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An Eye-Opening Tragedy: The Athens Polytechnic Uprising

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to bring about change? 

On November 17, 1973, Athens, Greece, saw a massive tragedy take place all in the name of positive change. The Athens Polytechnic uprising consisted of university students—many of whom sacrificed themselves during protests—who were sick of the corrupted junta regime. 

In this article, you’ll learn about what events took place on this date and how Greeks commemorate them today.

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1. What was the Athens Polytechnic Uprising?

Black and White Image of Someone on a Tank

The Athens Polytechnic Uprising was a student-led protest against the so-called χούντα (húda), or “junta.” The junta, led by George Papadopoulos, was an extreme right-wing δικτατορία (diktatoría), or “dictatorship,” that actively took away the rights of Greek citizens, including their ability to have differing political opinions. Any Greek citizens who expressed a different πολιτική πεποίθηση (politikí pepíthisi), or “political belief,” were imprisoned, tortured, or exiled. 

On November 14, 1973, a large group of students at the Athens Polytechnic school organized a mass protest by barricading themselves inside the building. One such student was Maria Damanaki, known for her role in the famous Athens Polytechnic Uprising radio transmission, calling for the people of Greece to come together against the junta. Later, Damanaki would become a leftist politician. 

The school’s occupation continued until November 17, during which time many Greeks gathered near the school in a mixture of curiosity and support for the students. In the early morning hours, police broke the πανεπιστημιακό άσυλο (panepistimiakó ásilo), or “academic asylum,” that would normally protect students from harm, sending a tank in to knock down the university’s gates. Prior to this, the junta had also had several of the students professionally assassinated by snipers in nearby buildings. There was further Αιματοχυσία (ematohisía), or “bloodshed,” as students tried to flee the school grounds and were shot by police and snipers.

Each year, Greeks commemorate these tragic events and honor the memory of each brave student who protested the junta.

2. Traditions and Commemorations for the Uprising

The National Technical University of Athens

To observe the Athens Polytechnic Uprising holiday, schools in Greece cease classes and instead host commemorative events. These often feature audiovisual material containing recordings or images from the event, including grainy footage from a Dutch reporter who had been there. People may also hear the recording of the uprising’s Σύνθημα (sínthima), or “motto”:  Bread-Education-Freedom. At the Athens Polytechnic school, there are wreath-layings and speeches, and visitors leave carnation flowers at the site. 

In addition to commemorative events, there are often demonstrations and protests, particularly at the American Embassy. This is because many Greeks believe that the United States aided and encouraged the junta. These events can become violent, so there are always police nearby to keep things in check. 

Greeks tend to have mixed feelings concerning this holiday. On the one hand, many see it as a commemoration of a positive step forward; on the other, it’s a sad day that’s often marred by the violent protests.

3. Other Demonstrations Against the Junta

A Fist Against a Dark Background

The 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising was not the first student protest against the junta. 

In 1970, a student named Kostas Georgakis committed suicide in protest of the regime. Later, in February 1973, students held a protest in a law school, asking for repeal of a law that allowed the junta to draft students by force. 

These events are thought to have led up to the Athens Polytechnic Uprising, which shed light on issues regarding the junta.

4. Essential Vocabulary for the Uprising Commemoration

The Motto of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising

Let’s review some of the vocabulary words from this article!

