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Iota subscript (Ancient Greek: ὑπογεγραμμένη) in Greek polytonic orthography is a way of writing the letter iota as a small vertical stroke beneath a vowel. It was used in the so-called "long diphthongs" in Ancient Greek, that is, diphthongs the first part of which is a long vowel: ᾳ, ῃ and .

Before the reforms of Eucleides and the adoption of the letters Ω and Η (403-402 BC), there was no way of distinguishing between long and short vowels in Attic Greek. The classical Greek diphthongs ΑΙ, ΕΙ and ΟΙ were composed of a vowel and the letter iota whether or not the vowel was long.

From the mid-fifth to the mid-fourth centuries, most of the Greek diphthongs began to lose their final elements. The pronunciation of ηι began to merge with that of ει in Attic Greek and with that of ι in Koine. The long αι came to be pronounced in the same way as the long α and ωι in the same way as ω. The loss of the diphthongs from the Greek language and the merging of the long diphthong phonemes with other Greek vowel phonemes led to the omission of the final ι from digraphs that had formerly represented long diphthongs. The iota subscript was created when the iota was reintroduced in the Byzantine period, to correct the loss of ι from copies of earlier manuscripts, but was placed below rather than beside the vowel to reflect the fact that it was not, by then, pronounced.

The rare long diphthong ῡι might logically have been treated the same way, and the works of Eustathius of Thessalonica provide an instance of υ with iota subscript (in the word ὑπόγυͅον)[1], but this never became the convention (the same word being spelled by other writers as ὑπόγυιον or ὑπόγυον).

In recent years it has become common for Greek to be quoted and translated with an iota placed beside rather than beneath its vowel: this is known as the iota adscript (Greek προσγεγραμμένη). The adscript is sometimes printed with a slightly smaller font size than the preceding vowel.



The iota subscript (also known as hypogegrammeni) was an editorial marking invented by the librarians at Alexandria to denote the absence of iota which were used in the long diphthongs alpha-iota, eta-iota, and omega-iota. In Koine Greek, the iotas used in long diphthongs stopped being pronounced. However, many times, these iotas were essential to differentiate between different usages of the same word (e.g. the only notable difference between the nominative and dative singular of a first declension feminine noun is that iota.). Because of spacing, it would have been impossible to fit the iota on the line beside the letter which preceded it. Therefore, the iota was written under the letter to save space. Although the library of Alexandria and its texts burnt, the practice was carried over in clinical copies of certain texts, and the hypogegrammeni was used often by the Greek Orthodox Church (which used polytonic orthography for ceremonial purposes) and mediaeval Byzantine copyists. In modern renderings of ancient Greek, the iota is still carried subscriptum, even though it is now common practice to pronounce the iota indicated by the hypogegrammeni.[2]

Other remarks

In Unicode, the code point assigned to the iota subscript is U+0345 ( ◌ͅ ) named “COMBINING GREEK YPOGEGRAMMENI”. The pair of space + iota subscript is U+037A ( ͺ ) named “GREEK YPOGEGRAMMENI”.


  1. ^ Eustathius of Thessalonica, Commentary on the Iliad, III 439.
  2. ^ Abbott, Evelyn and Edwin Mansfield. A Primer of Greek Grammar: Accidence & Syntax. Duckworth Publishing, 1997. Twelfth Printing. ISBN: 0715612581

See also

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