Greek ligatures

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Early Greek print, from a 1566 edition of Aristotle.
The sample shows the -os ligature in the middle of the second line (in the word μέθοδος), the kai ligature below it in the third line, and the -ou- ligature right below that in the fourth line, along many others.
18th-century typeface sample by William Caslon, showing a greatly reduced set of ligatures (-ου- in "τοῦ", end of first line; -στ- in πλείστοις, middle of second line; and the καὶ abbreviation).

Greek ligatures are graphic combinations of the letters of the Greek alphabet that were used in medieval handwritten Greek and in early printing. Ligatures were used in the cursive writing style and very extensively in later minuscule writing. There were dozens[1][2] of conventional ligatures. Some of them stood for frequent letter combinations, some for inflectional endings of words, and some were abbreviations of entire words.


In early printed Greek from around 1500, many ligatures fashioned after contemporary manuscript hands continued to be used. Important models for this early typesetting practice were the designs of Aldus Manutius in Venice, and those of Claude Garamond in Paris, who created the influential Grecs du roi typeface in 1541. However, the use of ligatures gradually declined during the 17th and 18th centuries and became mostly obsolete in modern typesetting. Among the ligatures that remained in use the longest are the ligature Ȣ for ου, which resembles an o with an u on top, and the abbreviation ϗ for καὶ ('and'), which resembles a κ with a downward stroke on the right. The ου ligature is still occasionally used in decorative writing, while the καὶ abbreviation has some limited usage in functions similar to the Latin ampersand (&). Another ligature that was relatively frequent in early modern printing is a ligature of Ο with ς (a small sigma inside an omicron) for a terminal ος.

The ligature ϛ for στ, now called stigma, survived in a special role besides its use as a ligature proper. It took on the function of a number sign for "6", having been visually conflated with the cursive form of the ancient letter digamma, which had this numeral function.

Computer encoding[edit]

In the modern computer encoding standard Unicode, the abbreviation ϗ has been encoded since version 3.0 of the standard (1999). An uppercase version Ϗ was added in version 5.1 (2008). A lower and upper case "stigma", designed for its numeric use, is also encoded in Unicode. Letters derived from the ου ligature exist for use in Latin, and for Cyrillic, though not for Greek itself. Some attempts have been made at recreating typesetting with ligatures in modern computer fonts, either through Unicode-compliant OpenType glyph replacement,[3] or with simpler but non-standardized methods of glyph-by-glyph encoding.[4]

Greek digraphs

Character information
Preview Ϗ ϗ Ϛ ϛ
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 975 U+03CF 983 U+03D7 986 U+03DA 987 U+03DB
UTF-8 207 143 CF 8F 207 151 CF 97 207 154 CF 9A 207 155 CF 9B
Numeric character reference Ϗ Ϗ ϗ ϗ Ϛ Ϛ ϛ ϛ
Latin and Cyrillic Ou digraphs

Character information
Preview Ȣ ȣ
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 546 U+0222 547 U+0223 42570 U+A64A 42571 U+A64B
UTF-8 200 162 C8 A2 200 163 C8 A3 234 153 138 EA 99 8A 234 153 139 EA 99 8B
Numeric character reference Ȣ Ȣ ȣ ȣ Ꙋ Ꙋ ꙋ ꙋ

Example images[edit]

Other examples[edit]

Greek minuscule Alpha with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Kappa with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Rho with ligatures.svg
Greek minuscule Gamma with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Lambda with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Sigma with ligatures.svg
Greek minuscule Delta with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Mu with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Tau with ligatures.svg
Greek minuscule Epsilon with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Nu with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Upsilon with ligatures.svg
Greek minuscule Eta with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Omikron with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Phi with ligatures.svg
Greek minuscule Theta with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Pi with ligatures.svg Greek minuscule Omega with ligatures.svg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Philokalia Package Archived 2012-05-25 at the Wayback Machine, for LaTeX
  2. ^ Carl Faulmann, Das Buch der Schrift: Schriftzeichen und Alphabete aller Zeiten und Völker, Vienna 1880, p.172-176.
  3. ^ e.g. Greek Font Society. "GFS Gazis" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-07-13.; George Douros. "Unicode fonts for ancient scripts". Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  4. ^ e.g. Schmidthauser, Andreas. "Renaissance Greek". Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h The Ligatures of Early Printed Greek by William H. Ingram Duke University LIbraries Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies

External links[edit]