  • Αστυνομία (astinomía) – “police”
  • Αιματοχυσία (ematohisía) – “bloodshed”
  • άρμα μάχης (árma máhis) – “tank”
  • Γεώργιος Παπαδόπουλος (Yeóryios Papadópulos) – “George Papadopoulos”
  • Γκρεμίζω (gremízo) – “knock down”
  • Δικτάτορας (diktátoras) – “dictator”
  • Δικτατορία (diktatoría) – “dictatorship”
  • Εκπέμπω (ekpémbo) – “broadcast”
  • Ελευθερία (elefthería) – “freedom”
  • Εθνικό Μετσόβιο Πολυτεχνείο (Ethikó Metsóvio Politehnío) – “National Technical University of Athens [NTUA]”
  • Εξέγερση (exéyersi) – “uprising”
  • Εξορία (exoría) – “exile”
  • Κατάληψη (katálipsi) – “takeover”
  • κεντρική πύλη (kendrikí píli) – “main gate”
  • Μαρία Δαμανάκη (María Damanáki) – “Maria Damanaki”
  • πανεπιστημιακό άσυλο (panepistimiakó ásilo) – “academic asylum”
  • πολιτική πεποίθηση (politikí pepíthisi) – “political belief”
  • ραδιοφωνικός σταθμός (radiofonikós stathmós) – “radio station”
  • στρατιωτικό καθεστώς (stratiotikó kathestós) – “military regime”
  • Φοιτητής (fititís) – “college student”
  • Χούντα (húda) – “junta”
  • Καταδιώκω (katadióko) – “pursue”
  • Σύνθημα (sínthima) – “motto”
  • επέτειος του Πολυτεχνείου (Epétios tu Politehníu) – “Athens Polytechnic Uprising”

Remember that you can find each of these words, along with their pronunciation, on our Athens Polytechnic Uprising vocabulary list. 

Final Thoughts

The Athens Polytechnic Uprising was a tragic event that played a significant role in the eventual downfall of the junta. 

What are your thoughts on the Polytechnic Uprising? Has there been a time in your country’s history when students or young people protested for major change? Let us know in the comments; we always look forward to hearing from you.

If you’re interested in learning more about Greek culture and the language, has several blog posts we think you’ll enjoy:

This is only a small offering of everything that can offer you. If you’re serious about your language or culture studies, create your free lifetime account today. You’ll be speaking Greek in minutes, and fluent before you know it. 

Happy learning, and stay safe out there!

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“I live in Tokyo.”

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은행 계좌를 만들고 싶어요

eunhaeng gyejwaleul mandeulgo sip-eoyo.

I want to open a bank account.

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Greek Culture & Holidays: The Ohi Day Celebration

What is Ohi Day, and what role does it play in Greek culture?

Simply put, on Ohi Day, Greece commemorates the day on which the Greek prime minister refused an ultimatum provided by the Italians in 1940. This significant action led to (and took place at the same time as) a chain of events that unraveled throughout WWII and the Greco-Italian War.

In this article, you’ll learn the most essential Ohi Day facts: its history, current celebrations, and related vocabulary.

At, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. Ohi Day Foundations: What is Ohi Day in Greece?

On Ohi Day, we celebrate the anniversary of OHI (NO). It’s a day of national celebration and a holiday, in memory of the “no” that the Greek prime minister and dictator Ioannis Metaxas answered to the Italian government’s ultimatum, received via the Italian ambassador, that demanded the free access of Italian troops to Greece.

Metaxas refused this imperialistic policy of the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, also known as Douche, on the very same day that the Italian troops invaded Epirus. So, the involvement of Greece in World War II began with the Greco-Italian War.

The Italians retreated in the spring of 1941. This first victory of the Allies against the Axis powers boosted the morale in enslaved Europe. What followed, however, was the German invasion of Greece and the Occupation that lasted four horrible years.

During the Greco-Italian War, music and front-page caricatures boosted morale in Greece. Sofia Vembo was the national voice that provided encouragement to the Greek soldiers on the front line with patriotic and satiric songs such as “Children of Greece, Oh Children,” “Douche puts on His Uniform,” and “Sucker Mussolini.”

2. When is Ohi Day in Greece?

Ohi Day is October 28

Each year, Greeks commemorate Ohi Day on October 28.

3. Ohi Day Celebrations & Traditions

Laying Wreaths

Today, every year during the events on October 28, especially during school events, these songs are always heard. Other popular songs include “Women of Epirus” and the marches “Pindos,” “Renowned Macedonia,” and “Little Evzone,” especially in parades.

