Meitei script

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Meitei script
(Meitei: ꯃꯩꯇꯩ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ, romanized: Meitei Mayek)
The original 18 letters used in the Meitei Mayek writing system
Script type
Time period
6th-18th centuries AD,[1] revived 1930 – present
DirectionLeft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
Official scriptfor Meitei language in India
Region India
LanguagesMeitei (Manipuri) language
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Lepcha, Khema, ʼPhags-pa, Marchen
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Mtei (337), ​Meitei Mayek (Meithei, Meetei)
Unicode alias
Meetei Mayek
Meetei Mayek (Unicode block)
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The Meitei script (Meitei: ꯃꯩꯇꯩ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ, romanized: Meitei mayek), also known as the Kanglei script (Meitei: ꯀꯪꯂꯩ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ, romanized: Kanglei mayek)[5] or the Kok Sam Lai script (Meitei: ꯀꯣꯛ ꯁꯝ ꯂꯥꯏ ꯃꯌꯦꯛ, romanized: Kok Sam Lai mayek), after its first three letters[6][7] is an abugida in the Brahmic scripts family used to write the Meitei language, the official language of Manipur and one of the 22 official languages of India. It is first known from engravings on 6th century AD coins.[8] as verified by the various publications of the National Sahitya Akademi.[1] It was used until the 18th century, when it was replaced by the Bengali alphabet. A few manuscripts survive. In the 20th century, the script was revived and is again being used.[9] Beginning in 2021, the Government of Manipur began to use the Meitei alongside the Bengali-Assamese script, per the Manipur Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2021.[10]

Since Meitei does not have voiced consonants, there are only fifteen consonant letters used for native words, plus three letters for pure vowels. Nine additional consonants letters inherited from Indic languages are available for writing loan words. There are seven vowel diacritics and a final consonant (/ŋ/) diacritic. The names of the twenty-seven letters are based on parts of the human body.[11]

A Meitei language stone inscription in Meitei script about a royal decree of a Meitei king found in the sacred site of God Panam Ningthou in Andro, Imphal East, Manipur.


The earliest historical use of Meitei script can be traced back to 8th Century[12] and Cheitharol Kumpapa, a Puya.[13] The origin of the official script of Manipur is derived from religious book Wakoklon Puya.[14] But, there has been some controversy regarding the origin of the Meitei script. The Meitei script is a Brahmic abugida. According to Singh (1962), an archaic form of the script had developed by the 11th century, and it was in use until the early 18th century, when it was replaced by the Bengali script.[15] By contrast, Tomba (1993) claims that the script is a development of c. 1930, with all supposedly older documents being deliberate forgeries.[16] According to K.S. Singh and Mahoharan (1993), as per the modifications of the phonemic distributions of Meitei language, the script belongs to the Tibetan group of scripts.[2]

The Old Manipuri script is first appears on coins issued during the reigns of Meitei Kings Ura Konthouba (568-653 AD) and Ayangba (821-910 AD). These coins are presently preserved in the Mutua Museum in Imphal.[1]

The earliest stone inscription, found in the village of Khoibu, Manipur, is also believed to date to time of Ura Konthouba. This inscription is presently kept in the Manipur State Museum, Imphal.[1]

The earliest copper plate Meitei inscription dates to the 8th century AD, inscribed during the reign of King Khongtekcha (c. 721 AD). It was discovered by scholar Yumjao from Phayeng in 1935. It is one of the earliest known examples of Meitei literature.[17][18][19]

A stone inscription found[year needed] at Khoibu in Tengnoupal district, of current Manipur state, contains royal edicts of king Senbi Kiyamba (d. 1508), representing the earliest portion of the Chietharol Kumbaba or Royal Chronicle of Manipur. It is one of the primary texts in the Meitei script.[20][better source needed]

Meitei manuscript

Recent developments[edit]

In 1980, a modernized version of the writing system was approved by Manipuri law for use in educational institutions.[21][22] The modernised version of the Meitei script was encoded in Unicode in 2009.

in 2022, a joint meeting consensus of the Meetei Erol Eyek Loinasillol Apunba Lup, the All Manipur Working Journalists' Union and the Editors' Guild, Manipur agreed that Meitei language newspapers would switch from the Bengali script to the Meitei script from 15 January 2023; 15 months ago (2023-01-15).[23][24][25][26][27]


One of the unique features of this script is the use of body parts in naming the letters.[28] Every letter is named after a human body part in the Meitei language. For example, the first letter "kok" means "head"; the second letter "sam" means "hair"; the third letter "lai" means "forehead", and so on.[29] This association appears in the book Wakoklon Heelel Thilel Salai Amailon Pukok Puya, which details how each script originated received its nomenclature and which is widely considered to be the source of the Meitei script.[30] Some letters have a second form (lonsom) that is used at the end of a word.

