Europe - 12 min read

30 Basic Greek Words & Phrases (To Learn Before You Go To Greece)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated September 7, 2022

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Greece is the jewel of the Mediterranean Sea and is home to delicious food, blue water, and unique culture. Over 30 million people visit Greece most years with varying understandings of the language. So, what are some basic Greek words and phrases to learn before you go to Greece?

Yeia sou means “hello” and it’s important to learn before you go to Greece to make a great impression. Phrases like “pos le lene” which means “what is your name” and signomi which means “excuse me” are common in Greece. Boreeteh na meh voytheeseteh means “can you help me?” and it will make it easier to travel throughout Greece.

You don’t need to be fluent in Greek to have a great time on your vacation. However, you will avoid large gaps in communication and misunderstandings if you know at least a few key phrases. Follow along as we highlight basic Greek words and phrases to learn before you go to Greece.

Common Greek Words and Phrases

Feeling lost and uncomfortable in a foreign country is easy when you don’t know the first thing about the language. The Greek language can seem intimidating at first, but it’s easier than it may seem to learn basic words and phrases.

You will find it easier to get around and experience your surroundings even if you only know simple phrases like pou ine to which means “where is the”.

Luckily, nobody expects you to be fluent in Greek if you are a tourist visiting Greece for the first time. Let’s take a look at the most important and common Greek words and phrases to learn before you go to Greece.

1. Parakalo

You will hear the word “parakalo” in more than one context when you go to Greece which can understandably confuse tourists. Parakalo means both “please” and “you’re welcome” and is polite to say in either situation where it would be appropriate. Greek locals value manners and it will go a long way for you if you use common polite words like parakalo to acknowledge people positively.

2. Me Lene

Me lene means “my name is” and is an appropriate way to start a conversation or respond in Greece. This will come in handy at the airport and when you check in at your hotel. You will also need to keep this phrase in your back pocket when you go to Greece if you make restaurant reservations.

3. Pos Se Lene

Pos se lene means “what is your name”, and it’s a polite phrase to use during your Greek vacation. Granted, you don’t want to ask every single stranger you encounter, but it will go a long way in friendly encounters.

4. Yeia Sou

Yeia sou is among the most important Greek phrases to learn before you go to Greece. It simply means “hello” and will go a long way in initiating a polite conversation or greeting locals. Locals sometimes shorten it to “ya” but that is much more casual and isn’t always considered appropriate in a formal setting.

5. Andio

It’s just as important to learn andio as it is to learn yeia sou when you visit Greece. Andio means goodbye and it is how many Greeks conclude a conversation. Try not to emphasize the “n” in andio as it’s not silent, but locals don’t say it as clearly as the other sounds in the word.

6. Kalinikta

Kalinikta also means goodbye in Greek, but it is a situational word. Greek locals only use the word kalinikta when they say goodbye at nighttime. It’s common for tourists unfamiliar with the language to say andio at night instead.

However, try to use kalinikta when you leave a late dinner in Greece to blend in with the locals. Kalinikta is more of a formal word that is typically used when leaving a nighttime function.

7. Signomi

Signomi is a pleasantry in Greece that is necessary when you navigate crowded streets and businesses. It is the equivalent of apologizing or saying “excuse me” and it will come in handy on your vacation. Learn this word before your trip to Greece to avoid a simple misunderstanding in public and

8. Efharisto

Efharisto means “thank you” and it’s an essential word to learn before you visit Greece. Social graces and manners are an important part of Greek culture. Locals and tourists alike say efharisto during exchanges at restaurants, stores, and during social gatherings.

9. Ti Kánete

This is an important word to know in Greece so that you come across as a polite traveler. Ti kánete means “how are you?” and it’s a polite way to show interest in others on your trip. Service professionals at restaurants and hotels will likely say this phrase to you as well.

10. Yamas

You will almost certainly hear locals loudly exclaim “yamas” during your Greek vacation. Yamas means cheers in Greek and it’s a great word to learn if you plan to visit bars and restaurants. Learn this word so that you aren’t confused during your first taste of Greek nightlife.

11. Pou Ine To

Pou ine to means “where is the” and it’s a phrase that will help you get around. This simple and common Greek phrase will make it much easier for you to find important destinations throughout your trip.

Use this phrase on cab drivers, concierge workers, and polite people that you encounter on your trip to make things easy. The only downside to this phrase is that you need some basic understanding of Greek to understand their answer.

Luckily, that shouldn’t be a problem if you are asking for simple directions. Use phrases like this in conjunction with context clues and technology to easily get around during your vacation.

12. Pou Mporo Na Vro

Pou mporo na vro is another directional question and it means “where can I find”. You can use this phrase interchangeably with pou ine to in many cases. Make sure to use polite words like efharisto to express gratitude when someone responds and helps you find what you’re looking for.

13. Boreeteh Na Meh Voytheeseteh

Boreeteh na meh voytheeseteh means “can you help me?” and it’s a useful phrase to know. This is an approachable way to initiate a conversation with a local when you need to inquire further about important information. This phrase goes hand in hand with “pou ine to” and “pou mporo van vro”.

14. Pooh Eemeh?

It is easy to get lost or lose track of your destination when you’re in a foreign country. All that you need to say when you are confused about your location in Greece is “pooh eemeh”. This phrase translates to “where am I?” which may seem like a strange thing to ask, but you may need to.

