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How to Say Hello in Greek: Do it Like a Local!

How to Say Hello in Greek

What’s the first thing you need to know when learning a new language? How to engage in simple dialogue of course! GreekPod101.com has taken care of this, as always.

Greek is perceived as a difficult language. However, we’re sure you’ll change your mind—
and will be surprised by the beauty and harmony of the Greek language—by the time you get through with this Greek greetings guide.

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Some might say that speaking Greek while visiting Greece is not a prerequisite. And this is probably correct, as most Greeks speak English at a very adequate level. However, greeting people in their native language is a great way to connect and learn new things from the locals. And believe us: You wouldn’t want to miss the big smile on their face once you greet them in Greek—yes, they really appreciate it!

In this blog post, we’ll learn how to say “Hello” in Greek, as well as other everyday life greetings. From “Hello” to “Goodbye” and from “Good morning” to “Goodnight,” here you’ll find the most common expressions used for greeting other people, or for meeting new people. Whether you’re travelling or are visiting Greece for work, this Greek greetings guide will help you learn all the proper expressions. However, learning a new phrase is never enough. Together we’ll dig into Greek culture and explore Greek customs related to greetings.

Do you prefer an audiovisual experience? Then check out our How to Greet People in Greek video!

Are you ready? Let’s begin this journey! Learn how Greeks greet, along with the most important Greek etiquette.

1. Saying Hello

The most common Greek greetings for saying “Hello” is Γεια (Ya). It can be used for every occasion and is normally accompanied by a pronoun, referring to either a single person or a group of people. Therefore, Γεια σου (Ya su) is used when greeting one person, whereas Γεια σας (Ya sas) is commonly used for greeting more than one individual—or an individual with whom you need to be polite and speak formal Greek to. This can be someone you don’t know, or someone of a higher status such as your boss or someone significantly older than you.

Does this seem too complicated? Well, we’ve got your back.

An alternative, which can be used regardless of the number of people you’re greeting, is Χαίρετε (Hérete). So, if you want to be on the safe side you can use this. Nevertheless, this greeting isn’t quite popular amongst young people, so you should probably keep this in mind, as you might sound…a bit old.

Greek Greetings

2. Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy…especially when you have to say goodbye to the Greek sun, islands, and kind-hearted people. So how do you say “Goodbye” in Greek? The good news is that Γεια (Ya) / Γεια σου (Ya su) / Γεια σας (Ya sas) can also be used for saying goodbye. In many cases, it’s also accompanied by Τα λέμε! (Ta léme!), which corresponds to “See you!” So, let’s have a look at a proper goodbye below:

  • Greek: Γεια! Τα λέμε!
  • Romanization: Ya! Ta léme!
  • Translation: “Βye! See you!”

However, keep in mind that Τα λέμε can also be used without Γεια’, just like “See you” can be used without saying “Bye.”

Another way to say “Goodbye” in Greek is Αντίο (Adío), meaning exactly “Goodbye.” This expression is mostly used in cases when the separation is permanent or long-term. In addition, it’s also used to add a dramatic tone to saying “Goodbye.”

Feel like using something more sophisticated, rather than a simple “Goodbye?” Εις το επανιδείν (Is to epanidín) is perfect for this occasion. This phrase has its roots in ancient Greek, yet it’s still used today. It means “Farewell/See you later” and its word-per-word translation is shown below:

  • Greek: Εις το επανιδείν!
  • Romanization: Is to epanidín!
  • Word-per-word translation: “To the seeing-each-other-again!”

3. Greetings Based on the Time of Day

As already stated, in Greek you can use Γεια (Ya) regardless of the time of day and for both greeting and parting. Nevertheless, there are other Greek greetings, which are time-specific.

Good Morning

  • Greek: Καλημέρα!
  • Romanization: Kaliméra!
  • Meaning: “Good morning!”

As in English, Καλημέρα consists of two separate words combined into one: Καλή + μέρα (kalí + méra) = “good” + “morning.” It’s normally used when greeting someone in the morning, basically until twelve o’clock pm.

  • Greek: Καλησπέρα!
  • Romanization: Kalispéra!
  • Meaning: “Good afternoon!”

Again, in this case Καλησπέρα consists of two separate words combined into one: Καλή + (ε)σπέρα (kalí + (e)spéra) = “good” + “afternoon.” This is used to greet someone throughout most of the day, basically from twelve o’clock pm until late in the evening.

  • Greek: Καλό απόγευμα!
  • Romanization: Kaló apóyevma!
  • Meaning: “Have a good afternoon!”

Καλό απόγευμα is commonly used instead of “Goodbye” when parting with someone during the afternoon, wishing them a good afternoon.

When it comes to saying goodbye at night or wishing someone a good evening in Greek, there are two alternatives:

Alternative 1

  • Greek: Καλό βράδυ!
  • Romanization: Kaló vrádi!
  • Meaning: “Have a good evening!”

Alternative 2

  • Greek: Καληνύχτα!
  • Romanization: Kaliníhta!
  • Meaning: “Goodnight!”

Night

Alternative 2—Καληνύχτα—is the more commonly used of the two and consists of two words combined into one: Καλή + νύχτα (kalí + níhta) = “good” + “night.”

In cases when there’s some kind of intimacy between the individuals, Καληνύχτα or Καλό βράδυ is often followed by Όνειρα γλυκά (Ónira gliká) meaning “dreams sweet,” corresponding of course to “Sweet dreams.”

4. Formal Greek Greetings

For formal occasions, the honorific plural is used. Indeed, Γεια σας (Ya sas) is used for greeting a person in a formal way, which normally corresponds to greeting a group of people. This is the only difference regarding formal Greek greetings, as you can use all the other aforementioned expressions without any problems.

