In Greek alphabet, letters are ordered from alpha to omega.

  • Why is it the order? How was it originated?

  • Does the order matter? I saw that the order is used in Greek numerals for naming numbers. What other uses?

  • If the order matters, how shall I memorize it? By understanding its origin, relating to Latin or English alphabet, or some mnemonic method?

2 Answers 2


As far as most students are concerned, the order is arbitrary. There are historical reasons for it, relating to its Phoenician origins—the Phoenician abjad starts with aleph, beth, gimel, daleth, and thus the Greek alphabet starts with alpha, beta, gamma, delta and the Etruscan alphabet starts with A, B, C, D. But the exact details aren't obvious to most students of Greek, either now or back in the time of Plato. They just had to memorize it.

The order does matter quite a bit, though! Apart from numbers, Greek dictionaries are alphabetized in that order. If you want to look up an unknown word, you need to know the alphabet to find it efficiently.

The best way to learn it is simple memorization and usage. It's like how you (most likely) memorized the Latin alphabet when you were a child. Use it enough and it'll stick in your head.


The Greek alphabet is also a decimal number system made up of ordinal and cardinal numbers.

Beginning with the Babylonians and the Egyptian astronomer-priests, 24 characters were needed to enumerate the hours of a day.

The invention of the Greeks is 27 characters used to enumerate 1..9,10..90, 100..900 in the various Greek dialect systems, up to 28 characters for the days of a month.

In ancient times, the 27 characters, including some characters of the Ionian alphabet, were used as standard notation in trivium mathematics classes for the universe of integers up to 999. Higher multiples of powers of ten were indicated by checkmarks. Archimedes extended the system so that 2^64, the number of grains on a chessboard by doubling the number per square, could be written in symbols.

Since there are no texts from before the Byzantine period, the evidence that Alphanumeric existed before its canonization is citations of Homer by these characters in ancient texts.

From the fact that trival arithmetic must be learned in the first grade by memorizing the rules out loud in chorus, it follows that Greek children learned by heart the order of the alphabet and their 1:1 assignment to fingers and toes in school and for hundreds again the fingers.

For the philologist, order, as a system of order established in Western Europe since the Renaissance, is essential for the enumeration of chapters in Greek, sections in Roman, original pages in Arabic, and groups of 8 lines in Latin letters.

Platon Politeia chapter Digamma

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