We’ve previously given you a list of words that will help you with your “please” and “thank you’s” and other basic Greek phrases but we thought it’s so much more useful to give you a colloquial and cultural guide to the Greek language, the turn of phrase the locals use and the one that will get your furthest in Greece, whether you’re visiting during a festive season, attending a big fat Greek wedding, or find yourself in some frustrating situations (known to happen). Our useful Greek phrases with audio clips will allow you to practice over and over again, to give you the ability to speak with confidence to get the most out of your visit.
Useful Greek phrases
There are many social and cultural nuances to come to terms with in Greece and one of them includes how locals commonly choose to line up. The notion of a straight line or waiting for your turn is not done well in Greek society and pushing in doesn’t always sit well with overseas visitors. If you’re feeling bold (or brave) we thought we should arm you with the basics but remember, try not to sweat the small stuff!
Excuse me, where is the queue? Συγγνώμη, που είναι η ουρά;
Phonetic: SIG-NO-MI, POU EE-NE I OO-RA
Ιs there are queue? Yπάρχει ουρά;
Phonetic: IPAR-HI OO-RA
I was here before you! Ήμουν εδώ πριν από σας!
Phonetic: EE -MOUN E-THO PRIN APO SAS
Why are you in a hurry? Γιατί βιάζεστε;
Phonetic: YIA-TI VIA-SE-STE
Greek hyperbole – expressing yourself whole heartedly
Despite the organised chaos that no doubt exists day to day in and around Greece, we’re pretty confident you will be impressed more often then not. From the delicious food and breathtaking vistas it will certainly take your breath away or at the very least take you by surprise, such is the beauty of Greece. Here are a few words that Greeks like to use that are expressive and fun to say!
It’s fantastic! Είναι φανταστικό!
Phonetic: EE-NE FAN-TAS-TIKO
Nice things people say to each other every day
There is a standard saying in Greek for almost every event, from the first rain that falls for the season, to the start of the week or month. Each is marked with a phrase and if you listen carefully, you will no doubt come across them during your travels. Say a few yourself if you want to really impress.
May you be well (like bless you): Να’στε καλά
Phonetic: NA – STE – KA-LA
Have a good weekend: Καλό Σαββατοκύριακο
Phonetic: KA-LO SA-VA-TO-KI-RI-A-KO
Have a good week: Καλή εβδομάδα
Phonetic: KA-LI EV-THO-MA-THA
Have a good month: Καλό μήνα (said on the first day of every month)
Phonetic: KA-LO MI-NA
Greek phrases for festive or special occasions and eating
Christmas, Easter, birthdays and weddings, it’s very likely that you will come to Greece during a festive season or find yourself at a celebration of some sort. Here are some basic phrases and salutations to show just how in tune you are with Greek culture.
Merry Christmas: Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Phonetic: KA-LA HRIS-TOU-YENA
Happy Easter: Καλό Πάσχα
Phonetic: KA-LO PAS-HA
Happy birthday: Χρόνια πολλά
Phonetic: HRO-NIA PO-LA
Cheers! Υειά μας! (to our health! *short form of “Στην υγειά μας”)
Phonetic: YIA MAS
Good appetite: Καλή όρεξη (said before a meal)
Phonetic: KA-LI O-RE-XI
WHY ATHENS TIPS
All phrases are written in formal Greek, where limited familiarity with the person you are talking to is assumed. The formal for “you” σας “sas” is used in this guide.
Greek is an inflected language and the tone and accent of the words are vital to their meaning. Use our short audio clips to get in tune with pronunciation and the sounds of the Greek language.
Find more basic Greek for travelling here.
Facts about the Greek language
Greek is one of the oldest Indo-European languages and is divided into Ancient and Modern Greek. In the 19th century, Modern Greek became the official language of Greece.
It is estimated that there are at least 13 million Greek speakers in Greece, Albania, Cyprus and around the world in the large Greek or Cypriot communities of the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia and others. It is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.
More than 150,000 words of English are derived from Greek words. Here are a few examples:
Democracy, antique, idol, dialogue, geography, grammar, architect, economy, encyclopaedia, telephone, microscope
Words that starts with ‘ph-‘ are usually of Greek origin, for example:
philosophy, physical, photograph, phrase and philanthropy