varieties of Modern Greek: Dimotiki, the vernacular form of Modern Greek proper, and Katharevousa, meaning 'purified', a compromise between Dimotiki and Ancient Greek, which was developed in the early 19th century and was used for literary and official purposes in the newly formed Greek state. In 1976, Dimotiki was declared the official language of Greece, having incorporated features of Katharevousa and giving birth to Standard Modern Greek, which is used today for all official purposes and in education.[13]

Historical unity

The distribution of major modern Greek dialect areas

The historical unity and continuing identity between the various stages of the Greek language is often emphasised. Although Greek has undergone morphological and phonological changes comparable to those seen in other languages, never since classical antiquity has its cultural, literary, and orthographic tradition been interrupted to the extent that one can speak of a new language emerging. Greek speakers today still tend to regard literary works of ancient Greek as part of their own rather than a foreign language.[14] It is also often stated that the historical changes have been relatively slight compared with some other languages. According to one estimation, "Homeric Greek is probably closer to demotic than 12-century Middle English is to modern spoken English."[15]

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Алыджыбзэ
адыгабзэ: Урымыбзэ
Afrikaans: Grieks
Alemannisch: Griechische Sprache
አማርኛ: ግሪክ (ቋንቋ)
العربية: لغة يونانية
aragonés: Idioma griego
asturianu: Griegu
Avañe'ẽ: Gyresiañe'ẽ
azərbaycanca: Yunan dili
تۆرکجه: یونان دیلی
Bân-lâm-gú: Hi-lia̍p-gú
башҡортса: Грек теле
беларуская: Грэчаская мова
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Грэцкая мова
भोजपुरी: यूनानी भाषा
Bikol Central: Tataramon na Griego
български: Гръцки език
bosanski: Grčki jezik
brezhoneg: Gresianeg
буряад: Грек хэлэн
català: Grec
Чӑвашла: Грек чĕлхи
čeština: Řečtina
Chi-Chewa: Chigiriki
Cymraeg: Groeg (iaith)
davvisámegiella: Greikkagiella
dolnoserbski: Grichišćina
español: Idioma griego
Esperanto: Greka lingvo
estremeñu: Luenga griega
euskara: Greziera
Fiji Hindi: Greek bhasa
føroyskt: Grikskt mál
français: Grec
Frysk: Gryksk
Gaeilge: An Ghréigis
Gaelg: Greagish
Gàidhlig: Greugais
galego: Lingua grega
贛語: 希臘語
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Hî-lia̍p-ngî
хальмг: Грисин келн
한국어: 그리스어
Hawaiʻi: ʻōlelo Helene
Հայերեն: Հունարեն
hornjoserbsce: Grjekšćina
hrvatski: Grčki jezik
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: গ্রীক ঠার
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Yunani
interlingua: Lingua grec
isiZulu: IsiGreki
íslenska: Gríska
italiano: Lingua greca
עברית: יוונית
Basa Jawa: Basa Yunani
Kapampangan: Amanung Griyegu
ქართული: ბერძნული ენა
қазақша: Грек тілі
kernowek: Grew
Kinyarwanda: Ikigereki
Kiswahili: Kigiriki
Кыргызча: Грек тили
Ladino: Lingua grega
лезги: Грек чӀал
latviešu: Grieķu valoda
Lëtzebuergesch: Griichesch
lietuvių: Graikų kalba
Ligure: Lengoa grega
Limburgs: Nuigrieks
lingála: Ligreki
la .lojban.: xesybau
lumbaart: Lengua greca
македонски: Грчки јазик
Malagasy: Fiteny grika
მარგალური: ბერძენული ნინა
مصرى: يونانى
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Yunani
Baso Minangkabau: Bahaso Yunani
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Hĭ-lé-nà̤-ngṳ̄
мокшень: Греконь кяль
монгол: Грек хэл
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဂရိဘာသာနှင့်စာပေ
Dorerin Naoero: Dorerin Grit
Nederlands: Grieks
Nedersaksies: Grieks
नेपाल भाषा: ग्रीक भाषा
日本語: ギリシア語
нохчийн: Грекийн мотт
Nordfriisk: Griichisk spriak
norsk: Gresk
norsk nynorsk: Gresk
Novial: Grekum
occitan: Grèc (lenga)
олык марий: Грек йылме
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yunon tili
پنجابی: یونانی بولی
Papiamentu: Griego
Перем Коми: Эллин кыв
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ភាសាក្រិក
Picard: Grec
Piemontèis: Lenga greca
Tok Pisin: Tok Gris
Plattdüütsch: Greeksche Spraak
português: Língua grega
Qaraqalpaqsha: Grek tili
qırımtatarca: Yunan tili
română: Limba greacă
Runa Simi: Grigu simi
русиньскый: Ґрецькый язык
саха тыла: Гириэк тыла
Gagana Samoa: Fa'aEleni
Scots: Greek leid
Seeltersk: Griechisk
Sesotho: Segerike
sicilianu: Lingua greca
Simple English: Greek language
slovenčina: Grécke jazyky
slovenščina: Grščina
ślůnski: Grecko godka
Soomaaliga: Af-giriig
српски / srpski: Грчки језик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Grčki jezik
Basa Sunda: Basa Yunani
svenska: Grekiska
татарча/tatarça: Юнан теле
తెలుగు: గ్రీక్ భాష
Türkçe: Yunanca
удмурт: Грек кыл
українська: Грецька мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: گرېك تىلى
vepsän kel’: Grekan kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Hy Lạp
Volapük: Grikänapük
Winaray: Griniyego
吴语: 希腊语
ייִדיש: גריכיש
Yorùbá: Èdè Gríkì
粵語: 希臘文
Zazaki: Yunanki
žemaitėška: Graiku kalba
中文: 希腊语
ГӀалгӀай: Эллиной мотт
Lingua Franca Nova: Elinica (lingua)