Bulgarian alphabet

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The Bulgarian alphabet is used to write the Bulgarian language.

"We are cleaning, please keep off" sign in Bulgarian.


In AD 886, the Bulgarian Empire introduced the Glagolitic alphabet, devised by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic script, developed around the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria at the beginning of the 10th century.

Several Cyrillic alphabets with 28 to 44 letters were used in the early and middle 19th century during the efforts[clarification needed] on the codification of Modern Bulgarian until an alphabet with 32 letters, proposed by Marin Drinov, gained prominence in the 1870s: it was used until the orthographic reform of 1945, when the letters Ѣ, ѣ (called ят "yat" or двойно е/е-двойно "double e") and Ѫ, ѫ (called Голям юс "big yus", голяма носовка "big nasal sign", ъ кръстато "crossed ъ" or широко ъ "wide ъ"), were removed from the alphabet, reducing the number of letters to 30.

The Bulgarian alphabet

With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, the Cyrillic script became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek scripts.[1]


The following table gives the letters of the Bulgarian alphabet, along with the IPA values for the sound of each letter. The listed transliteration in the Official transliteration column is official in Bulgaria and is listed in the Official orthographic dictionary (2012). For other transliteration standards see Romanization of Bulgarian.

Bulgarian alphabet ISO 9 Official transliteration IPA* Name of letter English equivalent
А а A a A a /a/ or /ɐ/ a a as in "palm"
Б б B b B b /b/ or /p/ бъ b as in "bug"
В в V v V v /v/ or /f/ въ v as in "vet"
Г г G g G g /ɡ/ or /k/ гъ g as in "good"
Д д D d D d /d/ or /t/ дъ d as in "dog"
Е е E e E e /ɛ/ е e as in "best"
Ж ж Ž ž Zh zh /ʒ/ or /ʃ/ жъ s as in "treasure"
З з Z z Z z /z/ or /s/ зъ z as in "zoo"
И и I i I i /i/ и i as in "machine"
Й й J j Y y /j/ и кратко y as in "yes" or "yoyo"
К к K k K k /k/ or /ɡ/ къ

k as in "make"

Л л L l L l /l/ or /ɫ/ лъ

l as in "call" or "lend"

М м M m M m /m/ мъ m as in "man"
Н н N n N n /n/ нъ n as in "normal"
О о O o O o /ɔ/ or /o/ о o as in "order"
П п P p P p /p/ пъ p as in "pet"
Р р R r R r /r/ ръ r as in "restaurant"
С с S s S s /s/ or /z/ съ s as in "sound"
Т т T t T t /t/ or /d/ тъ t as in "top"
У у U u U u /u/, /o/ or /w/ y оо as in "tool"
Ф ф F f F f /f/ фъ f as in "food"
Х х H h H h /x/ хъ ch as in Scottish "loch"
Ц ц C c Ts ts /t͡s/ цъ ts as in "fits"
Ч ч Č č Ch ch /t͡ʃ/ чъ ch as in "chip"
Ш ш Š š Sh sh /ʃ/ шъ sh as in "shot"
Щ щ Št št1 Sht sht /ʃt/ щъ sht as in "shtick"
Ъ ъ Ǎ ǎ1 A a /ɤ/ or /ɐ/ ер голям u as in "turn"
Ь ь ' 1 Y y /j/ or not pronounced ер малък soft sign: y as in canyon
Ю ю Ju ju1 Yu yu /ju/, /jo/, /u/ or /o/ ю u as in "menu"
Я я Ja ja1 Ya ya /ja/, /jɐ/, /a/ or /ɐ/ я ya as in "yarn"

* See Wikipedia:IPA for Bulgarian and Macedonian for details.
1 The romanizations of these characters differ from the current version, ISO 9:1995, as it[clarification needed] was never officially adopted as a Bulgarian standard.

Most letters in the Bulgarian alphabet stand for just one specific sound. Three letters stand for the single expression of combinations of sounds[clarification needed]: these are щ (sht), ю (yu), and я (ya). Two sounds do not correspond to separate letters, but are expressed by the combination of two letters: these are дж (/dʒ/) and дз (/dz/). The letter ь marks the softening (palatalization) of any consonant (except ж, ч, and ш) before the letter о, while ю and я after consonants mark the palatalization of the preceding consonant in addition to representing the vowels /u/ and /a/.[2] A letter that represents a voiced consonant can represent its voiceless counterpart and vice versa when adjacent to a voiceless or voiced consonant, respectively, or when a voiced consonant is syllable final, for example: вторник /ˈftɔrnik/ "Tuesday", нож /ˈnɔʃ/ "knife", сграда /ˈzɡradɐ/ "building", сватба /ˈsvadbɐ/ "wedding".

