AskDefine | Define koine

Dictionary Definition



1 a Greek dialect that flourished under the Roman Empire
2 a common language used by speakers of different languages; "Koine is a dialect of ancient Greek that was the lingua franca of the empire of Alexander the Great and was widely spoken throughout the eastern Mediterranean area in Roman times" [syn: lingua franca, interlanguage]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A lingua franca.
  2. A regional language that becomes standard over time.

Extensive Definition

Koine Greek (Greek: , , "common Greek", or , , "the common dialect") is the popular form of Greek which emerged in post-Classical antiquity (c.300 BCAD 300), and marks the third period in the history of the Greek language. Other names are Alexandrian, Hellenistic, Common, or New Testament Greek. Koine is important not only to the history of the Greeks for being their first common dialect and main ancestor of modern Greek, but also for its impact on Western culture as a lingua franca for the Mediterranean., e.g:
  • " — Bono die, venisti?" (Good day, you came?).
  • " — Si vis, veni mecum." (If you want, come with us (The Latin actually says with me, not us) ).
  • " — Ubi?" (Where?).
  • " — Ad amicum nostrum Lucium." (To our friend Lucius).
  • " — Quid enim habet?" (Indeed, what does he have?—What is it with him?).
  • " — Aegrotat." (He's sick).
Finally, a very important source of information on the ancient Koine is the modern Greek language with all its dialects and its own Koine form and idioms, which have preserved most of the ancient language's oral linguistic details which the written tradition has lost. For example the Pontic and Cappadocian dialects preserved the ancient pronunciation of etc), while the Tsakonic preserved the long α instead of η ( etc) and the other local characteristics of Laconic.

New Testament Greek

The Koine Greek in the table represents the New Testament Koine Greek, deriving to some degree from the dialect spoken in Judaea and Galilaea during the 1st century and similar to the dialect spoken in Alexandria, Egypt. Note, the realizations of certain phonemes differ from the more standard Attic dialect of Koine. Note the soft fricative "bh", the hard aspirated "th", the preservation of a distinction between the four front vowels "i", "ê", "e", and "y" (which is still rounded), and other features.

Sample Koine Texts

The following excerpts illustrate the phonological development within the period of Koine. The phonetic transcriptions are tentative, and are intended to illustrate two different stages in the reconstructed development, an early conservative variety still relatively close to Classical Attic, and a somewhat later, more progressive variety approaching Modern Greek in some respects.

Sample 1

The following excerpt, from a decree of the Roman Senate to the town of Thisbae in Boeotia in 170 BC, is rendered in a reconstructed pronunciation representing a hypothetical conservative variety of mainland Greek Koiné in the early Hellenistic era. The transcription shows partial, but not yet completed raising of η and ει to /i/, retention of pitch accent, fricativization of γ to /j/ but no fricativisation of the other stops as yet, and retention of word-initial /h/.
''"Concerning those matters about which the citizens of Thisbae made representations. Concerning their own affairs: the following decision was taken concerning the proposal that those who remained true to our friendship should be given the facilities to conduct their own affairs; that our governor Quintus Maenius should delegate five members of the senate who seemed to him suitable in the light of their public actions and individual good faith."''

Sample 2

The following excerpt, the beginning of the Gospel of St John, is rendered in a reconstructed pronunciation representing a progressive popular variety of Koiné in the early Christian era, with vowels approaching those of Modern Greek.
[ˈen arˈkʰi in o ˈloɣos, ke o ˈloɣos im bros to(n) tʰeˈo(n), ke tʰeˈos in o ˈloɣos. ˈutos in en arˈkʰi pros to(n) tʰeˈo(n). ˈpanda di aɸˈtu eˈjeneto, ke kʰoˈris aɸˈtu eˈjeneto ude ˈen o ˈjeɣonen. en aɸˈto zoˈi in, ke i zoˈi in to pʰos ton anˈtʰropon; ke to pʰos en di skoˈtia ˈpʰeni, ke i skoˈti(a) a(ɸ)ˈto u kaˈtelaβen]
''"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."''

External links



  • Randall Buth, : Koine Greek of Early Roman Period
  • Abel, F.-M. Grammaire du grec biblique.
  • Andriotis, Nikolaos P. History of the Greek Language.
  • Smyth, Herbert Weir, Greek Grammar, Harvard University Press, 1956. ISBN 0-674-36250-0
  • Cornybeare, F.C, and Stock, St. George. Grammar of Septuagint Greek: With Selected Readings, Vocabularies, and Updated Indexes.
  • Allen, W. Sidney, Vox Graeca: a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek – 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-521-33555-8
koine in Asturian: Koiné
koine in Catalan: Grec koiné
koine in Danish: Koiné
koine in German: Koine
koine in Estonian: Koinee
koine in Modern Greek (1453-): Ελληνιστική Κοινή γλώσσα
koine in Spanish: Koiné
koine in Esperanto: Kojnea greka lingvo
koine in French: Koinè
koine in Galician: Koiné
koine in Korean: 코이네 그리스어
koine in Indonesian: Bahasa Yunani Koine
koine in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Lingua grec Koine
koine in Italian: Koinè
koine in Hebrew: קוינה
koine in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kiyunani
koine in Latin: Koine
koine in Dutch: Koinè
koine in Japanese: コイネー
koine in Norwegian: Koiné
koine in Norwegian Nynorsk: Koiné
koine in Low German: Koine Greeksch
koine in Polish: Koine
koine in Portuguese: Koiné
koine in Romanian: Limba greacă comună
koine in Slovak: Helenistické koiné
koine in Finnish: Koinee
koine in Swedish: Koine
koine in Turkish: Koini
koine in Chinese: 通用希臘語
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