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The official language of Greece is standard modern Greek, Dimotiki. Most materials used in Greek research are written in Greek. Before 1976, most records were written in formal Greek, Katharevousa, a literary form of the language which resembles ancient Greek. However, you do not need to speak or read Greek to research Greek records. You will need to know the Greek alphabet and some key words and phrases to understand the records. Many of the records of the Catholic church are in Latin and Italian, some military records during the period of King Otto are in German, and the records of the Greek Orthodox Church are in Katharevousa.
For word lists and help researching in Greek records, see:
- Greek Genealogical Word List
- Latin Genealogical Word List
- Italian Genealogical Word List
- German Genealogical Word List
Help with the Greek Alphabet
You can learn the Greek alphabet just as you learned the Latin alphabet. It's not that hard! Also there are computer apps that help. See Greece Handwriting and Text.
Forms of the Greek Language
There are several forms of the Greek language:
- Ancient Greek, Biblical Greek, and Byzantine Greek are not seen in genealogy.
- Official Greek, Katharevusa (kathareuousa), was used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until the late 1960s.
- Popular Greek, Demotic (dimotiki), was used in older records of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.
- Demotic Greek was established as the official language of the country in the 1970s. The Greek language has its own alphabet of 24 letters. The representation of Greek words in the Latin alphabet is called transliteration (sometimes referred to as romanization). No single system for transliterating Greek letters is satisfactory to everybody. The problem is complicated by tradition, phonetics, and politics.
As a result of this, Greek place names and people names may be spelled in various ways in different sources you use in your Greek research. For example, Hania may be spelled Hania or Chania or Khania depending on how the letters are transliterated. This often makes it difficult to figure out what the original Greek spelling may have been.
Another genealogical word list for Greek is found in the following source:
- Catsakis, Lica (Bywater) and Daniel M. Schlyter. Greek Genealogical Research. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Greek Association of Family History and Tradition (SIPEO), 1993 (45–50). (FHL book 949.5 D27b.)
The following books and English-Greek dictionaries can also aid you in your research. You can find these and similar material at many research libraries:
- Divry’s New English-Greek and Greek-English Dictionary. Athens, Greece: Divres, 1959. (FHL film 1183597, item 2.)
- Jannaris, A.N. A Concise Dictionary of the English and Modern Greek Languages as Actually Spoken. London, England: John Murray, 1895 [1956 reprint]. (FHL book 489.3321 J261c; film23 1181682, item 2.)
- This simple Greek Word List features the a short list of key terms. You should learn to recognize these.
- Other words will be used on a "look it up when you come to it" basis. For this, more thorough word lists can be found at :
- Greek-English, English-Greek Dictionary
- Woodhouse. S. C. "English-Greek dictionary, a vocabulary of the Attic language". New York : E.P. Dutton, [1910?].
- Kyriakidēs, Achilleus, "Pocket Greek-English dictionary." Nicosia, E. C. Petribes, 1909. 1st ed.