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Handwritten variant of lowercase eta, from the Byzantine period
Eta uc lc.svg
Greek alphabet
Αα Alpha Νν Nu
Ββ Beta Ξξ Xi
Γγ Gamma Οο Omicron
Δδ Delta Ππ Pi
Εε Epsilon Ρρ Rho
Ζζ Zeta Σσς Sigma
Ηη Eta Ττ Tau
Θθ Theta Υυ Upsilon
Ιι Iota Φφ Phi
Κκ Kappa Χχ Chi
Λλ Lambda Ψψ Psi
Μμ Mu Ωω Omega
Obsolete letters
Digamma uc lc.svg Digamma Qoppa uc lc.svg Qoppa
San uc lc.svg San Sampi uc lc.svg Sampi
Other characters
Stigma uc lc.svg Stigma Sho uc lc.svg Sho
Heta uc lc.svg Heta

Greek diacritics

Eta (uppercase Η, lowercase η; Greek: Ητα) is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 8. Letters that arose from Eta include the Latin H and the Cyrillic letter И.

In Modern Greek the letter, pronounced [ˈita], represents a close front unrounded vowel, /i/. In Classical Greek, it represented a long open-mid front unrounded vowel, /ɛː/.


The letter shape H was originally used in most Greek dialects to represent the sound /h/, a voiceless glottal fricative. In this function, it was borrowed in the 8th century BC by the Etruscan and other Old Italic alphabets, which were based on the Euboean form of the Greek alphabet. This ultimately gave rise to the Latin alphabet with its letter H.

In the East Ionic dialect, however, the sound /h/ disappeared by the sixth century BC, and the letter was re-used initially to represent a development of a long vowel /aː/, which later merged in East Ionic with /ɛː/ instead.[1] In 403 BC, Athens took over the Ionian spelling system and with it the vocalic use of H (even though it still also had the /h/ sound itself at that time). This later became the standard orthography in all of Greece.

Other regional variants of the Greek alphabet (epichoric alphabets), in dialects that still preserved the sound /h/, employed various glyph shapes for consonantal Heta side by side with the new vocalic Eta for some time. One of them was a tack-like shape, looking like the left half of an H. This system was first used in the southern Italian colonies of Heracleia and Tarentum. When Greek orthography was codified by grammarians in the Hellenistic era, they used a diacritic symbol derived from this half-H shape to signal the presence of /h/, and added as its counterpart a reverse-shaped diacritic to denote absence of /h/. These symbols were the origin of the rough breathing and smooth breathing diacritics that became part of classical Greek orthography.[2]

Tack-shaped archaic consonantal Heta, together with a lowercase variant designed for modern typography.

In the typographic conventions of modern epigraphy, the archaic consonantal H in ancient inscriptions is usually rendered by means of a lowercase Latin letter h. Sometimes, symbols directly representing the old half-H glyph shape are also used.[2] The Unicode standard of computer encoding introduced code points designed for this usage in its version 5.1 of April 2008. Like other archaic letters, they come in a lowercase and uppercase variant (U+0370 and U+0371), to cater for the needs of modern typography. [3]

During the time of post-classical Koiné Greek, the /ɛː/ sound represented by Eta was raised and merged with several other formerly distinct vowels. Thus in Modern Greek, Eta is pronounced [ˈita] and represents the sound /i/ (a close front unrounded vowel). It shares this function with several other letters (ι, υ) and digraphs (ει, οι), which are all pronounced alike (see iotacism).

Eta was also borrowed with the sound value of [i] into the Cyrillic alphabet, where it gave rise to the Cyrillic letter И.


Small eta is sometimes used in place of eng (ŋ) when eng is not available, because of their similar appearance.[citation needed]

The upper-case letter Η is used as a symbol in:

  • Textual criticism, the Alexandrian text-type (from Hesychius, its once-supposed editor).
  • Chemistry, enthalpy. H as symbol of enthalpy sometimes is said to be a Greek eta, but since enthalpy comes from ἐνθάλπος (smooth breathing and epsilon), it is more likely a Latin H for 'heat'.

The lower-case letter η is used as a symbol in:


  1. ^ Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 10–20. ISBN 0195083458. 
  2. ^ a b Nick Nicholas (2003), "Greek /h/" [1]
  3. ^ Summary of repertoire for FDAM 3 of ISO/IEC 10646 [2]

Simple English

Common letters
ΑaA ΜmEm
ΒbBe ΝnEn
GgGe ΟοO
ΔdDe ΠpPe
hHa ЖжZhe
ΕɛE RrAr
ΖzZe SsEs
ΗeEe ΤtTe
ΘөEth UuU
ΙiI FfEf
JjJe WwWa
ΚkKa ΧxXa
LlEl ОWоwWe
Uncommon letters
Digamma Qoppa
San Sampi
Other letters
Stigma Sho

Greek alphabet

Eta (uppercase/lowercase Η η) is a letter of the Greek alphabet. In very early Greek writing it stood for the consonant sound "h", but in classical Greek it stood for a long vowel "e". In Modern Greek, it is pronounced as "i". In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 8. Letters that came from it include the Roman H and Cyrillic И.


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