Kurdish alphabets

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The Kurdistan newspaper established in 1898, prior to latinization, was written in the Kurmanji dialect using Arabic script.

Kurdish is written using either of two alphabets: the Latin-based Bedirxan or Hawar alphabet, introduced by Celadet Alî Bedirxan in 1932 and popularized through the Hawar magazine, and the Kurdo-Arabic alphabet.[1][2] The Kurdistan Region has agreed upon a standard for Central Kurdish, implemented in Unicode for computation purposes.[3] The Hawar alphabet is primarily used in Syria, Turkey, and Armenia, while the Kurdo-Arabic alphabet is commonly used in Iraq and Iran. The Hawar alphabet is also used to some extent in Iraqi Kurdistan.[4][5] Two additional alphabets, based on the Armenian and Cyrillic scripts, were once used by Kurds in the Soviet Union, most notably in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and Kurdistansky Uyezd.

Hawar alphabet[edit]

Usually it is the northern languages spoken by Kurds, Zazaki and Kurmanji, that are written in the extended Latin alphabet consisting of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin Alphabet with 5 letters with diacritics, for a total of 31 letters (each having an uppercase and a lowercase form):

Hawar alphabet
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c ç d e ê f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ş t u û v w x y z

In this alphabet the short vowels are E, I and U while the long vowels are A, Ê, Î, O and Û (see the IPA equivalents in the Help:IPA/Kurdish table).

When presenting the alphabet in his magazine Hawar, Celadet Alî Bedirxan proposed using diacritics on ⟨ḧ ẍ⟩ to distinguish the Arabic غ and ح sounds (see [1] page 12, 13). These are not considered letters, but are used to disambiguate loanwords that would otherwise be conflated.

Turkey does not recognize this alphabet. Using the letters Q, W, and X, which did not exist in the Turkish alphabet until 2013, led to a trial in 2000 and 2003 (see [2], p. 8, and [3]). Since September 2003, many Kurds applied to the courts seeking to change their names to Kurdish ones written with these letters, but failed.[6]

The Turkish government finally legalized the letters Q, W, and X as part of the Turkish alphabet in 2013.[7]


The Kurdish Latin alphabet was elaborated mainly by Celadet Bedirxan who initially had sought the cooperation of Tawfiq Wahbi, who in 1931 lived in Iraq. But after not having received any responses by Wahbi for several months, he and his brother Kamuran Alî Bedirxan decided to launch the "Hawar" alphabet in 1932.[8] Celadet Bedirxan aimed to create an alphabet that didn't use two letters for representing one sound. As the Kurds in Turkey already learned the Turkish Latin alphabet, he created an alphabet which would specifically be accessible for the Kurds in Turkey.[9] Some scholars have suggested making minor additions to Bedirxan's alphabet to make it more user-friendly.[10]

Kurdo-Arabic alphabet[edit]

Venn diagram showing Kurdish, Persian and Arabic letters

Many Kurdish varieties, mainly Sorani, are written using a modified Persian alphabet with 33 letters introduced by Sa'id Kaban Sedqi. Unlike the Persian alphabet, which is an abjad, Central Kurdish is almost a true alphabet in which vowels are given the same treatment as consonants. Central Kurdish does not have a complete representation of Kurmanji Kurdish sounds, as it lacks i. Written Central Kurdish also relies on vowel and consonant context to differentiate between the phonemes u/w and î/y instead of using separate letters. It does show the two pharyngeal consonants, as well as a voiced velar fricative, used in Kurdish.

A new sort order for the alphabet was proposed some time ago by the Kurdish Academy as the new standard,[11] all of which are letters accepted included in the Central Kurdish Unicode Keyboard:[12]

ع ش س ژ ز ڕ ر د خ ح چ ج ت پ ب ا ئـ
17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ێ ی وو ۆ و ە ھ ن م ڵ ل گ ک ق ڤ ف غ
34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18

The alphabet is represented by 34 letters including وو which is given its own position. Kurds in Iraq and Iran use this alphabet. Although the Kurdistan Region's standardization uses ک (Unicode 06A9) instead of ك (Unicode 0643) for letter kaf (22 in above table) as listed in the Unicode table on the official home page,[12] the latter glyph is still in use by various individuals and organizations.


