Ancient Greek nouns

In Ancient Greek, all nouns are classified according to grammatical gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and are used in a number (singular, dual, or plural). According to their function in a sentence, their form changes to one of the five cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, or dative). The set of forms that a noun will take for each case and number is determined by the declension that it follows.


The five cases of Ancient Greek each have different functions.


The Ancient Greek nominative, like the Proto-Indo-European nominative, is used for the subject and for things describing the subject (predicate nouns or adjectives):

  • Σωκράτης γὰρ σοφὸς ἦν καὶ δίκαιος.[1]
Sōkrátēs gàr sophòs ên kaì díkaios.
"For Socrates was wise and just."


The vocative is used for addressing people or things. It is frequently the same as the nominative in the singular and always the same in the plural.

  • ἀληθῆ λέγεις, ὦ Σώκρατες[2]
alēthê légeis, ô Sṓkrates
"What you say is true, Socrates."


The accusative is used for the object of a verb, and also after prepositions. After prepositions it is often used for the destination of motion:

  • πέμπουσιν ἐς Κρήτην ἀγγέλους[3]
pémpousin es Krḗtēn angélous
"They send messengers to Crete."


The Ancient Greek genitive can often be translated with the preposition "of" or the English possessive case:

  • τοῦ Καίσαρος γυνή.[4]
toû Kaísaros gunḗ.
"The wife of Caesar."

It is also used after prepositions, especially those which mean "from":

  • ἀπῆλθεν ἐκ τῆς ἀγορᾶς.[5]
apêlthen ek tês agorâs.
"He went away from the market-place."


The Ancient Greek dative corresponds to the Proto-Indo-European dative, instrumental, or locative. When it corresponds to the dative, it expresses the person or thing that is indirectly affected by an action, and can often be translated with the prepositions "to" or "for":

  • λέγει τὴν μαντείαν τῷ Σωκράτει.[6]
légei tḕn manteían tôi Sōkrátei.
"He tells the oracle to Socrates."

When the dative corresponds to the Proto-Indo-European instrumental, it expresses the thing with which something is done, and can often be translated by the preposition "with":

  • ἔβαλλέ με λίθοις[7]
éballé me líthois
"He was hitting me with stones."

When the dative corresponds to the Proto-Indo-European locative case (this is often the case when it is used with prepositions), it expresses location (sometimes figuratively) or time, and can often be translated by "in", "at", or "on":

  • τρίτῳ ἔτει ὡμολόγησαν Ἀθηναίοις.[8]
trítōi étei hōmológēsan Athēnaíois.
"In the third year they came to an agreement with the Athenians."

The dative is also frequently used after prepositions, such as ἐν (en) "in":

  • ἐν τῇ μάχῃ ἀπέθανεν.[9]
en têi mákhēi apéthanen.
"He died in the battle."


numberstrong cases:
nominative, accusative
weak cases:
genitive, dative
first declension:
singularἀγορᾱ́, ἀγορᾱ́ν
agorā́, agorā́n
ἀγορᾶς, ἀγορᾷ
agorâs, agorâi
pluralἀγοραί, ἀγορᾱ́ς
agoraí, agorā́s
ἀγορῶν, ἀγοραῖς
agorôn, agoraîs
second declension:
singularθεός, θεόν
theós, theón
θεοῦ, θεῷ
theoû, theôi
pluralθεοί, θεούς
theoí, theoús
θεῶν, θεοῖς
theôn, theoîs
third declension:
singularπούς, πόδα
poús, póda
ποδός, ποδί
podós, podí
pluralπόδες, πόδας
pódes, pódas
ποδῶν, ποσί
podôn, posí

Accent of strong and weak cases

For first- and second-declension nouns accented on the ultima and third-declension nouns with a single-syllable stem, the strong cases (nominative and accusative) have one type of accent, and the weak cases (genitive and dative) have another.

Specifically, the first- and second-declension nouns have acute (´) in the strong cases, but circumflex (ˆ) in the weak cases. Third-declension nouns have the accent on the stem in the strong cases, but the ending in the weak cases.