5. Greek Slang Greetings

Rapper

If you’re fed up with the more common Greek greetings, especially if you’re a revolutionary teenager or even…a rapper…here are the appropriate greetings for you! Use them at your own risk as they may sound a bit inappropriate in most cases.

Expression 1

  • Greek: Γεια χαρά!
  • Romanization: Ya hará!
  • Meaning: “Hey!”

Expression 2

  • Greek: Γιο!
  • Romanization: Yo!
  • Meaning: “Yo!”

Expression 3

  • Greek: Χρόνια και ζαμάνια!
  • Romanization: Hrónia ke zamánia!
  • Meaning: “Long time no see!”

The above expressions can also be combined as: Γεια χαρά! / Γιο! Χρόνια και ζαμάνια! (Ya hará! / Yo! Hrónia ke zamánia!) meaning “Hey!” / “Yo! Long time no see!.”

6. Meeting New People

When meeting new people, Greeks greet by shaking hands. You can also use the formal Greek greeting Γεια σας (Ya sas), before shaking hands. In addition, it’s common for Greek people to introduce themselves during this hand shake, by simply stating their name. A proper example is demonstrated below:

  • Individual A: Γεια σας! (Ya sas!)
  • Individual B: Γεια σας! (Ya sas!)
  • *While shaking hands*
  • Individual A: Μαρία. (Maria.)
  • Individual B: Άννα. (Anna.)

Alternative 1

  • Χαίρω πολύ! (Héro Polí!) - “Pleased (to meet you)!”

Alternative 2

  • Χάρηκα! (Ηárika!) - “Pleased (to have met you)!”

Alternative 3

  • Χαίρομαι για τη γνωριμία! (Hérome ya ti gnorimía!) - “Pleased to make your acquaintance!”

Either one of the above alternatives can be used, without any restrictions, as they’re equally used by locals. Of course, the simplest expression is Χάρηκα (Ηárika!), which can also be used as a parting expression, a way of saying “Goodbye” in Greek.

7. Answering the Phone

Now let’s learn about some Greek greetings while answering the phone. Expressions while answering the phone in Greek are another integral part of greetings in everyday life. The most common answer is Ναι (Ne), simply meaning “Yes.” Below you can find other popular greetings for answering the phone.

Answering The Phone

Alternative 1

  • Ναι (Ne)—“Yes”

This is an informal Greek greeting over the phone. It’s normally used when the person who’s calling is someone you know pretty well, such as a close friend. It’s also used when you’re actually expecting this specific call, so no further explanation is needed.

Alternative 2

  • Παρακαλώ (Parakaló)—“Please”

This alternative can be used for both formal and informal situations. For example, you can use it either when a friend is calling, or even within a business environment.

Alternative 3

  • Λέγετε (Légete)—“Speak”

This is another option which can be used in either a formal or informal situation. It actually motivates the caller to talk about the purpose of the call.

Alternative 4

  • Λέγετε, παρακαλώ (Légete, parakaló)—“Speak, please”

As you can see, you can also use a combination of Alternative 2 and Alternative 3. The only difference here is that the greeting is more polite and can be considered a more formal Greek greeting.

Alternative 5

  • Γεια (σας)! (Ya [sas]!)—“Hello!”

Just like the most common Greek greeting, you can use Γεια! (Ya!), as an informal greeting when answering the phone. Add the word σας (sas), when answering a formal call and you’re set!

Of course, depending on the time of day, you can also use the other appropriate greetings such as Καλημέρα (Kaliméra) meaning “Good morning,” or Καλησπέρα (Kalispéra) meaning “Good afternoon.” In the end, the choice is yours!

8. Other Greek Customs and Cultural Insights

Greet Someone

Greeks are enthusiastic, kind-hearted, and a bit…loud. For greeting someone, just saying Γεια (Ya), will do the job just right. Γεια (Ya) is usually accompanied by the classic wave of the hand, especially if you’re greeting someone from a distance.

Shake Hands

In formal occasions, it’s common to shake hands, along with the formal greeting Γεια σας (Ya sas).

Air Kissing

Greeks greet someone they’re friendly with by air-kissing, i.e. touching cheek-to-cheek. Usually, they first kiss on the left cheek by tilting their head to the right, and then they kiss the right cheek by tilting their head to the left. When the people involved are very good friends, it’s common to hear a sound similar to “mwah, mwah.” However, this is only typical for Greek greetings between friends or relatives, and we wouldn’t recommend it for wide usage.

9. How GreekPod101 Can Help You Master Greek

Greetings are an integral part of everyday life. In many cases, using Greek expressions can really make a difference while talking or even cooperating with Greek people. When you use the Greek language, you take a step closer to your interlocutor and you create a new bond. You actually show that you care about the Greek customs, and it’s possible to get some inside tips and invaluable information even from strangers.

GreekPod101.com aims to help you learn Greek in a simple yet effective way. We’re focusing on practical examples, which can be used directly in everyday life, without omitting references to the appropriate grammar and syntax. After all, what’s theory without practice?

First of all, you can visit our Common Ways to Say Hello list in order to review, refresh, and expand your knowledge of Greek greetings. GreekPod101.com also offers you recordings of each phrase, which can help you with pronunciation. Feel free to explore more lists and resources, in order to take your Greek knowledge to the next level.

Our website offers practical tips and advice, aiming to teach you Greek, just like locals use it. Practice makes perfect, so what are you waiting for? Begin today with our Greek Greeting Lesson.

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