The military and student parades that take place on this day have special solemnity, and in some cases wounded war veterans participate as well. However, due to their advanced age, there are fewer and fewer veterans participating each year.

More Ohi Day celebrations include general flag decorations, wreath laying at various military memorials in the country, and of course, our National Anthem. Its name is “Hymn to Liberty” and it’s usually heard at the end of the events. As a show of respect, we must always stand when we hear it.

Mussolini was satirized perhaps more than any other individual of that time. Musical revues, songs, and caricatures always depict him being weaker than the Greeks, who are usually shown wearing tsarouhia, the Greek traditional shoes.

4. What Did Metaxas Really Say?

Historically, Metaxas did not just reply with a simple “no.” Do you know how exactly he replied?

Metaxas replied to the Italian ambassador in French, which is an official diplomatic language, and said Alors, c’est la guerre!, in other words “So, this means war!” This refusal went through the Greek press with the word “NO,” hence the name “Anniversary of NO.”

5. Essential Ohi Day Vocabulary

A Document

Here’s the essential vocabulary you should know for Ohi Day in Greece!

  • Όχι. (Óhi.) — “No.”
  • επέτειος του «ΟΧΙ» (epétios tu OHI) — “Ohi Day”
  • Ιταλός (Italós) — “Italian”
  • Ιωάννης Μεταξάς (Ioánis Metaxás) — “Ioannis Metaxas”
  • σχολική παρέλαση (scholikí parélasi) — “school parade”
  • Σημαιοφόρος (simeofóros) — “standard-bearer”
  • στρατιωτική παρέλαση (stratiotikí parélasi) — “military parade”
  • Σημαία (siméa) — “flag”
  • Τελεσίγραφο (telesígrafo) — “ultimatum”
  • Σοφία Βέμπο (Sofía Vémbo) — “Sophia Vembo”
  • 28η Οκτωβρίου (ikostí ogdói Okrovríu) — “October 28”
  • ελληνοϊταλικός πόλεμος (elinoitalikós pólemos) — “Greco-Italian War”
  • Κατοχή (Katohí) — “occupation”
  • Έλληνας (Élinas) — “Greek”
  • Επέτειος (epétios) — “anniversary”
  • Πρωθυπουργός (prothipurgós) — “prime minister”
  • Γελοιογραφία (yeliografía) — “caricature”
  • κατάθεση στεφάνου (katáthesi stefánu) — “wreath laying”
  • επεκτατική πολιτική (epektatikí politikí) — “imperialistic policy”
  • Σατιρίζω (satirízo) — “satirize”
  • Σύμμαχοι (Símahi) — “Allies”
  • Άξονας (Áxonas) — “Axis”
  • Μπενίτο Μουσολίνι (Beníto Musolíni) — “Benito Mussolini”
  • πατριωτικό τραγούδι (patriotikó tragúdi) — “patriotic song”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, alongside relevant images, check out our Ohi Day vocabulary list!

GreekPod101: The Best Greek Language and Culture Source

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Ohi Day celebration with us! Did you learn anything new? Does your country have any special days associated with WWII? We look forward to hearing from you, as always.

To continue learning about Greek culture and the language, explore We provide an array of fun and effective learning tools for every learner, at every level:

  • Insightful blog posts on a range of cultural and language-related topics
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People say “It’s all Greek to me,” for a reason. It’s not an easy language. But at GreekPod101, we believe that you can master Greek if you put in the time and effort! And we’ll be here with help and encouragement every step of the way.

Happy Ohi Day!

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Greek Gestures to Help You Communicate Without Saying a Word


Greeks are very passionate and expressive in verbal, as well as non-verbal, communication. Therefore, body language in Greek culture is taken quite seriously. You should expect a wide range of gestures to be used during communication. Some of them are widely used throughout the world, but others may have a different meaning, or are even unique to Greek culture.