Both of these patterns can be summarized by a single rule suggested by Paul Kiparsky: pre-ending accent in the strong cases and post-stem accent in the weak cases.[10]

For first- and second-declension nouns, Kiparsky's rule is more complex. The thematic vowel (ο or ) counts as neither stem nor ending, but alternates between the two depending on which accent is considered. For post-stem accent, it counts as part of the ending; for pre-ending accent, it counts as part of the stem.

First declension

The first declension or alpha declension is considered thematic, with long alpha () at the end of the stem, though it is derived from original athematic Indo-European forms. In Attic Greek, this changes to η everywhere except after ε, ι or ρ. The first declension includes mostly feminine nouns, but also a few masculine nouns, including agent nouns in -της, patronyms in -ίδης, and demonyms.

The first-declension genitive plural always takes a circumflex on the last syllable. In Homeric Greek the ending was -άων () or -έων (through shortening from *-ηων). -έων was contracted to -ῶν in Attic.[11]

Feminine long a-stem
nominative-vocative χώρᾱχῶραιθεάθεαίοἰκίᾱοἰκίαιφωνήφωναί
accusative χώρᾱνχώρᾱςθεάνθεάςοἰκίᾱνοἰκίᾱςφωνήνφωνάς
genitive χώρᾱςχωρῶνθεᾶςθεῶνοἰκίᾱςοἰκιῶνφωνῆςφωνῶν
dative χώρᾳχώραιςθεᾷθεαῖςοἰκίᾳοἰκίαιςφωνῇφωναῖς
Feminine short a-stem

Some nouns have short in the nominative, vocative and accusative singular,[12] but are otherwise identical to other feminine first-declension nouns. They are recessively accented.

Most nouns in this category were formed with the suffix *-ya (sometimes written -ι̯ᾰ).[13] The *y (representing the semivowel [j]) undergoes one of several sound changes with the consonant at the end of the stem:

ἀληθείᾱ- (ᾰ-)
γλώσση- (ᾰ-)
nominative-vocative ἀλήθειἀλήθειαιγλῶσσγλῶσσαι
accusative ἀλήθειᾰνἀληθείᾱςγλῶσσᾰνγλώσσᾱς
genitive ἀληθείᾱςἀληθειῶνγλώσσηςγλωσσῶν
dative ἀληθείᾳἀληθείαιςγλώσσῃγλώσσαις
Masculine a-stem

Masculine first-declension nouns end in -ᾱς or -ης in Attic. Homer retains the older masculine ending -ᾱ and uses ναύτᾱ "sailor" instead of ναύτης: compare Latin nauta.

The masculine genitive singular ending comes from the second declension.[17] Homeric Greek uses -ᾱο or -εω.[11]

ᾱς ης
"young man"
"creative artist"
nominative νεᾱνίᾱςνεᾱνίαιποιητήςποιηταί
vocative νεᾱνίποιητά ()
accusative νεᾱνίᾱννεᾱνίᾱςποιητήνποιητάς
genitive νεᾱνίουνεᾱνιῶνποιητοῦποιητῶν
dative νεᾱνίᾳνεᾱνίαιςποιητῇποιηταῖς

Second declension

The second or omicron declension is thematic, with an -ο or at the end of the stem. It includes one class of masculine and feminine nouns and one class of neuter nouns.

When a second-declension noun is accented on the ultima, the accent switches between acute for the nominative, accusative, and vocative, and circumflex for the genitive and dative. The only exceptions are Attic-declension and contracted nouns.