Locals won’t be alarmed when they realize that you are a foreign traveler. It’s a common phrase for tourists with a loose understanding of the Greek language. Use this phrase when you’ve strayed from your initial path and are trying to figure out where you are relative to your destination.

15. Kalispera

Kalispera is a nighttime greeting that means “good evening” and it’s a casual Greek word. You can say kalispera to anyone that you encounter in the evening when it’s appropriate. This is a good phrase to understand because it’s common for service professionals to use this greeting in the afternoon or night.

16. Kalimera

Don’t be surprised when you hear the word “kalimera” multiple times until the early afternoon in Greece. Kalimera means “good morning” but it is acceptable to say until noon or even 1 p.m. in some cases. However, you can stick to saying kalimera in the morning to play it safe even though locals may say it later in the day.

17. Tha Ithela Na Pao

Taxi cabs are a large part of the life and culture of the average person in Greece. You will likely need to rely on taxi cabs for transportation when you venture out from your hotel. Tha ithela na pao means “I would like to go to” and it’s necessary when it comes to getting around Greece.

Say this phrase to taxi cab drivers and transportation professionals to get where you need to go. This is also a useful phrase if you speak to a hotel concierge employee to arrange transportation or make a reservation.

18. Opa

Everybody makes mistakes, so you may need to say opa when you go to Greece. Opa is a casual Greek word that people use when they make a mistake. You may also say or hear the word opa regarding something surprising and unexpected.

19. Halara

Halara translates to “loose”, but it has a deeper meaning than that for the average Greek local. For the locals, halara means relaxing and enjoying some leisurely time. This distinctly Greek and European sentiment is a staple of the culture and can be enjoyed by both locals and tourists.

20. Fili Mou

Fili mou means “my friend” and it’s a casual way to say that you care about someone. Affectionate words and phrases are common in Greek culture. Don’t be surprised if you hear someone say this phrase referring to you even if you only just met them earlier in your trip.

21. Ti Kaneis

Ti kaneis translates to “how are you?” and it’s a polite phrase to use at shops, restaurants, hotels, and in taxi cabs. Greek is the type of country where you can ask someone how they are and they will likely respond politely. Hopefully, you have a basic enough understanding of the language to give a simple response if they ask you how you are in Greek.

22. Kalos

Kalos is hopefully how you respond when someone asks you how you are in Greece. It means “good” and it’s an honest way to describe how you’re doing when you’re on vacation in such a unique country. You need some more “halara”, or loose time if you can’t say good when a Greek local asks you how you are.

23. Signomi, Denkatalaveno

Don’t be ashamed if you need to use this phrase more than once when you go to Greece. It means “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” and it’s a polite way to explain the language barrier. This phrase should be among your small arsenal of basic Greek sayings if you don’t know much of the language.

Signomi, den katalaveno is a polite way to avoid any uncomfortable misunderstanding. Say it in a way that isn’t rude since you are a guest in their country and they will likely understand your position.

24. Póso Kostízei

Póso kostízei means “how much is it” and it’s an important question to ask as a tourist. Greek markets offer a great chance to support local artisans and vendors while learning more about the culture. Not everything will be clearly labeled with a price, so you will reasonably need to say póso kostízei.

25. Ta Léme Argótera

As you can tell from this guide, there are several ways to say hello and goodbye in Greek. Ta léme argótera means “see you later” and it’s a casual way to end a conversation. This isn’t as basic of a phrase and it is sure to impress the locals when you go to Greece.

26. To Logariasmó Parakaló

To logariasmó parakaló means “the bill please” and while it sounds rude, it’s totally acceptable. It may sound blunt but it’s simply a quick way to ask for the bill at a restaurant. You won’t come across as rude as long as you say it politely and make sure to tip them well.

27. Yassou

This polite and traditional Greek phrase is deeply ingrained in the culture. Yassou means “health to you” and it’s a simple phrase that Greek people say to one another in friendly exchanges. It is used just as commonly in casual conversation as it is in a party setting.

Much like the Greek word yamas, yassou is another equivalent of saying “cheers” during a party or toast.

28. Popo

Popo is a casual and common Greek slang word that you may overhear on your Greek vacation. Greek people say “popo” casually as a way of showing that they are surprised by something. This word can have both a positive and negative connotation depending on the situation.

For example, someone may say popo when reacting to some news whether it’s good or bad. You can use context clues and pay attention to their voice or face when you’re unfamiliar with the language.

29. Akou Na Deis

Akou na deis is a Greek phrase that doesn’t make any sense when you translate it into English. Its English translation is “hear to look” which can be puzzling when you hear it at first. However, you can’t think about this or other phrases on this list as direct translations in most cases.

Its meaning in Greek is simply that you should pay close attention. You may hear this before you receive important information or directions.

30. O Kako Sou To Kairo

O kako sou to kairo is another confusing Greek phrase when you translate it to English. Its true Greek definition is “you are saying silly things”. In the context of tourists, this may be a local’s way of saying that you need to brush up on your Greek and that you’re saying something wrong.

Each of the words and phrases in this guide can make your Greek vacation much easier. Don’t worry about becoming fluent in Greek before your trip. Either way, you will likely come home from your vacation with a much better understanding of the language.

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