Greek Unicode duplicated vowels

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The Problem

The Greek basic Unicode range (0370-03FF) originally enciding the characters required for modern Greek: the 24-letter alphabet, a couple of numerical symbols, and vowels with tonos and/or diaeresis (in addition to Coptic and a few other symbols). When the Greek extended range (1F00-1FFF) was added to handle Polytonic Greek (for both Classical and katherevousa Greek), this basically involved the addition of accented vowels, plus breathing marks, subscript iotas, etc.

The Characters

For some reason, perhaps because of an oversight, or perhaps because the editors of this revision were thought that there was some essential difference between tonos and oxia (which there is not), 16 characters in the Greek basic set were duplicated in Greek extended:

Unicode Beta Code Basic codepoint extended codepoint
ά A/ 03AC 1F71
έ E/ 03AD 1F73
ή H/ 03AE 1F75
ί I/ 03AF 1F77
ό O/ 03CC 1F79
ύ U/ 03CD 1F7B
ώ W/ 03CE 1F7D
Ά */A 0386 1FBB
Έ */E 0388 1FC9
Ή */H 0389 1FCB
Ί */I 038A 1FDB
Ό */O 038C 1FF9
Ύ */U 038E 1FEB
Ώ */W 038F 1FFB
ΐ I/+ 0390 1FD3
ΰ U/+ 03B0 1FE3

There should be no difference between, for example, ά and ά (both alpha-oxia), so in most cases you don't need to worry about this. Your Greek Keyboards (Unicode) will make a decision and input one or the other; your Greek Fonts (Unicode) will display both identically; a search engine should be able to find both from either input (just as they should be able to strip diacritics altogether from a search term, if desired).


There have been problems with this (certain fonts in certain browsers don't get it right, for example). It seems (see discussion from GreekKeys Unicode) that the higher codepoint, in Extended Greek, has been deprecated. By preference all tools and input methods should use the Basic Greek vowel+tonos for these character combinations. Fonts and search tools should continue to support both for the sake of legacy data.