Masculine and feminine o-stems

Masculine and feminine both end in -ος, and can only be distinguished by an article or adjective.

masculine: feminine:
nominative ἄνθρωποςἄνθρωποιὁδόςὁδοί
vocative ἄνθρωπεὁδέ
accusative ἄνθρωπονἀνθρώπουςὁδόνὁδούς
genitive ἀνθρώπουἀνθρώπωνὁδοῦὁδῶν
dative ἀνθρώπῳἀνθρώποιςὁδῷὁδοῖς
Neuter o-stems

In the neuter, the nominative, vocative and accusative are the same, with a singular in -ον and plural in -ᾰ. Other forms are identical to the masculine and feminine second declension.

neuter: τό
nominative-vocative-accusative δῶρονδῶρ
genitive δώρουδώρων
dative δώρῳδώροις
Attic declension

In the Attic dialect, some masculine second-declension nouns and some adjectives have endings with lengthened vowels. Some nouns in this category end in -εως, which developed from an original *-ηος by the process of quantitative metathesis (switching of vowel lengths). All second-declension endings containing ο were transformed:

  • ο, ουω
  • οι

The placement of the accent does not change, even when the ultima is long, and all forms take an acute instead of a circumflex.

In these nouns, the nominative singular, vocative singular, and accusative plural are identical, as are the accusative singular and genitive plural, and the dative singular and nominative and vocative plural.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative λεώςλεῴ
accusative λεώνλεώς
genitive λεώλεών
dative λεῴλεῴς
Contracted second declension

In Attic, nouns and adjectives ending in -εος or -οος and -εον or -οον are contracted so that they end in -ους and -ουν.

When the ultima is accented, it takes a circumflex in all forms, including the nominative, accusative, and vocative.

νοῦ- (νόο-)
sg. pl.
nominative νοῦςνοῖ
vocative νοῦ
accusative νοῦννοῦς
genitive νοῦνῶν
dative νῷνοῖς

Third declension

The third declension group includes masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. It is an athematic declension that lacks the standard thematic vowels of the two thematic declensions above. This results in varied and often complex phonemic interactions between stem and ending, especially so between adjacent consonants, that often make these nouns appear to be highly irregular compared to their straightforward thematic counterparts.

These nouns in the nominative singular end with the vowels α, ι, υ, ω or with the consonants ν, ρ, ς (ξ, ψ). They form the genitive case with -ος, -ως or -ους.

Third-declension nouns have one, two, or three stems, unlike first- and second-declension nouns, which always have only one stem. Each stem is used in different case-and-number forms. In nouns with two stems, the stem with the long vowel is called the strong stem, while the stem with the short vowel is called the weak stem. The strong stem is found at the nominative singular, and the weak stem in the genitive singular.

  • ἡγεμών (long vowel, strong stem: nominative singular)
    ἡγεμόνος (short vowel, weak stem: genitive singular)

The masculine and feminine nominative singular ordinarily ends in , but has no ending in some nouns whose stems end in -ν- and -ντ-, and all nouns in -ρ: ἡγεμών, ἀκτίς (from *ἀκτίν-ς), γέρων (from *γέρωντ), γίγας (from *γίγαντ-ς), ῥήτωρ. The neuter nominative, accusative, and vocative singular always has no ending.

The α of the accusative singular and plural was originally a syllabic ν. The accusative singular ending appears after Proto-Greek consonants, and is much more common than , because almost all third-declension stems end in a consonant. When a Proto-Greek consonant was lost (ϝ, ι̯, σ), appears after a vowel, and may be lengthened to : βασιλέᾱ. The ending ν appears after the vowels υ and ι: ἰσχύν, πόλιν. The ending -νς always changes to -ας, except in the accusative plural of ἰχθύς, where it lengthens the preceding υ by compensatory lengthening, yielding ἰχθῦς.

nominative -ς, —
vocative —,
accusative -ᾰ, -ν
genitive -ος
genitive-dative -οιν
nominative-vocative -ες-ᾰ
accusative -ᾰς, -νς
genitive -ων
dative -σι(ν)

These nouns end in -ν, -ρ, -ς (-ξ, -ψ). Based on the last letter of the stem, they are divided into two categories:

The mute-stem nouns have stems ending in -κ-, -γ-, -χ- (velar-stem nouns), -π-, -β-, -φ- (labial-stem nouns), -τ-, -δ-, -θ- (dental-stem nouns).