The names of most letters are simple representations of their phonetic values, with consonants being followed by /ɤ/ – thus the alphabet goes: /a//bɤ//vɤ/, etc. However, the name of the letter Й is "i-kratko" (short i), the name of Ъ is "er-golyam" (large yer), and the name of Ь is "er-malak" (small yer). People often refer to Ъ simply as /ɤ/.


The accented letter Ѝ is used to distinguish the conjunction 'и' (and) from the pronoun 'ѝ' (her). It is not considered a separate letter but rather a special form of И.


Bulgarian is usually described as having a phonemic orthography, meaning that words are spelt the way they are pronounced. This is largely true, but there are exceptions. Three of the most cited examples are:

  • The sounds [ɐ] and [o], which appear only in unstressed syllables, are written with two different letters each – "а" or "ъ", and "о" or "у" respectively.
  • The vowel in stressed verb endings -а, -ат, -я and -ят and the stressed short definite articles -a and -я is pronounced [ɤ]. Thus чета ("I read") is pronounced [t͡ʃeˈtɤ], and мъжа ("the man") is pronounced [mɐˈʒɤ].
  • Voiced consonants are pronounced unvoiced when at the end of a word or when preceding an unvoiced consonant – e.g. втори ("second") is pronounced [ˈftɔri], and град ("city") is pronounced [ˈɡrat]. Similarly, unvoiced consonants are pronounced voiced when preceding a voiced consonant – e.g. врабче ("sparrow") is [vrɐpˈt͡ʃe]. (The voiced consonant "в" is an exception – it does not cause the preceding unvoiced consonant to become voiced – сватба (wedding) is [ˈsvadbɐ].)

Modern developments[edit]

Main article: Bulgarian lexis

Since the time of Bulgaria's liberation in the late 19th century, the Bulgarian language has taken on a large number of words from Western European languages. All of these are transcribed phonetically into Cyrillic, e.g.:

  • French – e.g. тротоар (trottoir – sidewalk), тирбушон (tire-bouchon – corkscrew), партер (from par terre – ground floor)
  • German – e.g. бинт (Bind – bandage), багер (Bagger – digger), бормашина (Bohrmaschine – drill)

Notable is the transliteration of many English names through German, e.g.:

  • Washington → Вашингтон ("Vashington"), Scotland → Шотландия ("Shotlandiya")

In the years since the end of communism and the rise of technology, the tendency for borrowing has shifted mainly to English, where much computer-related terminology has entered and been inflected accordingly – again, in a wholly phonetic way. Examples include:

  • кликвам на файла (click-vam na file-a) – I click on the file
  • даунлоудваш го на десктопа (download-vash go na desktop-a) – you download it onto the desktop
  • чатим в нета (chat-im v net-a) – we chat on the net

The computer-related neologisms are often used interchangeably with traditional Bulgarian words, e.g. "download" and "upload" can be simply свалям and качвам ("svalyam" & "kachvam" – "to bring down" & "to put up").

Use of Roman script in Bulgarian[edit]

The insertion of English words directly into a Cyrillic Bulgarian sentence, while frowned upon, has been increasingly used in the media. This is done for several reasons, including –

  • To shorten what would otherwise be a longer word or phrase –
Янките против още US войски в Афганистан [3] (instead of американски - American)
The Yanks oppose more US troops in Afghanistan
  • To avoid the need to transcribe to Cyrillic or translate to Bulgarian well known abbreviations:
Ние не сме видели края на SOPA, PIPA и ACTA [4] (instead of, for example, СОПА, ПИПА и АКТА)
We have not seen the end of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA

Brand names are also often not transcribed: Wikileaks, YouTube, Skype – as opposed to Уикилийкс, Ю-Тюб, Скайп. However, this is not always the case, as in the headline "Фейсбук vs. Гугъл"[5] (literal transliteration: Feysbuk vs. Gugal). Note the inconsistency here – despite the insistence on Cyrillic, the "vs." has been retained in Roman script.

The 2012 Official Orthographic Dictionary of the Bulgarian Language by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences permits widely known proper names to remain in their original alphabet. Example sentences are given, all containing names of American IT companies: Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube, PayPal, Facebook.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leonard Orban (24 May 2007). "Cyrillic, the third official alphabet of the EU, was created by a truly multilingual European" (PDF). europe.eu. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  2. ^ pg. 11–12 of Правопис и пунктуация на българския език. (Orthography and punctuation of the Bulgarian language). Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. 2011.
  3. ^ The Yanks oppose more US troops in Afghanistan (in Bulgarian) Monitor.bg, 13 Nov 2009. Retrieved 16 Sept 2012.
  4. ^ Wikipedia: We are aware that we have not seen the end of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA (in Bulgarian) Darik News, 23 Feb 2012. Retrieved 16 Sept 2012.
  5. ^ Standart News