Γεια σε όλους σας! Hello to you all!
Whether you are learning Greek or you are still thinking of taking Greek language lessons, this article could become your springboard.
This essay also inaugurates a new category of Greek articles in the language section. The best subject I could think of to begin with was one talking about the various ways you can greet someone in Greek.
The main language I'll be using is English, mainly because my goals are to be broadly understood and also to address learners who are at different Greek language levels. However, in case some of you wish me to go into detail using Greek only, then, please be my guest, email me on italki and I'll see to that.
So, getting down to the subject in question, I would like to say that in Greek there are many ways of saying “hello” to someone. The actual greeting depends on who you have in front of you and how much emotion you can or should let out and on various occasions the social position also matters. One would confuse a village granny by saying to her χαίρετε, πώς είστε;! while a university professor would appreciate it. In order to keep things clear, I've created greeting categories based on people's gender, age and of course the place and time.
What I mean is that a young guy who meets his friends for coffee in the morning will greet them differently from his mum's colleague whom he'll happen to see accidentally on the street at midday.
Keeping these different patterns in mind, in my opinion, it'll be much easier for you to learn things faster. What's more, due to the richness and precision of the Greek language, you'll be given the chance to be exact and use the right expression at the right moment.
Many of you will notice that some categories are more extensive than others. This has to do with my mind and what I had come up with by the end of the article. Also, like I've said before, the age factor plays a very important role. As you may have noticed, people of an older age tend to greet others in a more “strict” or “stiff” manner than younger people do. This usually happens because it is the young people who expose themselves to more stimuli and thus are open to neologisms.
However, since italki is an interactive community, I'd be glad to add (if I can) more ways of greetings that you'll suggest. What I don't wish to go into though, is dialects. For example, if you've heard a certain “hello” expression typical of Crete, Macedonia or the Ionian islands, then I'll turn it down.
After all, what I did here was put together the majority of ways we greet someone in Greece that are widely used around the country. And so, as a result, if you see it in my list and decide to use it, you will be understood by anyone.
Οι συνηθισμένες, μα πάντα χρήσιμες λέξεις/εκφράσεις (Usual but always useful expressions/words)
1. Καλημέρα! - “Good morning!” or “Good day!”
2. Καλησπέρα! - “Good afternoon!” or “Good evening!”
In older Greek, εσπέρα meant early evening. This is used after 12pm and until early evening or the time the sun sets.
3. Καλό απόγευμα! - “Good afternoon!”
This simply offers you a variation of καλησπέρα.
4. Καληνύχτα! - “Good night!”
You'd say this to someone before bedtime or really late at night.
5. Καλό βράδυ! - “Good night!”
Contrary to Καληνύχτα! that has limited potential use, this expression has a more flexible character as it is fine for early evening situations and gives a feeling that “the night is still young”.
Σημείωση (note): In Greek the words βράδυ and νύχτα have a slight difference that is difficult to explain because the English language has nothing similar. So, here comes the factor of “sensing” the essence of the language in order first to feel and then understand how and when to use the two words.
A good, simple and pretty common answer to them all is Σε/Σας ευχαριστώ, επίσης or if you are with company, then it is more polite to say Σε/Σας ευχαριστούμε, επίσης (if you are also answering on behalf of your companion) that is “Thank you. You too”.
Επίσης (As well):
6. Καλό υπόλοιπο! - “Enjoy the rest of the day!”
7. Καλή συνέχεια! - This is an expression that has become more common in recent years. It is used among colleagues, one of whom leaves while the other stays back to finish his/her shift, or it could be said by a customer when leaving a shop, to the person who served him/her, etc. It literally means “good continuation” but of course it turns into something like, “Enjoy the rest of day!” as well as the previous greeting did.
8. (Άντε) Καλή δύναμη! - Translating this greeting is tough. The actual meaning is “Be strong”, “Have strength”, “Heads up” and the like. However, since nothing of the above is available in English in everyday life, the best I could think of and go with is “(So/Well) All the best!”
9. Γεια, γεια σου ή γεια σας! - “Hello!”
As you might have noticed you can use it without σου or σας’ and thus keep it short and simple. But, of course, it's up to you to judge (according to the moment) whether you need it or not. Usually, when the person we greet is much older than us or perhaps a professor of ours (mind that in Greece social relations are much more official than they are abroad), then σας’ is a necessity and the polite way to go.
Σημείωση (note): Before any of the above mentioned greetings you could add the word άντε. It means “c'mon”, “let's”, “go”, “let's go” and “come”. However, at the beginning of a greeting it can be translated more like “so” or “well”. I believe that a few words about its “family tree” would be interesting: It derives from ancient Greek ἄγετε (ágete, “come on!”) and was also used during the Byzantine years with the same meaning. It is usually found in the second p.pl. and in the imperative form of the verb. Its first p. in the present is ἄγω (ágō, “to lead, bring”).
