The Greek Flag

The meanings behind the flag of Greece

Two white church towers with Greek flag in Mykonos
••• Dimitri Otis/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The Greek flag is one of the most recognizable of the world's flags. The simple blue and white design means ​"Greece" to almost everyone.

Description of the Greek Flag

The Greek flag consists of an equal-armed white cross on a blue ground in the upper left corner of the flag, with the remaining area filled with nine alternating blue-and-white horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes of the flag are always blue.

There are five blue stripes and four white ones on the Greek flag.

The flag is always made in a proportion of 2:3.

Greek Flag Picture Gallery


History of the Greek Flag

The current flag was only officially adopted by Greece on December 22, 1978.

An earlier version of the Greek flag had a diagonal cross in the corner instead of the square one now used. This version of the flag dates back to 1822, just after Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821.


Meanings and Symbolism of the Greek Flag

The nine stripes are said to represent the number of syllables in the Greek phrase "Eleutheria H Thanatos", usually translated as "Freedom or Death!", a battle cry during the final revolt against the Ottoman Occupation.

The equal-armed cross represents the Greek Orthodox church, the predominant religion of Greece and the only officially-recognized one. The Church played a crucial role in the fight for independence against the Ottomans, and rebellious monks fought vigorously against the Ottomans.

The color blue represents the sea which is so important to Greece and such a major portion of its economy. The white represents the waves on the Mediterranean Sea. Blue has also always been a color of protection, seen in the blue eye amulets used to ward off evil, and white is seen as the color of purity.

As in Greek mythology, there are always other versions and explanations. Some say the nine stripes on the Greek flag represent the Nine Muses of Greek myth, and that the colors of blue and white represent Aphrodite rising up from the sea foam.


Unusual Facts about the Greek Flag

Unlike most national flags, there is no "official" shade of color required. Any blue may be used for the flag, so you will see them ranging from a relatively pale "baby" blue to a deep navy blue. Most flags tend to use a dark blue or royal blue but you'll see them in all shades around Greece. The nickname of the Greek flag is "Galanolefci", or the "blue and white", similar to the way that the American flag is sometimes just called the "red, white and blue".

What European country was forced to change its official flag because it was too close to that of Greece? Click here for the answer.

Other Flags Seen in Greece

You will often see the European Union flag displayed with the Greek flag at official spots in Greece. The European Union flag is a deep blue with a circle of gold stars on it, representing the EU nations.

Greece also proudly flies many "Blue Flag Beach" flags over its pristine beaches. This flag is awarded to beaches that meet special standards of cleanliness, both for the sand and the water as well as other qualifications.

More on the Blue Flag Beaches of Greece.

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