The semi mute-stem nouns have stems ending in -ν- (nasal-stem nouns), -λ-, -ρ- (liquid-stem nouns), -σ- (sibilant-stem nouns).

Nominative singular and dative plural -σι cause pronunciation or spelling changes, depending on the consonant at the end of the stem.

at end of
(dental) (τ, δ, θ)-ς, -σι
velar κ, γ, χ-ξ, -ξι
labial π, β, φ-ψ, -ψι
Velar- and labial-stems

In the nominative singular and dative plural, the velars κ, γ, χ combined with σ are written as ξ, and the labials π, β, φ combined with σ are written as ψ.

sg. pl. sg. pl.
nominative-vocative κόραξκόρακεςγύψγῦπες
accusative κόρακακόρακαςγῦπαγῦπας
genitive κόρακοςκοράκωνγυπόςγυπῶν
dative κόρακικόραξιγυπίγυψί
Dental- and nasal-stems
Stems in t

In the nominative singular and dative plural, a dental τ, δ, θ before σ is lost: τάπης, not τάπητς.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative τάπηςτάπητες
accusative τάπητατάπητας
genitive τάπητοςταπήτων
dative τάπητιτάπησι

If a noun is not accented on the last syllable and ends in -ις, -ης, or -υς, it often has an accusative singular in and a vocative with no ending.

  • ἡ χάρις, Πάρνης, κόρυς
    τὴν χάριν, Πάρνην, κόρυν (accusative)
    ὦ χάρι, Πάρνη, κόρυ (vocative)
Single-stems in nt

In the nominative singular and dative plural, ντ before σ is lost, and the previous vowel is lengthened by compensatory lengthening. In the vocative singular, final is lost, as Ancient Greek words cannot end in stops.

Singular Plural
nominative γίγᾱςγίγαντες
vocative γίγαν
accusative γίγανταγίγαντας
genitive γίγαντοςγιγάντων
dative γίγαντιγίγᾱσι

When a noun is accented on the last syllable, the vocative singular is identical to the nominative:

  • ὁ ἰμάς
    ὦ ἰμάς (vocative)
Double-stems in nt

These nouns have a weak stem in -οντ- and a strong stem in -ωντ-. The strong stem is used only in the nominative singular. The vocative singular is the weak stem without an ending. In both the nominative and vocative singular, the final τ disappears. In the dative plural, the σ in the ending causes the ντ to disappear, and the ο is lengthened to ου by compensatory lengthening.

γερων(τ)-, γεροντ-
"old man"
sg. pl.
nominative γέρωνγέροντες
vocative γέρον
accusative γέρονταγέροντας
genitive γέροντοςγερόντων
dative γέροντιγέρουσι
Stems in at

In these nouns, the stem originally ended in -ν̥τ- (with syllabic n), which changed to -ατ- in Greek. In the nominative singular, the final disappeared.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative-accusative κτῆμακτήματα
genitive κτήματοςκτημάτων
dative κτήματικτήμασι
Single-stems in an, en, in, on

Some nouns have stems ending in -ν-. The nominative singular may end in , causing compensatory lengthening, or have no ending.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative ἀκτίςἀκτῖνες
accusative ἀκτῖναἀκτῖνας
genitive ἀκτῖνοςἀκτίνων
dative ἀκτῖνιἀκτῖσι
Double-stems in en, on

Some nouns have a strong stem in -ην-, -ων- and a weak stem in -εν-, -ον-. The nominative singular is the only form with the strong stem. Nouns of this class that are not accented on the last syllable use the weak stem without an ending for the vocative singular.

  • ὁ γείτων
    ὦ γεῖτον (vocative)
masc. fem.
ἡγεμων-, ηγεμον-
"leader "
ἀδην-, αδεν-
"gland "
Singular Plural Singular Plural
nominative-vocative ἡγεμώνἡγεμόνες ἀδήνἀδένες
accusative ἡγεμόναἡγεμόνας ἀδέναἀδένας
genitive ἡγεμόνοςἡγεμόνων ἀδένοςἀδένων
dative ἡγεμόνιἡγεμόσι ἀδένιἀδέσι

Liquid-stems have stems ending in -λ- or -ρ-. Unlike mute-stems, these nouns do not change in spelling or pronunciation when the dative plural ending -σι is added.