In this blogpost, has gathered for you all the popular Greek gestures and nods, helping you understand non-verbal communication in Greece in-depth, from body language to express yourself during casual encounters with friends to common gestures in Greek business. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet – How to Improve Your Greek Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

Table of Contents

  1. Greetings
  2. Positive Gestures
  3. Negative Gestures
  4. Rude Gestures & Gestures to Avoid
  5. Other Everyday Life Gestures
  6. Conclusion

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1. Greetings

When it comes to Greek greetings, a big smile is usually enough. However, there are some greeting-specific gestures, which enhance the greeting and are commonly used throughout Greece. Do you want to learn more Greek greetings? Check out our article on How to Say Hello in Greek, our video on Greek Greetings, or our relevant Vocabulary List. Here are just a couple of friendly gestures in Greek to help you get a conversation started; these are also commonly used worldwide.

1- Γεια! (Ya!) — “Hi!”

Woman Waving

Saying Γεια! (Ya!) in Greek is the most common way to greet someone. This greeting is often accompanied by the extension of the palm facing forward or toward the person you’re greeting, with the fingers close to each other. The movement of the hand is simple: just move your hand in the air freely by inclining it to the right and then to the left. This gesture can also be used when greeting people from a distance.

2- Χαίρω πολύ! (Héro polí!) — “Nice to meet you!”

Woman Reaching Out to Shake Hands

A proper introduction in Greek includes stating your name accompanied by Χαίρω πολύ! (Héro polí!) meaning “Nice to meet you!” and extending your hand forward with the palm facing the side, indicating that you want to shake hands. This gesture is common in both formal and informal occasions.

2. Positive Gestures

Here are a few positive Greek body language and gestures that you’ll want to know when visiting Greece.

1- Ναι () — “Yes”

Saying yes in Greek can alternatively be indicated by a very simple nod. Usually the eyes are slightly closed, and the head goes down. This nod is usually repeated two to three times, with the head going slightly up and emphasis on it going down. It can be used either along with the word Ναι () meaning “Yes,” or even without any verbal expression.

2- ΟΚ (Okéi) — “OK”

OK Sign

As you might already know, Greeks have integrated popular gestures from around the world into their own culture. That said, there are two popular Greek hand gestures of how to express “OK.”

The first one is extending the hand with all the fingers closed like a fist, except for the thumb. The thumb is extended and facing upwards. It’s basically the well-known “thumbs up” gesture, which can also be done with both hands, although in Greece it’s usually done with only one hand. This gesture in Greek culture is related to expressing that something is OK or went well. Further, it can be used to indicate that someone did a good job.

Within the same context, another gesture can be used alternatively. This gesture involves lifting the hand in the air with the palm facing forward, level with the face, while the index finger and the thumb are touching. The other fingers are stretched out and apart from each other. Again, this gesture is used to indicate that something is OK or went well, with no difference in usage from the thumbs-up gesture. Nevertheless, we’ll let you know that it’s used less often.

3- Ευχαριστώ! (Efharistó!) — “Thank you!”

Man With Hand to Chest

Saying Ευχαριστώ! (Efharistó!) or “Thank you!” can be done without even saying a word, using this common gesture in Greek. Just touch your chest with your right hand, usually where your heart is, and tap it two or three times. This is a very popular gesture, which shows gratitude and can be used independently, even without actually saying a word.

4- Victory Gesture

V for Victory Sign

Raising the hand and showcasing the index and medium finger is used in Greece to indicate a victory. This gesture is a symbol of peace worldwide; however, in many countries like Greece, it’s used in cases of success. That said, you can also spot Greek rappers doing this gesture as part of their performance, aiming to promote peace.

3. Negative Gestures

While in Greece (or anywhere!) you’re going to encounter situations where you need to say no or want to express your displeasure. Here are some Greek gestures and body language to help you do that, even without saying a word.

