History of The Greek Alphabet - The Names of The Letters

The Names of The Letters

The names of some letters were changed in order to distinguish them from certain digraphs which had become homophonous, as follows:

Letter Original name Later name Meaning
Ε ei epsilon "plain " as opposed to <αι> (they had merged in the 3rd-1st centuries BC)
Ο o or ou omicron "small " as opposed to <ω> (merged with the loss of vocal length/pitch from 3rd BC to 3rd AD)
Υ u upsilon "plain " as opposed to <οι> (which had gone from to and in/by 1st AD merged with <υ>)
Ω ō omega "large " as opposed to <ο> (as above)

The letter F was probably originally called wau, but in classical times was called digamma, reflecting its shape rather than its sound. Similarly the name sampi means "like pi", suggesting that its phonetic use had been forgotten.

Read more about this topic:  History Of The Greek Alphabet

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