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Writing system developed in Greece c. 1000 BC, the direct or indirect ancestor of all modern European alphabets. Derived from the North Semitic alphabet via that of the Phoenicians, it modified an all-consonant alphabet to represent vowels. Letters for sounds not found in Greek became the Greek letters alpha, epsilon, iota, omicron, and upsilon, representing the vowels a, e, i, o, and u. This greatly increased the accuracy and legibility of the new system. While the Chalcidian version of the Greek alphabet probably gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet and thus indirectly to the Latin alphabet, in 403 BC Athens officially adopted the Ionic version. This became the classical Greek alphabet, which had 24 letters, all capitalsideal for monuments; various scripts better suited to handwriting were later derived from it.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Greek alphabet, visit Britannica.com.
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