Meitei letter "Ama" (lit. One) in the symbol of Sanamahism (traditional Meitei religion)

In the traditional Meitei religion of Sanamahism Meitei letters and numeralsare believed to be the creations of the supreme.[31][32]

Primary letters[edit]

Letter Name IPA[33] Meaning(s)[a] Lonsum
ꯀꯣꯛ, kok /k/ head or brain
ꯁꯝ, sam /s/ hair
ꯂꯥꯏ, lai /l/ forehead
ꯃꯤꯠ, mit /m/ eye
ꯄꯥ, /p/ eyelash
ꯅꯥ, /n/ ear
ꯆꯤꯜ, chil /t͡ʃ/ lips
ꯇꯤꯜ, til /t/ saliva
ꯈꯧ, khou /kʰ/ throat, palate, neck
ꯉꯧ, ngou /ŋ/ pharynx, larynx
ꯊꯧ, thou /tʰ/ breast, chest, ribs
ꯋꯥꯏ, wai /w/ navel, heart
ꯌꯥꯡ, yang /j/ spine
ꯍꯨꯛ, huk /h/ joint
ꯎꯟ, un /u(ː)/ skin
, i /i(ː)/ blood
ꯐꯝ, pham /pʰ/ anus, buttocks, or uterus
ꯑꯇꯤꯡꯉꯥ, atinga

ꯑꯇꯤꯌꯥ, atiya

/ɐ/ immortality, heaven, divinity, birth

Additional consonants[edit]

Letter Name IPA[33] Evolved from
ꯒꯣꯛ, gok /g/
ꯓꯝ, jham /d͡ʒʱ/
ꯔꯥꯏ, rai /ɾ/
ꯕꯥ, /b/
ꯖꯤꯜ, jil /d͡ʒ/
ꯗꯤꯜ, dil /d/
ꯘꯧ, ghou /gʱ/
ꯙꯧ, dhou /dʱ/
ꯚꯝ, bham /bʱ/

Vowel diacritics[edit]

Syllables are written by adding vowel diacritics (cheitap eeyek) to consonants.

diacritic aa-tap
IPA: /a/
IPA: /i/
IPA: /u/
IPA: /e/
IPA: /o/
IPA: /ɐj/
IPA: /ɐw/
IPA: /əŋ/
plus diacritic
plus diacritic


Number 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Meitei numeral
Name ꯐꯨꯟ,


Meetei Mayek (Meitei script) was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.

The Unicode block for the Meitei script is U+ABC0 – U+ABFF.

Characters for historical orthographies are part of the Meetei Mayek Extensions block at U+AAE0 – U+AAFF.

Meetei Mayek[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Meetei Mayek Extensions[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


A typical Meitei Mayek keyboard

Meitei Mayek keyboards and other input methods are available at or supported by:

  1. Gboard
  2. Apple iOS 13
  3. Linux
  4. Macintosh operating systems
  5. Microsoft SwiftKey
  6. Windows

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Some of the meanings rendered by some letters (characters) are different according to different sources. So, if found different, they're added together in the same section.[34][35][36][37]