As a word it is a well known one among the Balkan peoples and also widely used by the Turks and Arabs. It is found slightly altered, sound and dictation wise depending on the area/place it is heard in. Armenians also use it. So, in Greek it's άντε, in most Balkan regions you'll see it written as hajde/hajd’ or its Romanian variant haide, in Turkish it is hadi and in Arabic yalla which, quite interestingly, sounds similar to the Greek imperative έλα. It's exciting and admirable how languages and civilisations are interwoven, isn't it?! And such examples show exactly that.
Επίσημες ερωτήσεις (Formal questions)
1. Καλή σας (η)μέρα ή καλημέρα σας! Τί γίνεστε/πώς είστε/Τί κάνετε; - “Good day to you” or “Good morning! How are you doing” or “How are you?” or “What are you doing?” (the “you” pronoun is in the plural).
2. Γεια σας, είστε καλά; - “Hello, are you well?”
3. Χαίρετε, πώς είστε, τί κάνετε; - “Hello, how are you?/What are you doing?” or “What are you up to?”
It is quite unusual in other languages but in Greek it is quite common to use two-three questions together, one after the other and “bombard” your partner. So, in this case it is not either/or. If it happens to you don't fret and simply say “fine, thanks”.
Σημείωση (note): These are greetings you'd use with older people, those you are not well acquainted with, people you meet for the first time or with your superiors at work.
Ανεπίσημες ή καθημερινές ερωτήσεις/εκφράσεις χαιρετισμού (Informal questions-generic expressions of daily life)
1. Πώς πάει; - “How's it going?”
2. Τί λέει; - “What's up?”
The actual meaning is “what does it say?”. It is a figurative expression asking if the day “says” or “offers” new things. You know, like the song goes “new day, new dawn…” etc.
3. Τί γίνεται; - “What's happening?” or “What's new?” or “Any news?”
4. Τί κάνουμε; - “How are we doing?”
Σημείωση (note): The above mentioned questions mean more or less the same thing and are very colloquial. They are never to be used among people who belong to different age groups or do not know each other well.
5. (Παίδες) Tί χαμπάρια; ή or Τί χαμπάρια παίδες;
This is a question that combines ancient and modern Greek. On one hand, παίδες is the nominative and vocative form of the word child, in the plural, παίδες can be put either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence. On the other hand, χαμπάρια is an Arabic loanword - haber - that means “news”. The particular question is a very informal one and is used mainly by young (male) people, students or older men among their male friends. Women can and do use it sometimes (not often), but it's not considered very elegant.
6. Τρέχει κάτι; Τρέχει τίποτα; Υπάρχει θέμα; - “What's the matter?” or “Is anything wrong?” or “Anything going on?”
7. Όλα καλά; - “All good?”
8. Τί νέα; - “What's new?”
9. Εσύ, καλά; - “You good?” or “All good with you?”
10. Όλα εντάξει/όλα καλά/όλα OK; - “Everything alright?” or “Everything OK?”
11. (Ε) ντάξει είμαστε; - “Are we ok?”
This is a question you could be called to answer at a tavern, restaurant, bar, coffee place as it's usually asked by waiters when and if they want to know whether you'd need something more (to eat or drink) or not.
Pay attention to how this expression sounds and here is the explanation why: in all languages, when we speak we tend to “swallow” letters, thus what you meticulously learned from paper won't necessarily help you when you get to hear locals speak. And the word εντάξει is one of the best examples as Greeks usually pronounce it ’ντάξει!.
12. Πώς είμαστε; - “How are you keeping?”
13. Πώς παν’τα κέφια; - “How are you feeling?”
παν’τα = πάνε τα - Here we have the so called αποκοπή in Greek grammar-phonology or “apocope” in English. That is the loss or omission of a sound or syllable from the end of a word. The word κέφι is again a loanword we took from the Turks (keyif) who most probably took it from the Arabs (kayf). It means to be in a good mood, high spirits, having fun, etc and it is widely heard in Greece.
1. Έλα ρε φίλε/Έλα ρε μεγάλε, πώς είσαι; - “Hey man, how're you?”
2. Τί λέει/Πώς πάει ρε μάγκα μου; - “What's up mate?”
3. Φιλάρα, όλα καλά; - “Hey dude, all good?”
4. Πού’σαι ρε αδελφέ; Όλα καλά; - “What's up, bro? All good?”
5. Γεια σου φίλε μου. Τί λέει;/Πώς πάει;/Τί κάνεις;/Όλα καλά; - “Hi, man. What's up?” or “How's it going?” or “How are you?” or “All good?”
1. Κορίτσια πώς είμαστε; - Hey, girls/ladies what's up?
2. Κοπελιά/Κορίτσι/Κοριτσάκι μου τί κάνεις/πώς είσαι; - “Lady/Girl/Sweetie what are you doing?” or “How are you?/What are you up to?”
3. Φιλενάδα μου είσαι καλά; (Καιρό έχουμε να τα πούμε…). - “My darling friend, how are you?” (“It's been a long time since we last saw each other…”)
4. Γεια σας φίλες μου! Μου λείψατε! - “Hello, my ladies! I've missed you!”
Just in case you haven't seen the girlfriends for a long time.