Single-stems in er, or

Some nouns end in -ηρ, -ωρ and take the endings without any sound changes.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative κλητήρκλητῆρες
accusative κλητῆρακλητῆρας
genitive κλητῆροςκλητήρων
dative κλητῆρικλητῆρσι
Double-stems in er, or

Some nouns have a nominative singular in -ηρ, -ωρ. The stem for the rest of the forms ends in -ερ-, -ορ-. Nouns in this class that are not accented on the last syllable use the weak stem without an ending for the vocative singular.

ῥητωρ-, ῥητορ-
sg. pl.
nominative ῥήτωρῥήτορες
vocative ῥῆτορ
accusative ῥήτοραῥήτορας
genitive ῥήτοροςῥητόρων
dative ῥήτοριῥήτορσι
Triple-stems in er

Some nouns have a strong stem in -ηρ in the nominative singular, a middle stem in -ερ- in other forms, and a weak stem in -ρ(α)- in yet other forms. The α in the dative plural was added for ease of pronunciation; the original form ended in -ρσι.

These include ὁ πατήρ "father", ἡ μήτηρ "mother", ἡ θυγάτηρ "daughter", ἡ γαστήρ "stomach", ἡ Δημήτηρ "Demeter", ὁ ἀνήρ "man".

The first three and γαστήρ use the weak stem in the genitive and dative singular and in the dative plural. The rest use the weak stem in the genitive, dative, and accusative singular and in the plural.

The vocative singular is usually the middle stem without an ending and accent on the first syllable.

πατηρ-, πατερ-,
sg. pl.
nominative πατήρπατέρες
vocative πάτερ
accusative πατέραπατέρας
genitive πατρόςπατέρων
dative πατρίπατράσι

Nouns in all three genders have stems ending in -εσ- or -οσ-. But in most cases, the σ was lost after being debuccalized to /h/, so for the most part the stems appear to actually end in -ε- -ο-. In Attic, but not Ionic, the ε or ο is contracted with the vowel of the ending. When σ combines with the -σι of the dative plural, the double σσ is simplified to single σ.

Masculines in es

There are several masculine proper names with nominative singulars in -ης and stems in -εσ-. The vocative singular is the bare stem without an ending.

nominative Σωκράτης
vocative Σώκρατες
accusative Σωκράτη
genitive Σωκράτους
dative Σωκράτει
Feminines in os

There are a few feminines with nominative singulars in -ως and stems in -οσ-.

αἰδωσ-, αἰδο(σ)-
nominative-vocative αἰδώς
accusative αἰδῶ
genitive αἰδοῦς
dative αἰδοῖ
Neuters in es

Some neuter nouns have nominative, accusative, and vocative singulars in -ος, and stems in -εσ-.

βελοσ-, βελε(σ)-
sg. pl.
nominative-vocative-accusative βέλοςβέλη
genitive βέλουςβελῶν
dative βέλειβέλεσι

These nouns end with ι, υ, ευ, αυ, ου, ω.

Stems in long o

These take the endings without sound changes.

sg. pl.
nominative-vocative ἥρωςἥρωες
accusative ἥρωἥρωας
genitive ἥρωοςἡρώων
dative ἥρῳἥρωσι
Single-stems in u

Because these nouns have a stem ending in -υ-, the accusative singular appears as -υν rather than -υα, and the accusative plural changes by compensatory lengthening from -υνς to -ῡς.

sg. pl.
nominative ἰχθύςἰχθύες
vocative ἰχθύ
accusative ἰχθύνἰχθῦς
genitive ἰχθύοςἰχθύων
dative ἰχθύϊἰχθύσι
Triple-stems in i or u

There are many feminine nouns in -ις, and a few masculine nouns in -υς, and one neuter noun: ἄστυ "town".

