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Was each following Latin/English letter originated from, cognate with, or related to the Greek letter given after the Latin/English letter?

  1. Latin f and Greek phi

  2. Latin h or e, and Greek eta

  3. Latin j and Greek iota

  4. Latin o, and Greek omega or omicron

  5. Latin/English u, v, w, and y, and Greek upsilon

  6. Latin z and Greek zeta

  7. Latin x and Greek xi

  8. Latin q and Greek chi

  9. What Latin/English letters have the last four Greek letters phi, chi, psi, and omega been related to?

  10. What Greek letters have been related to Latin/English letters w and q?

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    F probably not to phi but to archaic Greek wau/digamma. H to eta. J to I and iota. O to omicron. U, V, W, Y: I believe all to upsilon. Z to zeta. I think X is complicated, probably related to chi and xi but not sure. Q probably not related, maybe to phi? Phi and psi may be ultimately related to rho and or P, but not sure. Omega probably to omicron. W is a post-Roman invention based on U/V, just as J on I. Q is probably related to archaic Latin qoppa, not sure where that came from.
    – Cerberus
    Mar 24 at 1:36
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    There were several variants of Greek alphabet. Letter Χ meant [kʰ] in Eastern Greek alphabets, and [ks] in Western Greek alphabet. Italic alphabets (including Latin alphabet) were based on Western Greek alphabet.
    – Arfrever
    Mar 24 at 7:16

1 Answer 1

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F and Φ: No. F descends from Greek digamma, a letter that originally represented /w/, which died out in the Greek alphabet shortly after /w/ did. You can still see relics of it in the number system.

H and Η: Yes. Eta comes from a Phoenician letter for an /h/-like sound (probably /ħ/), and was generally used for /h/ in earlier Greek alphabets, including the one eventually borrowed by the Etruscans. But then /h/ died out in Ionian, so the Ionians repurposed the letter for a vowel, and that's the form of the alphabet that eventually became dominant.

J and Ι: Yes. I is related to iota and J was created by modifying I.

O and Ο and Ω: Yes. O is related to omicron, and omega was created by modifying omicron.

U/V/W and Υ: Yes. V and Υ (upsilon) are cognate. U and W were created by modifying V.

Y and Υ: Yes. Upsilon was borrowed back into the Latin alphabet to represent the /y/ sound in Greek words. That's why it got stuck at the end.

Z and Ζ: Exactly as above.

X and Ξ: No. X is cognate with chi.

Q and Χ: No. Q is cognate with the archaic letter qoppa, which like digamma only appears as a relic in the number system by now.

Χ was used for a /ks/ sound in some dialects, which is where Latin X comes from. Ψ was used in those dialects for the sound of standard Greek chi, which wasn't needed for Latin. Φ Ω were later creations that weren't used in the version of the alphabet that was borrowed by the Etruscans.

W was also a later creation, but it was created by modifying V, which is cognate with upsilon. Q is cognate with qoppa.

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  • Seeing as you trace back to Phoenician for h, it may be worth noting that whilst distinct in Greek, digamma (whence f) and upsilon (whence u, v, w, & y) come from the same Phoenician letter waw.
    – Tristan
    Mar 26 at 15:35

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