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Greek Abbreviations

By abbreviations here are meant combinations of letters made for the sake of the meaning of a word or words rather than for the purpose of rapid writing. For those see the separate Greek Letter Combinations file. Not included here is any listing of "standard" abbreviations, when for instance the conclusion of a word is omitted, or prepositions are given by one or two letters.

Abbreviations could be made in a number of ways. The following tables present variations using the following methods:

  • Superposition: placing of one or more letters are above others.
  • Combination: intertwining letters with each other
  • Suspension: omitting the end of a word.
  • Contraction: omitting the middle part of a word. (Very common in nomina sacra)
  • Symbols: using a symbol with no connection to usual letter forms.
  • "Deformed letters"
    : using a variety of symbols, some from shorthand. Common at the end of words.

Two ore more of these methods might be used in one abbreviation.

Abbreviations: through suspension together with superposition or combination
Abbreviations: through contraction together with superposition, suspension or combination


Nomina Sacra:
names or titles of sacred figures, usually through contraction
combinations and superpositions of letters to create distinctive name-symbols
from deformation of letters or tachygraphy

Source: Bernhard Abraham van Groningen, Short Manual of Greek Palaeography, (Leiden: 1940)

The author and maintainer of this site is Paul Halsall. He can be contacted by email at

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