One stem is in -ι- or -υ-, another is in -ει- or -ευ-, and a third is in -ηι- or -ηυ-. But these stems underwent sound changes, so that they are no longer obvious. Before a vowel, the ι or υ in the second and third stem became the semivowel ι̯ or ϝ, and was lost. The long-vowel stem in the genitive singular was shortened, and the vowel in the ending lengthened (quantitative metathesis). Therefore, there appear to be two stems, ending in ι/υ and ε.

πολι-, πολε(ι̯)-,

sg. pl.
nominative πόλιςπόλεις
vocative πόλι
accusative πόλιν
genitive πόλεωςπόλεων
dative πόλειπόλεσι
Stems in eu, au, ou

The nouns in -ευς have two stems: one with short ε, another with long η. Both originally ended with digamma, which by the time of Classical Greek had either vanished or changed to υ. Thus the stems end in -ε(υ)-, from *-εϝ-, and -η-, from *-ηϝ-. In Attic Greek the η of the stem underwent quantitative metathesis with the vowel of the ending—the switching of their lengths. This is the origin of the -ως, -ᾱ, and ᾱς of the forms based on the stem in -η-.

sg. pl.
nominative βασιλεύςβασιλεῖς
vocative βασιλεῦ
accusative βασιλέᾱβασιλέᾱς
genitive βασιλέωςβασιλέων
dative βασιλεῖβασιλεῦσι

The nouns with a vowel before the -εύς often contract the final ε of the stem (either original or from quantitative metathesis of η), which disappears into the following ω and of the genitive and accusative singular and plural. As is the rule, the vowel resulting from contraction takes a circumflex:

  • nom.: ἁλιεύς (halieús), gen.: ἁλιέως (haliéōs) and ἁλιῶς (haliôs), ἁλιέων (haliéōn) and ἁλιῶν (haliôn), acc.: ἁλιέα (haliéa) and ἁλιᾶ (haliâ), ἁλιέας (haliéas) and ἁλιᾶς (haliâs).
Stems in oi

Stems in -οι- end in in the nominative singular. The ι becomes the semivowel ι̯ and is lost, except in the vocative singular. There are no plural forms; when the plural does appear, it follows the second declension. The rest of the cases are formed by contraction.

ἠχω-, ἠχο(ι̯)-
nominative-accusative ἠχώ
vocative ἠχοῖ
genitive ἠχοῦς
dative ἠχοῖ


Diminutive suffixes

New nouns may be formed by suffix addition. Sometimes suffixes are added on top of each other:

  • βύβλος búblos "papyrus"
    • βιβλίον biblíon "book"
    • βιβλάριον, βιβλιάριον, βιβλαρίδιον, βιβλιδάριον "small scroll"[18]
      biblárion, bibliárion, biblarídion, biblidárion
    • βιβλίδιον biblídion "petition"


  1. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1357b.10
  2. Plato, Ion 530c
  3. Herodotus, 4.151.2
  4. Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus 429
  5. Aeschines, 1.61
  6. Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.7
  7. Lysias, 3.8
  8. Thucydides, 1.101.3
  9. Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.3.3
  10. Kiparsky, Paul (December 1973). "The Inflectional Accent in Indo-European". Language. Linguistic Society of America. 49 (4): 794–849. doi:10.2307/412064. JSTOR 412064.
  11. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. § 214 D: dialectal first-declension forms.
  12. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. § 219: short-a first declension.
  13. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. §§ 221: suffix -ι̯ᾰ[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]] in short-a first declension.
  14. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. §§ 112: κι̯[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]], χι̯[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]] to ττ[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]] (σσ[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]]).
  15. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. §§ 111: epenthesis of ι̯[[Category:Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text]] suffixed to an, on, ar, or.
  16. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. § 37: compensatory lengthening.
  17. Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. § 225: genitive singular of masculine first declension.
  18. βιβλάριον. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project

Further reading