Polish alphabet

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The Polish alphabet. Grey indicates letters not used in native words.

The Polish alphabet is the script of the Polish language, the basis for the Polish system of orthography. It is based on the Latin alphabet but includes certain letters with diacritics: the kreska or acute accent (ć, ń, ó, ś, ź); the overdot or kropka (ż); the tail or ogonek (ą, ę); and the stroke (ł). The letters q, v and x, which are used only in foreign words, are usually not considered part of the Polish alphabet. However, prior to the standardization of the Polish language, the letter "x" was sometimes used in place of "ks".[1]

Modified variations of the Polish alphabet are used for writing Silesian and Kashubian, whereas the Sorbian languages use a mixture of the Polish and Czech orthographies.


There are 32 letters in the Polish alphabet: 9 vowels and 23 consonants.

The following table lists the letters of the alphabet, their Polish names (see also Names of letters below), the Polish phonemes which they usually represent, rough English (or other) equivalents to the sounds of those phonemes, and other possible pronunciations. Diacritics are shown for the sake of clarity. For more information about the sounds, see Polish phonology.

Polish name Usual value Rough English (or
other) equivalent
Other values
A a a /ä/ large More frontal [a] between palatal or palatalized consonants
Ą ą ą /ɔ̃/ nasal o as own or French an in français or en in rendez-vous, or Portuguese ão in coração [ɔn], [ɔŋ], [ɔm]; merges with /ɔ/ before /w/ (see Nasal vowels)
B b be /b/ bed [p] when devoiced
C c ce /t̪͡s̪/ pits [d̪͡z̪] if voiced. For ch, ci, cz see Digraphs
Ć ć cie /t͡ɕ/ cheap (alveolo-palatal) [d͡ʑ] if voiced
D d de // dog [] before /d͡ʐ/; [] when devoiced; [] before /t͡ʂ/.[1] For dz etc. see Digraphs
E e e /ɛ/ bed [e] between palatal or palatalized consonants
Ę ę ę /ɛ̃/ nasal e [ɛn], [ɛŋ], [ɛm]; merges with /ɛ/ before /w/ and often word-finally (see Nasal vowels)
F f ef /f/ fingers [v] if voiced
G g gie /ɡ/ go [k] when devoiced. For gi see Digraphs
H h ha /x/ Scots loch [ɣ] if voiced, may be glottal [ɦ] in a small number of dialects. For ch and (c)hi see Digraphs
I i i /i/ meet [j] before a consonant; marks palatization of the preceding consonant before a vowel (see Spelling rules)
J j jot /j/ yes
K k ka /k/ king [ɡ] if voiced. For ki see Digraphs
L l el /l/ light May be [lʲ] instead in eastern dialects
Ł ł /w/ will May be [ɫ̪] instead in eastern dialects
M m em /m/ men [ɱ] before labiodental consonants
N n en // not [] before /t͡ʂ d͡ʐ/; can be [ŋ] before /k ɡ/. For ni see Digraphs
Ń ń /ɲ̟/ canyon (alveolo-palatal) Can be [] in syllable coda
O o o /ɔ/ British English long [o] between palatal or palatalized consonants
Ó ó ó, o z kreską or u zamknięte /u/ put [ʉ] between palatal or palatalized consonants
P p pe /p/ spot [b] if voiced
R r er /r/ trilled r Often [ɾ] in fast speech. For rz see Digraphs
S s es // sea For sz, si see Digraphs
Ś ś /ɕ/ sheep (alveolo-palatal) [ʑ] (cf. Ź) if voiced
T t te // start [] before /t͡ʂ/; [] if voiced; [] before /d͡ʐ/.[2]
U u u, u zwykłe or u otwarte /u/ put [ʉ] between palatal or palatalized consonants, sometimes [w] after vowels
W w wu /v/ vow [f] when devoiced
Y y y or igrek /ɨ/[3] short i as in bit
Z z zet // zoo [] when devoiced. For digraphs see Digraphs
Ź ź ziet /ʑ/ vision (alveolo-palatal) [ɕ] when devoiced. For see Digraphs
Ż ż żet or zet z kropką /ʐ/ vision [ʂ] when devoiced. For see Digraphs
^ Sequences /t.t͡ʂ d.d͡ʐ/ may be pronounced as geminates [t͡ʂː d͡ʐː].
^ /ɨ/ is sometimes transcribed phonetically as ⟨ɪ⟩, though it is phonetically [ɘ̟].

