Modern Greek Nouns


Greek nouns change their endings accoring to gender, case, and number, while retaining the root of the noun unchanged.

One characteristic of Modern Greek nouns is that they are preceded by an article much more often than in English. Even proper names are preceded by articles: ο Γιώργος (George); η Μαρία (Mary); το Λονδίνο (London). As a rule, definite articles always appear before a noun. However, indefinite articles are sometimes omitted, where they would be used in English (cf.: υπάρχει πρόβλημα: “there is a problem”; lit.: “exists problem”). These are the cases where the meaning could also be expressed by “some”, “any” (“there is some problem”), and their negations. If the indefinite article has the meaning of “one”, it is never omitted (cf.: υπάρχει ένα πρόβλημα: “there is one problem”).

The following table categorizes the declension patterns for Modern Greek nouns according to gender, and according to the endings (in nominative case) within each gender. (Usually you will find the categorization to be made according to declension in other sources, which is grammatically more correct, but I find it difficult to follow by learners who are not already familiar with declensional systems.) There are several patterns for masculine nouns (three common, and a few rare and obsolete ones), patterns for feminine nouns (three common, three rare), and for neuter nouns (three common, and a few rare and obsolete ones). Notice that although some patterns might be rare, in the sense that there are few words that follow them, the particular words might be very common (and that’s why those patterns do not “die”). Thus, these are the irregular nouns of the language. I attempt to give such common nouns as examples, below. The obsolete patterns can still be encountered(1) occasionally, especially in stylized, academic, or formal language. Click on the corresponding noun to see its full declension, and also see nouns of the same pattern which are stressed differently.

 

Masculine Noun Patterns

Masculine ending Example Frequency of pattern
-ος κόσμος (people, cosmos) most common
-ης πελάτης (client) common
-ας / -ες (plural) κανόνας (rule) rather common
-ας / -αδες (plural) μπαμπάς (dad) rather rare
-ης / -ηδες (plural) μπακάλης (grocer) rather rare
-ες καφές (coffee) rare
-έας / -είς (plural) γραμματέας (secretary) rare
-ους / -οι (plural) νους (mind) very rare
-ους / -ουδες (plural) παππούς (grandpa) very rare
-ης / -εις (plural) λάτρης (fan, lover) very rare
-υς πέλεκυς (axe) very rare
-ωρ μέντωρ (mentor) obsolete
-ων Πλάτων (Plato) obsolete
-ας / -ηδες (plural) αέρας (air, wind) only this one
-ης / -ητες (plural) γόης (charmer) only this one

 

Feminine Noun Patterns 

Feminine ending Example Frequency of pattern
-α / -ες (nom. plural), -ών (gen. plural) ώρα (hour) most common
-α / -ες (nom. plural), -ων (gen. plural) αγελάδα (cow) rare
-η / -ες (plural) αγάπη (love) common
-η / -εις (plural) πόλη (city) common
-α / -αδες (plural) μαμά (mom) rare
-ος μέθοδος (method) rare
-ου αλεπού (fox) very rare
-έας / -είς (plural) γραμματέας (secretary) very rare

 

Neuter Noun Patterns 

Neuter ending Example Frequency of pattern
σπίτι (house, home) most common
-ο βιβλίο (book) very common
πρόβλημα (problem) common
-ος / -ους (genitive) τέλος (end) rather common
-ός / -ότος (genitive) γεγονός (fact) very rare
-υ / -ιου (genitive) βράδυ (evening) obsolete
-υ / -ατος (genitive) δόρυ (spear) very rare
-ας κρέας (meat) very rare
-ως φως (light) very rare
-ον / -ου (genitive) μέσον (meson [phys.], medium) very rare
-ον / -οντος (genitive) προσόν (qualification, ability) rare
-εν / -εντος (genitive) φωνήεν (vowel) very rare
-αν / -αντος (genitive) σύμπαν (universe) very rare
-α / -ακτος (genitive) γάλα (milk) only this one

Some rules that might facilitate learning these patterns:

 

Loan Words Entering the Language

In addition to nouns following the above patterns, there are nouns borrowed from foreign languages. Such nouns, as a rule, are indeclinable (remain unchanged in all cases, in both numbers). They are almost always assigned to the neuter gender, provided they denote inanimate objects. Often, such nouns are easily identifiable because they end in an unexpected consonant (neither -ς nor -ν, practically the only consonants allowed by the above patterns). A few common examples are:

However, after some time of existence in the language (which may take several decades), those nouns that happen to conform to one of the declensional patterns in the nominative become incorporated in the pattern, and are declined normally like all other native Greek nouns. Example: το τσιμέντο (cement), genitive: του τσιμέντου, plural: τα τσιμέντα, etc; η βόμβα (bomb, from Greek βόμβος = deep and low-pitch sound), της βόμβας, etc; η μοτοσυκλέτα (motorcycle, the “cycle” of which comes from Greek κύκλος), της μοτοσυκλέτας, etc. Similarly, in the case of το στυλό (pen, stylus, see above) you may hear “του στυλού” (in the genitive), and even “τα στυλά” (in the plural), a usage which is harshly criticized by Greek grammarians (or those who think they should know better about the language), but who do not realize that the word is in a transitional stage of becoming a native to the language. A similar transitional stage can be observed for το βίντεο (see above), gen.: “του βίντεου”, pl.: “τα βίντεα”.



Footnotes (clicking on the footnote number brings back to the text)

(1) It has been claimed by Modern Greek grammarians (especially ones with a political agenda) that the obsolete patterns simply do not exist in contemporary commonly spoken language. This is very far from being true. One need not be highly educated to be aware of and use those allegedly nonexistent patterns, although transformations to alternative patterns exist (e.g., δόκτωρας instead of δόκτωρ for “professor”). For example, most Greeks would use Σόλων for Solon, the ancient Athenian statesman, because Σόλωνας ([Solonas]) may sound like the greengrocer of the next block. A well-known street in downtown Athens is called “Solonos”, following the supposedly obsolete pattern in the genitive case. “Banning” those patterns by linguistic prescriptions means purposefully ignoring part of the actively used Greek language.


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