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19 Essential Greek Phrases You Need to Know

19 Essential Greek Phrases You Need to Know

Picture of Ethel Dilouambaka
Updated: 30 April 2017
So here you are – you’ve booked your ticket and hotels, and you are about to start packing for your trip to Greece. But will you be able to speak and interact with the locals even though you don’t know a word of their language? Yes! Greeks know that their language is hard, so they don’t expect you to master it at all. And while you will find many locals who speak English, Greeks (and anyone for that matter) always appreciate it when you try to speak their native language, even if it is just saying a few words. Below, you’ll find several useful Greek phrases in both Greek and their Latin character counterparts, with the accent mark (´) indicating where to put the word stress.

Γειά σου/Γειά σας (giásou/giásas)

Meaning: Hello! But also goodbye.

This greeting is a simple one. Wherever you go, use this to greet whoever is welcoming you. Just know that giásou is the singular form (or colloquial), while giásas is plural or the polite form. You can also use it when you are leaving a place – whether it’s your hotel, a restaurant or a shop.

Καλημέρα/Καλησπέρα (kaliméra/kalispéra)

Meaning: Good morning/Good afternoon

As a rule of thumb, you would say kaliméra (good morning) up until 12:00 p.m. and kalispéra (good afternoon/evening) in the afternoon until the end of the day. When in doubt, just use giásou/giásas.

Καληνύχτα (kaliníhta)

Meaning: Good night

Use it to wish someone goodbye at the end of the day or if you are passing through the hotel reception to your room.

Ευχαριστώ/Παρακαλώ (efharistó/parakaló)

Meaning: Thank you/You’re welcome

Being able to thank someone is one of the basic human interactions. But being able to respond when someone thanks you is equally useful. However, you could also just give a smile.

Παρακαλώ (see above)

Meaning: Please

That’s right – one word to say many things. Parakaló also means ‘please’ when used in a question.

Δε μιλάω ελληνικά (De miláo eliniká)

Meaning: I don’t speak Greek.

Sometimes your Greek is going to be so good that locals will start rambling in Greek, thinking you are fluent in the language. You might have to mention every once in a while that you don’t speak Greek, just so that they can switch to English if possible.

Μπορειτε να με βοηθησετε (Boríte na me voithísete?)

Meaning: Can you help me?

This phrase is self-explanatory. Use it when you need help, but be aware that the answer may come in Greek, so only use it if you know the basics.

Παρακαλώ, μιλάτε αγγλικά? (Parakaló, miláte aggliká?)

Meaning: Please, do you speak English?

Δεν καταλαβαίνω (Den katalavéno)

Meaning: I don’t understand.

Συγνώμη (syngnómi)

Meaning: Sorry or excuse me

Perfect if you have to make your way through a crowd or if you bump into someone.

Πόσο κάνει αυτό? (Póso káni aftó?)

Meaning: How much is this?

Once you find the strength to do some souvenir shopping, or if you venture into a farmer’s market to buy fresh fruit, this one is definitely going to be useful.

Θα ιθελα μια μπυρα/ενα καφέ/τσαι/νερο (Tha ithela mía bíra/ena kafé/tsai/neró)

Meaning: Can I have a beer/coffee/tea/water?

Want to impress your friends and order in Greek? Simple. Start with Tha ithela, add the word (ideally in Greek) and finally the parakaló, and you’re done.

Ένα σουβλάκι με όλα/χωρίς κρεμμύδι/με τζατζίκι (Ena souvláki me óla/horis kremídi/me tzatzíki)

Meaning: Can I have a souvlaki with everything/without onions/with tzatziki?

Another useful phrase when you get hungry. Souvlaki is the best food for taking on the go. Greeks are crazy about them, and it is not surprising that foreigners love them too. If you know how to order one, you will never be hungry again.

Είμαι χορτοφάγος (Ime hortofágos)

Meaning: I am a vegetarian.

While a variety of Greek dishes you will find in every taverna are vegetarian, Greeks are big on meat. Use this phrase if you want to inform someone that you are a vegetarian.

Ένα ελληνικό/φίλτρου/φραπέ (ντεκαφεϊνέ)/ζεστό freddo καπουτσίνο/εσπρέσο (Ena elinikó/filtrou/frappe (dekafeiné)/zestó/freddo cappuccino/espresso) – and – γλυκό/μέτριο/σκέτο/με γάλα/χωρίς γάλα (glikó/métrio/skéto/me gála/horis gála)

Meaning: May I have a hot/cold cappuccino/espresso/Greek coffee?

Meaning: May I have a Greek coffee/frappé (iced instant coffee)/sweet/medium sweet/plain/with milk/without milk?

This one is going to be VERY useful. You may know that Greeks love coffee, and they have a specific way to order. First, you choose the kind of coffee you would like, the sweetness level and then if you want it with or without milk. So to order a sweet iced cappuccino, you would say, ‘Ena freddo cappuccino gliko parakaló.’ It may look difficult now, but once you order your coffee in Greek just like the Greeks, you will feel like you can conquer anything.

Το λογαριασμό παρακαλώ (To logariasmó parakaló!)

Meaning: The bill, please!

This phrase is useful too. Although you could also gesture for the check, it is always appreciated when you say it.

Γεια μας! (Yia mas!)

Meaning: Cheers (to us)

Just like in many cultures, you say it while raising your glass, but unlike the French or the Hungarians, you do not have to look the person in the eyes.

Καλή όρεξη! (Kalí órexi)

Meaning: Enjoy your meal!

At a taverna, the waiter may tell you this when serving your plates. Just reply by saying efharistó (thank you), as you would in English.

Ναι/οχι (Ne/óhi): Yes/No

Learning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ will always be useful; even if you cannot say much in Greek, you may be surprised how these two little words will come handy in many situations. All you have to do now is finish preparing for your great holiday to Greece.