Central Kurdish has seven vowels, all of them except /ɪ/ are represented by letters:[13]

# Letter IPA Example
1 ا با /baː/ "wind"
2 ە æ, ɛ مەزن /mɛzɪn/ "great"
3 و ʊ کورد /kʊɾd/ "Kurd"
4 ۆ تۆ /toː/ "you"
5 وو دوور /duːɾ/ "far"
6 ی شین /ʃiːn/ "blue"
7 ێ دێ /deː/ "village"

Similar to some letters in English, both و (u) and ی (î) can become consonants. In the words وان[a] (Wan) and یاری[b] (play), و and ی are consonants. Central Kurdish stipulates that syllables must be formed with at least one vowel, whilst a maximum of two vowels is permitted.

Historical alphabets[edit]

Old Kurdish script[edit]

Old Kurdish script, from the book Shawq al-Mustaham, 856 AD by Ibn Wahshiyya

An old Kurdish alphabet is documented by the Muslim author Ibn Wahshiyya in his book Shawq al-Mustaham written in 856 A.D. Ibn Wahshiyya writes: "I saw thirty books in Baghdad in this alphabet, out of which I translated two scientific books from Kurdish into Arabic; one of the books on the culture of the vine and the palm tree, and the other on water and the means of finding it out in unknown ground."[14] It has also been claimed by “Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies” that the Old Kurdish script, like several other scripts found in Ibn Washiyya's book, are fantastical inventions.[15]

Cyrillic alphabet[edit]

A third system, used for the few (Kurmanji-speaking) Kurds in the former Soviet Union, especially in Armenia, used a Cyrillic alphabet, consisting of 40 letters. It was designed in 1946 by Heciyê Cindî.[16]

А а Б б В в Г г Гʼ гʼ Д д Е е Ә ә Әʼ әʼ Ж ж
З з И и Й й К к Кʼ кʼ Л л М м Н н О о Ӧ ӧ
П п Пʼ пʼ Р р Рʼ рʼ С с Т т Тʼ тʼ У у Ф ф Х х
Һ һ Һʼ һʼ Ч ч Чʼ чʼ Ш ш Щ щ Ь ь Э э Ԛ ԛ Ԝ ԝ
The Armenian-Kurdish Alphabet.[17]

Armenian alphabet[edit]

From 1921 to 1929, a modified version of the Armenian alphabet was used for Kurmanji, in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.[18][19]

It was then replaced with a Yañalif-like Latin alphabet during the campaigns for Latinisation in the Soviet Union.

Soviet Latin alphabet[edit]

Kurdish Soviet Latin Alphabet.

In 1928, Kurdish languages in all of the Soviet Union, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, were switched to a Latin alphabet containing some Cyrillic characters: a, b, c, ç, d, e, ә, f, g, г, h, i, ь, j, k, ʀ, l, m, ɴ, o, ө, w, p, n, q, ч, s, ш, ц, t, u, y, v, x, z, ƶ. In 1929 it was reformed and was replaced by the following alphabet:[20]

A a B b C c Ç ç D d E e Ə ə
Ə́ ə́ F f G g Ƣ ƣ H h Ħ ħ I i J j
K k Ⱪ ⱪ L l M m N n O o Ɵ ɵ P p
Ҏ ҏ Q q R r S s Ş ş T t Ţ ţ U u
V v W w X x Y y Z z Ƶ ƶ Ь ь

The Soviet Latin alphabet no longer used.

Yezidi script[edit]

The name of 'Khatuna Fekhra', a Yazidi female saint, in Yazidi script
Time period
13th century — present
DirectionRight-to-left script Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesNorthern Kurdish
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Yezi (192), ​Yezidi
Unicode alias

The Yezidi script is written from right to left and was used to write in Kurdish, specifically in the Kurmanji dialect (also called Northern Kurdish). The script has a long history, according to some data, it can be dated back to 13th-14th centuries, however, some scholars trace the creation of this script to 17th-18th centuries. The author of the script is unknown, but it was used for two manuscripts, Meṣḥefa Reş and Kitêba Cilwe, first published by Anastase Marie in 1911.

