Getting ready for your trip to Greece? Don’t forget to brush up on your Greek language skills! Learning a few words and phrases in the local language is important for every trip, and in Greece, it’s a great way to leave a good impression and enrich your travel experience. While the Greek language can be difficult to master, it won’t take long to learn some simple Greek phrases and expressions. From greeting someone to getting directions, here are the handiest Greek phrases to learn before your trip to Greece.
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Common Greek words and phrases to learn
Hello: Γεια (Yah). This is the most common Greek greeting used for all occasions.
If you’re greeting one person, you can say Γειά σου (YAH su).
If you’re greeting a group, you should say Γεια σας (YAH sas). You should also use “YAH sas” when you need to be formal and polite, such as when you’re greeting someone you don’t know, an elderly person, or your boss.
How are you?: Tι κανείς (tee-KAH-nis)?
My name is… : Με λένε (may LEH-neh)…
What is your name?: πως σε λένε (pos-oh LEH-neh)?
Nice to meet you: Χάρηκα πολύ (HA-ree-ka po-LEE)
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Thank you: Ευχαριστώ (eff-kha-ri-STOE)
Please/you’re welcome: Παρακαλώ (para-kah-LOE). This word means both “please” and “you’re welcome”, making it a very important word to learn. You can even use it to mean “I beg your pardon?” when you want someone to repeat what they said.
Sorry/Excuse me: Συγνώμη (See-GHNO-mee). You can say this to apologise, get someone’s attention, or to pass someone.
Yes: Ναί (neh)
No: όχι (OH-hee). Watch out – it can be easy for English speakers to confuse yes and no and “neh” sounds similar to “no” and “OH-hee” sounds similar to “okay” in English.
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Common Greek greetings
Good morning/good day: Καλημέρα (kah-lee-MER-ah). You’ll hear this greeting all over Greece and it’s used in the morning hours until noon. It comes from the words kali or kalo (meaning “beautiful” and “good”) and imera (meaning “day”).
Good afternoon/evening: Καλησπέρα (kah-lee-SPER-ah). You can start using this greeting around dusk and use it throughout the evening to say goodbye.
Goodnight: Καληνύχτα (kah-lee-NEEKH-tah). Use this when you’re going to bed.
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Goodbye (formal): Αντίο σας (antio-sas). You can also just say antio – it’s similar to “adios” in Spanish.
Goodbye (informal): Γειά σου (YAH-soo). If you’re being very informal, you can simply say “yah” (the same as hello). Again, if you’re saying goodbye to a group, say “YAH-sas”. “Yah” is similar to saying “ciao” in Italian or “salut” in French – it’s an informal way to say both hello and goodbye.
See you again/until next time: Τα λέμε (tah-LEH-meh).
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Handy Greek phrases for travellers
Do you speak English?: Μιλάτε αγγλικά (Mee-LAH-teh ag-li-KAH)?
I don’t understand: Δεν καταλαβαίνω (Then Kah-tah-lah-VEH-noh)
I am lost: Χάθηκα (KA-thi-ka)
Where is… ?: που είναι (Poh-EE-nay)
Where is the bathroom?: Πού είναι η τουαλέτα (Poh-EE-nay ee tua-LEH-tah)?
If you’re getting directions, you’ll need to know right (δεξιά – decks-yah) and left (αριστερά – ar-ee-stare-ah).
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How much is it?: Πόσο κάνει αυτό (POH-soh KAH-nee af-TOH)?
Help!: Βοήθεια (voh-EE-thee-yah)
Cheers!: Στην υγειά μας! (STIN-eh YAH-mas). This literally translates to “To our health!”. You can also say “STIN-eh YAH-sas,” which means “To your health!”
Bottoms up!: Ασπρο πάτο (AHS-pro PAH-toh)
I love Greece: Αγαπώ την Ελλάδα (Ah-gah-POH teen Eh-LAH-tha)
Oops!: Ωπα (OH-pa). “Opa” is one of the most famous Greek words. It originally meant “oops” but now it’s often used to express joy and show appreciation, especially at a celebration.
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Tips for speaking Greek
If you’re having trouble remembering all the different greetings, you can’t go wrong with just saying Γεια (Yah) and giving a friendly wave of the hand. If it’s a formal occasion, say Γεια σας (Ya sas) and shake hands. You’ll likely see the locals greeting each other with air kisses, however, this is typically only used between friends and relatives, so don’t use this with every greeting!
Greek is a pitch-accent language, meaning that words that look the same can have different meanings depending on the way they are accented. If you mispronounce a word with the incorrect accent, many Greeks will not understand what you mean. So it’s important to get those accents right! If you’re having trouble, try emphasising different syllables of the word. Getting nowhere? Try using a handy translator app on your phone.
If you keep confusing “yes” and “no” in Greek, you might like to try using a mnemonic device, like a rhyme, acronym or song to help you remember.
Did you know the Ancient Greeks developed mnemonic devices thousands of years ago to help them memorise long speeches? The word “mnemonic” comes from the Greek word “mnemom” meaning “to remember” and Mnemosyne was the Goddess of Memory in Greek mythology.
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Have you learned any Greek expressions or phrases for your trip to Greece? Let us know in the comments below!