Right-to-left script

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The Hebrew language is written right-to-left, top-to-bottom

In a right-to-left, top-to-bottom script (commonly shortened to right to left or abbreviated RTL, RL-TB or R2L), writing starts from the right of the page and continues to the left, proceeding from top to bottom for new lines. Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian are the most widespread RTL writing systems in modern times.

Ancient Chinese was written top to bottom, right to left

Right-to-left can also refer to top-to-bottom, right-to-left (TB-RL or vertical) scripts of tradition, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, though in modern times they are also commonly written left to right (with lines going from top to bottom). Books designed for predominantly vertical TBRL text open in the same direction as those for RTL horizontal text: the spine is on the right and pages are numbered from right to left.

These scripts can be contrasted with many common modern left-to-right writing systems, where writing starts from the left of the page and continues to the right.

The Arabic script is mostly but not exclusively right-to-left; mathematical expressions, numeric dates and numbers bearing units are embedded from left to right.


Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian are the most widespread RTL writing systems in modern times.[1] As usage of the Arabic script spread, the repertoire of 28 characters used to write the Arabic language was supplemented to accommodate the sounds of many other languages such as Kashmiri, Pashto, etc. While the Hebrew alphabet is used to write the Hebrew language, it is also used to write other Jewish languages such as Yiddish and Judaeo-Spanish.

Syriac and Mandaean (Mandaic) scripts are derived from Aramaic and are written RTL. Samaritan is similar, but developed from Proto-Hebrew rather than Aramaic. Many other ancient and historic scripts derived from Aramaic inherited its right-to-left direction.

Several languages have both Arabic RTL and non-Arabic LTR writing systems. For example, Sindhi is commonly written in Arabic and Devanagari scripts, and a number of others have been used. Kurdish may be written in the Arabic or Latin script.

Thaana appeared around 1600 CE. Most modern scripts are LTR, but N'Ko (1949), Mende Kikakui (19th century), Adlam (1980s) and Hanifi Rohingya (1980s) were created in modern times and are RTL.

Ancient examples of text using alphabets such as Phoenician, Greek, or Old Italic may exist variously in left-to-right, right-to-left, or boustrophedon order; therefore, it is not always possible to classify some ancient writing systems as purely RTL or LTR.

Computing support[edit]

Right-to-left, top-to-bottom text is supported in common computer software.[2] Often, this support must be explicitly enabled. Right-to-left text can be mixed with left-to-right text in bi-directional text.

List of RTL scripts[edit]

Examples of right-to-left scripts (with ISO 15924 codes in brackets) are:

Current scripts[edit]

Ancient scripts[edit]

The Old Latin inscription on the Praeneste fibula. The writing runs from right to left, unlike later Latin writing.[7]
  • Old Latin could be written from right to left (as were Etruscan and early Greek) or boustrophedon.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Which Languages Are Written From Right to Left?". WorldAtlas. 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2023-08-16.
  2. ^ "Introduction to typing and using RTL (Right to Left) text, and configuring software applications to support RTL".
  3. ^ Nath sen, Sailendra (1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 9788122411980.
  4. ^ Sir Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Third Edition Revised, Griffith Institute (2005), p. 25.
  5. ^ "Ethiopic". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 10 April 2021. Since the 4th cent. AD, when Ethiopia was Christianized, the Ethiopic script has been written from left to right, though previously the direction of writing was from right to left.
  6. ^ Davis, Mark; Everson, Michael; Freytag, Asmus; Jenkins, John H. (2001-05-16). "Unicode Standard Annex #27: Unicode 3.1". Most early Etruscan texts have right-to-left directionality. From the third century BCE, left-to-right texts appear, showing the influence of Latin. Oscan, Umbrian, and Faliscan also generally have right-to-left directionality. Boustrophedon appears rarely, and not especially early .... Despite this, for reasons of implementation simplicity, many scholars prefer left-to-right presentation of texts, as this is also their practice when transcribing the texts into Latin script. Accordingly, the Old Italic script has a default directionality of strong left-to-right in this standard. When directional overrides are used to produce right-to-left presentation, the glyphs in fonts must be mirrored ...
  7. ^ a b Halsey, William D. (1965). Collier's encyclopedia, with Bibliography and Index. US: The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company. p. 595.

External links[edit]