It is believed that historically, there existed two sacred Yezidi manuscripts known as Meshefa Reş and Kitêba Cilwe, but the originals were lost. Later copies of these manuscripts were found, written in a special Yezidi alphabet, however, their contents was distorted. As a result, while the Yazidi clergy do recognize the Yezidi alphabet, they do not consider the content of these two manuscripts to be sources of the Yezidi religion.[21][22]

In 2013, the Spiritual Council of Yazidis in Georgia decided to revive the Yezidi script and use it for writing prayers, religious books, on the organization letterhead and in the Yazidi heraldry.[23][24] Today, it is used by the Yazidi clergymen in the Yazidi temple of Sultan Ezid at Tbilisi, where the names of the Yazidi saints are written on walls in this alphabet. Furthermore, Dua'yêd Êzdiyan, a book containing a collection of Yazidi prayers, was written and published in the Yezidi alphabet.[23]

Comparison of Kurdish alphabets[edit]

Latin Cyrillic Arabic Yezidi IPA
Hawar Soviet (isolated) (final) (medial) (initial)
A, a А, а А, а ا ـا 𐺀 []
B, b B, b Б, б ب ـب ـبـ بـ 𐺁 [b]
C, c Ç, ç Щ, щ ج ـج ـجـ جـ 𐺆 [d͡ʒ]
Ç, ç C, c Ч, ч چ ـچ ـچـ چـ 𐺇 [t͡ʃ]
Ç, ç[25] Ꞓ, ꞓ Чʼ, чʼ 𐺈 [t͡ʃʰ][25]
D, d D, d Д, д د ـد د 𐺋 [d]
E, e Ә, ә Ә, ә ە ـە ە 𐺦 [ɛ]
Ê, ê E, e (Э, э)[c]; (E, e) ێ ـێ ـێـ ێـ 𐺩 []
F, f F, f Ф, ф ف ـف ـفـ فـ 𐺙 [f]
G, g G, g Г, г گ ـگ ـگـ گـ 𐺟 [ɡ]
H, h H, h Һ, һ ھ ـھـ ھ 𐺧 [h]
H, h[27][d] Ħ, ħ Һʼ, һʼ ح ـح ـحـ حـ 𐺉 [ħ]
I, i Ь, ь Ь, ь [ɘ], [ɘ̝],[28] [ɪ]
Î, î I, i И, и ی ـی ـیـ یـ 𐺨 []
J, j Ƶ, ƶ Ж, ж ژ ـژ ژ 𐺐 [ʒ]
K, k K, k К, к ک ـک ـکـ کـ 𐺝 [k]
K, k[29] Ⱪ, ⱪ Кʼ, кʼ [c]
L, l L, l Л, л ل ـل ـلـ لـ 𐺠 [l]
L, l; (ll)[30] L, l Лʼ, лʼ ڵ ـڵ ـڵـ 𐺰 [ɫ]
M, m M, m М, м م ـم ـمـ مـ 𐺡 [m]
N, n N, n Н, н ن ـن ـنـ نـ 𐺢 [n]
O, o O, o O, o ۆ ـۆ ۆ 𐺥 [o], [o̟ː], [o̽ː],[31] []
Ɵ, ɵ[e] [o̽ː]
P, p P, p П, п پ ـپ ـپـ پـ 𐺂 [p], [][32]
P, p[32] Ҏ, ҏ Пʼ, пʼ 𐺃 []
Q, q Q, q Ԛ, ԛ ق ـق ـقـ قـ 𐺜 [q]
R, r R, r Р, р ر ـر 𐺍 [ɾ]
R, r; (rr)[33] R, r Рʼ, рʼ ڕ ـڕ ڕ 𐺎 [r]
S, s S, s С, с س ـس ـسـ سـ 𐺑 [s]
Ş, ş Ş, ş Ш, ш ش ـش ـشـ شـ 𐺒 [ʃ]
T, t T, t Т, т ت ـت ـتـ تـ 𐺕 [t]
T, t[34] Ţ, ţ Тʼ, тʼ []
U, u U, u Ӧ, ӧ و ـو و 𐺣 [u]
Û, û Y, y У, у وو ـوو 𐺣𐺣 [], [ʉː][35]
ۊ ـۊ ـۊ []
V, v V, v В, в ڤ ـڤ ـڤـ ڤـ 𐺚 𐺛 [v]
W, w W, w Ԝ, ԝ و ـو و 𐺤 [w]
X, x X, x Х, х خ ـخ ـخـ خـ 𐺊 [x]
X, x[f] Ƣ, ƣ Гʼ, гʼ غ ـغ ـغـ غـ 𐺘 [ɣ]
Y, y J, j Й, й ی ـی ـیـ یـ 𐺨 [j]
Z, z Z, z З, з ز ـز ز 𐺏 [z]
Ə́, ə́ Әʼ, әʼ ع ـع ـعـ عـ 𐺗 [ʕ]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kurdish pronunciation: [wɑːn]
  2. ^ Kurdish pronunciation: [jɑɾiː]
  3. ^ At the beginning of a word.[26]
  4. ^ Unofficially, (Ḧ, ḧ) is used to distinguish the sound.
  5. ^ Argues for the distinction of the letters. As can be used in the spelling of "Xoşe" instead of "Xweşe", for example. Soviet Latin: Xөşә.
  6. ^ Unofficially, (Ẍ, ẍ) is used to distinguish the sound.