The letters q (named: ku), v (named: fau), and x (named: iks) do not belong to the Polish alphabet, but are used in some foreign words and commercial names. In loanwords they are often replaced by kw, w, and ks, respectively (as in kwarc "quartz", weranda "veranda", ekstra "extra"), but remain in some recent borrowings, as quad, van, Vanuatu, vlog and traditional, as quasi-, varsaviana, vel, vide. Some words are equally used in both versions of writing style, as quiz/kwiz, veto/weto, volt/wolt, video/wideo, xero/ksero.

X is also historical letter for native words prior to 19th century, e.g. xiążę, xięstwo (now książę "prince", księstwo "duchy"), which remains in abbreviations of these words (sometimes used x. instead of ks.) and some names, as Xymena, Xawery, surnames as Xiężopolski, Axentowicz, Axer and names of some companies in Poland with -ex suffix.

For digraphs and other rules about spelling and the corresponding pronunciations, see Polish orthography.

Names of letters[edit]

The spoken Polish names of the letters are given in the table under Letters above. The additional letters Q, V and X are named ku, fau and iks.

The names of the letters are not normally written out in the way shown above, except as part of certain lexicalized abbreviations, such as Pekao (or PeKaO), the name of a bank, which represents the spoken form of the abbreviation P.K.O. (for Polska Kasa Opieki).

Some letters may be referred to in alternative ways, often consisting of just the sound of the letter. For example, Y may be called y rather than igrek (from "Greek i").

When giving the spelling of words, certain letters may be said in more emphatic ways to distinguish them from other identically pronounced characters. For example, H may be referred to as samo ha ("H alone") to distinguish it from CH (ce ha). The letter Ż may be called żet (or zet) zet z kropką ("Z with a dot") to distinguish it from RZ (er zet). The letter U may be called u otwarte ("open U", a reference to its graphical form), to distinguish it from Ó, which is sometimes called u zamknięte ("closed U") or o kreskowane / o z kreską ("dashed O").

Alphabetical order[edit]

Polish alphabetical ordering uses the order of letters as in the table under Letters above. Q, V and X, if present, take their usual positions in the Latin alphabet (after P, U and W respectively).

Note that (unlike in languages such as French and Spanish) Polish letters with diacritics are treated as fully independent letters in alphabetical ordering. For example, być comes after bycie. The diacritic letters also have their own sections in dictionaries (words beginning with ć are not usually listed under c).

Digraphs are not given any special treatment in alphabetical ordering. For example, ch is treated simply as c followed by h, and not as a single letter as in Czech.

Computer encoding[edit]

There are several systems for encoding the Polish alphabet for computers. All letters of the Polish alphabet are included in Unicode, and thus Unicode-based encodings such as UTF-8 and UTF-16 can be used. The Polish alphabet is completely included in the Basic Multilingual Plane of Unicode. The standard 8-bit character encoding for the Polish alphabet is ISO 8859-2 (Latin-2), although both ISO 8859-13 (Latin-7) and ISO 8859-16 (Latin-10) encodings include glyphs of the Polish alphabet. Microsoft's format for encoding the Polish alphabet is Windows-1250.

The Polish letters which are not present in the English alphabet have the following HTML codes and Unicode codepoints:

Upper case Ą Ć Ę Ł Ń Ó Ś Ź Ż
HTML entity Ą
Unicode U+0104 U+0106 U+0118 U+0141 U+0143 U+00D3 U+015A U+0179 U+017B
Result Ą Ć Ę Ł Ń Ó Ś Ź Ż
Lower case ą ć ę ł ń ó ś ź ż
HTML entity ą
Unicode U+0105 U+0107 U+0119 U+0142 U+0144 U+00F3 U+015B U+017A U+017C
Result ą ć ę ł ń ó ś ź ż

For other encodings, see Polish code pages, but also Combining Diacritical Marks Unicode block.

A common test sentence containing all the Polish diacritic letters is the nonsensical Zażółć gęślą jaźń ("Yellow the ego with/of a gusle").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GDL Statute". Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved 4 November 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]