1- Όχι (Óhi) — “No”

The Greek gesture used to say “no” can be a bit tricky. It includes raising the eyebrows and tilting the head backwards instantly. This gesture often includes the mouth and a subtle clicking of the tongue. Most of the time, this gesture is done so quickly that you’re not even able to detect it. Although this might be one of the most difficult nods to understand and get the hang of, it’s widely used in everyday life. So, it would probably be wise to repeat your question until you actually hear Όχι (Óhi) or “No.”

2- Thumbs Down

Thumbs Down

The popular thumbs-down gesture is also used in Greece. It aims to express disapproval or to express that a given answer is wrong. For example, you can easily detect it in Greek TV shows where contestants are asked questions. If one of the answers is wrong, the audience or the host might use this gesture.

3- Μη! (Mi!) — “Don’t!”

This gesture is more like a warning. It’s used to warn someone not to do something. You can usually detect it when parents talk to their children or…their pets. It includes raising your hand like a fist, with the index finger extended and the palm facing forward. The hand is then tilted left and right (or vice versa).

4- Δεν ξέρω (Den xéro) — “I don’t know”

Woman Shrugging

While the picture above demonstrates the most common gesture for expressing you don’t know something on a worldwide basis, Greeks use a simplified version of this gesture. They don’t raise their hands, and they just move both of their shoulders up simultaneously. Quite often, this move is accompanied by clenching the lips. This gesture can also be used to express that you don’t understand something.

4. Rude Gestures & Gestures to Avoid

1- Μούτζα (Múja) — The Outward Hand(s)

Open Palm

Yes, this is a unique Greek gesture and is quite rude and offensive. And yes, you can detect it in many aspects of everyday life in Greece. It’s done by extending the hand with the palm facing forward and the fingers stretched and apart from each other. It can also be done with both hands facing the same direction and clapping.

Its meaning is obviously negative. It’s used when someone is really mad at another person, when the latter has done something wrong. You’ll see this often while driving in Greece, as Greeks tend to be very nervous and expressive drivers. So, for example, when a driver does something abnormal or exhibits reckless behavior, the others might lose their temper and do the outward hand(s) gesture.

We strongly advise you not to use this gesture, as it’s very offensive. If you happen to receive an outward hand while being in Greece, we recommend just smiling and apologizing.

2- Pointing at Someone with the Index Finger

Finger Pointing Sideways

In Greece, when talking about someone or to someone, it’s considered moderately rude to point at him or her with your finger. Although it’s not as rude as the aforementioned expressions, the next time you’re out in public, just keep it at the back of your mind to avoid this gesture as it’s still considered an insulting gesture in Greek.

5. Other Everyday Life Gestures

1- Snapping Fingers

For Greeks, snapping fingers is not only a dancing gesture; they also snap their fingers when trying to remember something. In everyday dialogue, for example when you can’t remember the name of a new colleague, you can snap your fingers two or three times in order to give yourself some time to think. In addition, this gesture is often used to motivate others to fill in what you’re trying to say.

2- I Need to Tell You Something

I Need to Tell You Something Gesture

When Greeks touch their lower lip with their index finger, it means they want you to come closer in order to tell you something—most of the time, in private. This gesture can easily be mistaken for the more common worldwide gesture meaning “Don’t talk.” However, there’s a slight difference: in the Greek gesture, the index finger is facing toward the lip and not sideways.

6. Conclusion

In general, understanding and using nods and gestures can be a life saver, especially if you don’t speak Greek. However, you should keep in mind that using gestures instead of words isn’t considered particularly polite.

Greeks usually use the aforementioned nods and gestures accompanied by relevant words and phrases, or only in cases when verbal communication isn’t attainable (e.g. when two people are trying to communicate from a distance). can help you master all the relevant Greek expressions, in order to act AND sound like a local. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet – How to Improve Your Greek Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

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Your Learning, Streamlined – The New Lesson Interface

Your learning is about to get a whole lot easier.

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There are many more small improvements but the end result is this: a drastically improved lesson experience on mobile and desktop.

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GreekPod101 is not really free, is it?
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