Latin alphabet

Ancient Latin alphabet

The earliest known inscriptions in the Latin alphabet date from the 6th century BC. It was adapted from the Etruscan alphabet during the 7th century BC. The letters Y and Z were taken from the Greek alphabet to write Greek loan words. Other letters were added from time to time as the Latin alphabet was adapted for other languages.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: alphabet
  • Direction of writing: right to left, boustrophedon or left to right
  • Used to write: Latin

Ancient Latin alphabet

Ancient Latin alphabet

This is one version of the Ancient Latin alphabet. Many of the letters have serveral different shapes in different inscriptions and texts.

Other versions of the Latin alphabet

Ancient Latin, Irish Uncial, Old English

Roman alphabet for Latin

The Romans used just 23 letters to write Latin:

Classical Latin alphabet

There were no lower case letters at first, and K, Y and Z used only for writing words of Greek origin. The letters J, U and W were added to the alphabet at a later stage to write languages other than Latin. J is a variant of I, U is a variant of V, and W was introduced as a 'double-v' to make a distinction between the sounds we know as 'v' and 'w' which was unnecessary in Latin.

Modern Latin alphabet

The modern Latin alphabet consists of 52 letters, including both upper and lower case, plus 10 numerals, punctuation marks and a variety of other symbols such as &, % and @. Many languages add a variety of accents to the basic letters, and a few also use extra letters and ligatures.

The lowercase letters developed from cursive versions of the uppercase letters.

Uppercase

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Lowercase

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Accented letters & special characters

Accented letters

Many languages supplement the basic Latin alphabet with a variety of accented letters:

a selection of accented latin letters

These accented letters can have a number of different functions:

  • Modifying the pronunciation of a letter
  • Indicating where the stress should fall in a word
  • Indicating emphasis in a sentence
  • Indicating pitch or intonation of a word or syllable
  • Indicating vowel length
  • Visually distinguishing homophones

How to type accented letters in Windows, Mac and HTML

Some extra letters

Extra Latin letters

Eth, Thorn, Yogh and Wynn were used in Old English; Eth and Thorn are also used in Icelandic; the long s was used in English and other languages to write non-final esses until about the late 18th / early 19th century; the dotted upper case i and dotless lowercase i are used in Turkish, and the schwa is used in Azeri. The other letters are used in various other languages, particularly those spoken in West Africa.

Ligatures (two or three letters joined together)

These are used in a number of languages including French, German, Icelandic, Croatian and Dutch:

Some ligatures used in the Latin alphabet

Click here to find out how to type ligatures in Windows, Mac and HTML

Further information about diacritics and their usage
http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/dia/diacritics-revised.htm,

Information about the Latin alphabet | Information about the Latin language | Latin phrases | Tower of Babel in Latin | Latin learning materials

Some of the languages written with the Latin alphabet

Links

Information about the Latin alphabet
http://www.ancientscripts.com/latin.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_script
http://la.raycui.com/alphabet.html
http://cs-exhibitions.uni-klu.ac.at/index.php?id=471
http://mysite.du.edu/~etuttle/classics/latalph.htm

Alphabets

Armenian, Avestan, Bassa (Vah), Beitha Kukju, Borama / Gadabuursi, Carian, Carpathian Basin Rovas, Chinuk pipa, Coorgi-Cox, Coptic, Cyrillic, Dalecarlian runes, Elbasan, Etruscan, Galik, Georgian (Asomtavruli), Georgian (Nuskhuri), Georgian (Mkhedruli), Glagolitic, Gothic, Greek, Irish (Uncial), Kaddare, Khazarian Rovas, Korean, Latin, Leptonic, Lycian, Lydian, Manchu, Meroïtic, Mongolian, N'Ko, Ogham, Old Church Slavonic, Oirat Clear Script, Old Italic, Old Permic, Orkhon, Phrygian, Pollard script, Runic, Santali, Székely-Hungarian Rovás (Hungarian Runes), Somali (Osmanya), Sutton SignWriting, Tai Lue, Thaana, Todhri, Uyghur

ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphabet.html