Απλές, καθημερινές απαντήσεις στην ερώτηση: “Τί κάνεις/Τί κάνετε;” ή “Πώς είσαι/Πώς είστε;” (Colloquial but at the same time formal Greek answering the “How are you?” question)
1. (Είμαι) μια χαρά, εσείς; - “I am very well, thank you. And you?” - ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΗ (answer): Πάντα καλά! - “I wish you are/will be well at all times” Always be well!
2. Πολύ καλά, (σας) ευχαριστώ. Εσείς/Εσείς πώς είστε; - Very well, thank you. And you?
3. Ας τα λέμε καλά. Εσείς; - “Not bad. You?”
4. Ωραία, ωραία. Να'στε καλά. - “Fine. Take care”
5. Ε, τα συνηθισμένα. - “Well, the usual”
(The first five are answers we can give to elders, to neighbours, to people we don't know well or to those we want to keep a distance from).
6. Κουτρουβαλάμε και πάμε! Δεν βλέπεις τα χάλια μας;! - “Rolling stones, that's what we've become! Can't you see the condition we are in?”
Yes, yes, I know... Indeed, this is a rarely heard expression but one that especially older people tend to use. In particular, those who are unhappy with the system in the country, the political upheaval and turmoil of the recent years or the ones who are generally miserable and negative do use it. However, I've always found it an interesting one, mainly because of the sound of the verb κουτρουβαλάω - careen, rush headlong (here used figuratively).
7. Έτσι κι έτσι - “So - so”
8. Τσουλάει, δεν βαριέσαι… = “Nothing special” or “The same”
Literally it means to roll along as if on wheels. It could be used during periods of no special changes in life, but do remember that it also shows a certain feeling-degree of boredom and/or a person at the mercy of the daily routine. It is usually an expression people of an older age use and is one of the greetings I least like to hear as I find it unbearably passive.
9. Όλα καλά μέχρι στιγμής - “So far so good”
Απαντήσεις τής καθομιλουμένης -η ηλικία, το επάγγελμα, το μορφωτικό επίπεδο και ο χώρος στον οποίο μία συζήτηση ή συνάντηση λαμβάνει χώρα είναι τεράστιας σημασίας. (Colloquial and very common answers - age, people's trades and education and the place a conversation or a meeting takes place do matter gravely).
1. Χαίρετε! - Verbatim: “Be happy!”
It is widely used in Greek, sometimes in a repetitive mode: Χαίρετε, χαίρετε, χαίρετε!!!
2. Μια χαρά. / Μια χαρά, εσείς; - “All right”/“Pretty good, you?”
3. Ωραία - “Fine”
4. Όλα καλά - “All good” or “All's good”
5. Όλα ΟΚ - “Everything OK”
6. Όλα εντάξει - “All's fine” or “Everything's in place”
7.Ήρεμα - “Quite”
8. Τα γνωστά - “The usual”
9. Ξέρεις τώρα… - “Well, you know…”
10. Χαλαρά - “Cool”
11. Δεν παίζει άγχος - “No pressure” or “No strain”
12. Όλα υπό έλεγχο - “Everything/All is under control”
13. Χάλια, δεν καταλαβαίνεις….;! - “Really bad, don't you see?!”
14. Ε, πώς να'μαι, 'ντάξει, ήρεμα - “Well, I'm fine”
15. Βαρετά, μωρέ - “(I am) Bored” or “It's a boring life”
16. Βαριέμαι που ζω - “(I am) Bored to death”
17. (Ε) ‘ντάξει μωρέ, ψιλοχάλια, αλλά ήρεμα. Δεν τρέχει μία - “I'm a bit down but quite. No problem”
18. Τί περιμένεις; Δεν καταλαβαίνεις;/Δεν ξέρεις; - “What do you expect? Don't you understand?” or “Don't you know (how things are)?”
19. Το κατά δύναμιν - “I am doing the best I can” or “I do what I can do”
20. Ωπα! Δεν σε είδα. Όλα καλά/Μια χαρά - “Hey! I didn't notice you (earlier). Everything is fine/I am doing fine”
This applies to cases when someone nods to us on the street or inside a big store but we fail to see them so, they pat us on the back and greet us.
- The words εσύ or εσείς can be put after any answer you give and, as a matter of fact, their usage would mean that you, too are asking the other party how they are.
- Please, remember to use stresses and that the Greek question mark is not this “?” but this “;”.
In a nutshell
All the greetings I've managed to gather in this article can, will and should be used by all of you when you are dealing with Greeks. After all, sooner or later they'll become your second nature as you'll be dealing with them when meeting people, writing letters, sending emails, etc.
As you might have noticed, many of the greetings do not have a perfect match in the English language. It's true indeed. I've done my best, first to explain the occasion a greeting could be chosen for and, second, to find the right words to translate it into English. What matters most, however, is that you get the clearest picture possible regarding their interpretation and not the (sometimes nonexistent) equivalent English term that I've found. Fingers crossed you'll all be fine.
Thank you for taking the time to read what I wrote!