  1. ^ a b c d Datta, Amaresh (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. Sahitya Akademi. p. 142. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1.
  2. ^ a b Chelliah, Shobhana Lakshmi (2011). A Grammar of Meithei. De Gruyter. p. 355. ISBN 9783110801118. Meithei Mayek is part of the Tibetan group of scripts, which originated from the Gupta Brahmi script
  3. ^ Singh, Harimohon Thounaojam (January 2011), The Evolution and Recent Development of the Meetei Mayek Script, Cambridge University Press India, p. 28
  4. ^ Hyslop, Gwendolyn; Morey, Stephen; Post, Mark W (January 2011). North East Indian Linguistics Volume 3. Cambridge University Press India. ISBN 9788175967939.
  5. ^ Noni, Arambam; Sanatomba, Kangujam (16 October 2015). Colonialism and Resistance: Society and State in Manipur. Routledge. pp. 223, 235, 237. ISBN 978-1-317-27066-9.
  6. ^ মণিপুরদা লোলয়ান চঙলকপা অমদি মীতৈ ইয়েক্না থোঙজিন্দা ৱারৌজনা লেপ্লরবদা ! (PDF). (in Manipuri).
  7. ^ "Lost and revived: The story of Meitei script". The Indian Express. 11 December 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  8. ^ Fresh Fictions: Folk Tales, Plays, Novellas from the North East. Katha. 2005. p. 4. ISBN 978-81-87649-44-1.
  9. ^ Laithangbam, Iboyaima (23 September 2017). "Banished Manipuri script stages a comeback". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  10. ^ "GAZETTE TITLE: The Manipur Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2021".
  11. ^ Ray, Sohini (2009). "Writing the Body: Cosmology, Orthography, and Fragments of Modernity in Northeastern India". Anthropological Quarterly. 82 (1): 150. ISSN 0003-5491. JSTOR 25488260.
  12. ^ Yumnam, Rosy (2020). "Retelling the History of Manipur through the Narratives of the Puyas:". Journal of History and Social Sciences. 11 (2): 136–144. doi:10.46422/jhss.v11i2.114. ISSN 2221-6804. The dates of the existence of the Puyas are still refutable, however, they serve as a vital component in the study of history of Manipur as archaeology and historiography developed at a later stage. They can be traced as early as the eighth century A.D. though the dates are still refutable. Singh asserted that the writing in Meitei Mayek started most likely towards the end of the twelfth century and it is definitely not after the fifteenth century
  13. ^ Devi, Khwairakpam Renuka (2011). "Representation of the Pre-Vaishnavite Culture of the Meiteis: "Cheitharol Kumpapa" of Manipur". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 72: 501–508. ISSN 2249-1937. JSTOR 44146744.
  14. ^ Ray, Sohini (2009). "Writing the Body: Cosmology, Orthography, and Fragments of Modernity in Northeastern India". Anthropological Quarterly. 82 (1): 129–154. ISSN 0003-5491. The philosophy of the letters is found in a religious manuscript named "Wakoklon Hilel Thilel Salai Amilon Pukok Puya"
  15. ^ K.B. Singh, The Meiteis of Manipur (1989 [1962]), p. 157.
  16. ^ Frans Welman, Out of Isolation – Exploring a Forgotten World (2011), 468f., citing O.Tomba, The Need to rewrite Manipuri History, Imphal, 1993.
  17. ^ Devi, Yumlembam Gopi (16 June 2019). Glimpses of Manipuri Culture. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-359-72919-7.
  18. ^ Paniker, K. Ayyappa (1997). Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and selections (Assamese-Dogri). Sahitya Akademi. p. 325. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5.
  19. ^ Sen, Sipra (1992). Tribes and Castes of Manipur: Description and Select Bibliography. Mittal Publications. p. 28. ISBN 978-81-7099-310-0.
  20. ^ Everson, Michael (20 September 2006). "Preliminary Proposal for Encoding the Meithei Mayek Script in the BMP of the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.
  21. ^ "Approved Meitei Mayek Govt Gazette 1980". Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  22. ^ Devi, S. (May 2013). "Is Manipuri an Endangered Language?" (PDF). Language in India. 13 (5): 520–533.
  23. ^ "Meetei Mayek in newspapers". Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Meetei Mayek in newspapers: 29th jan22 ~ E-Pao! Headlines". Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  25. ^ "Meetei Mayek to Replace Bengali Script in Manipuri Newspapers from 2023". Pratidin Time. 30 January 2022. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  26. ^ "All Bengali script Manipuri Dailies in Manipur to Print in Meitei Eyek (Script) from 15th January 2023". HYNews. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  27. ^ "State dailies to cease Bengali script Manipuri papers from Jan, 2023: 29th jan22 ~ E-Pao! Headlines". Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  28. ^ "A comparative study of Meetei Mayek" (PDF). typoday. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  29. ^ "Atlas of Endangered Alphabets: Indigenous and minority writing systems, and the people who are trying to save them". 29 November 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2023. The Meitei Mayek script has a unique built-in learning device: the use of body parts in naming the letters. Every letter is named after a human body part in the Manipuri. The first letter, "kok" means "head," for example; the second letter, "sam" means "hair"; the third letter "lai" means "forehead."
  30. ^ Ray, Sohini (2009). "Writing the Body: Cosmology, Orthography, and Fragments of Modernity in Northeastern India". Anthropological Quarterly. 82 (1): 129–154. doi:10.1353/anq.0.0047. ISSN 0003-5491. JSTOR 25488260. S2CID 140755509.
  31. ^ "Discovery of Kangleipak 11". Retrieved 8 March 2023.
  32. ^ "Discovery of Kangleipak 12". Retrieved 8 March 2023.
  33. ^ a b "Manipuri (Meeteilon / Meithei)". Omniglot. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  34. ^ Arambarn Parratt, Saroj Nalini, ed. (2009), "Meetei Mayek or Meetei script chart", The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur, Foundation Books, pp. 145–148, doi:10.1017/UPO9788175968547.006, ISBN 978-81-7596-854-7, retrieved 6 March 2023
  35. ^ Watham, S.; Vimal, V. (2013). "Transliteration from Hindi Script to Meetei Mayek: ( A Rule Based Approach )". S2CID 16339978. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  36. ^ "Meetei Mayek: The Script". Retrieved 6 March 2023.
  37. ^ "Meitei Mayek Alphabets".
  38. ^ "Manipuri / Meitei Script Alphabet". Retrieved 14 February 2024.


  • Chelliah, Shobhana L. (1997). A grammar of Meithei. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 0-19-564331-3.
  • Chelliah, Shobhana L. (2002). Early Meithei manuscripts. In C. I. Beckwith (Ed.), Medieval Tibeto-Burman languages: PIATS 2000: Tibetan studies: Proceedings of the ninth seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000 (pp. 59–71). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.
  • Chelliah, Shobhana L. (2002). A glossary of 39 basic words in archaic and modern Meithei. In C. I. Beckwith (Ed.), Medieval Tibeto-Burman languages: PIATS 2000: Tibetan studies: Proceedings of the ninth seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000 (pp. 189–190). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

External links[edit]