  1. ^ Aydin, Tahirhan (2018-12-30). "Sefheî Sibyan a Mela Mehmûdê Bazidî". Nubihar Akademi. 3 (10): 104. ISSN 2147-883X.
  2. ^ Thackston, W. M. (2006). "—Sorani Kurdish— A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings" (PDF). Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences: 4.
  3. ^ "Kurdistan Regional Government". cabinet.gov.krd (in Kurdish). Archived from the original on 2020-11-22. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  4. ^ Syan, Karwan Ali Qadir (2017). Media in an emergent democracy: the development of online journalism in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (PhD thesis). University of Bradford.
  5. ^ "Language in Erbil | Erbil Lifestyle". erbillifestyle.com. Retrieved 2024-03-15.
  6. ^ Karakaş, Saniye; Diyarbakır Branch of the Contemporary Lawyers Association (March 2004). "Submission to the Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Working Group of Minorities; Tenth Session, Agenda Item 3 (a)" (MS Word). United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Archived from the original (MS Word) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2006-11-07. Kurds have been officially allowed since September 2003 to take Kurdish names, but cannot use the letters x, w, or q, which are common in Kurdish but do not exist in Turkey's version of the Latin alphabet. ... Those letters, however, are used in Turkey in the names of companies, TV and radio channels, and trademarks. For example Turkish Army has company under the name of AXA OYAK and there is SHOW TV television channel in Turkey.
  7. ^ Mark Liberman (2013-10-24). "Turkey legalizes the letters Q, W, and X. Yay Alphabet!". Slate. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  8. ^ Gorgas, Jordi Tejel (2007). Le mouvement kurde de Turquie en exil: continuités et discontinuités du nationalisme kurde sous le mandat français en Syrie et au Liban (1925-1946) (in French). Peter Lang. p. 303. ISBN 978-3-03911-209-8.
  9. ^ Gorgas, Jordi Tejel (2007), p.305
  10. ^ Bahadur, Muhamadreza. "Kirmaşanî Alphabet and Pronunciation Guide". Retrieved 2023-08-13 – via Academia.edu.
  11. ^ (in Kurdish) گۆڤاری ئەکادیمیای کوردی، ژمارە (١٦)ی ساڵی ٢٠١٠ (The 2010 Journal of Kurdish Academy, Issue 16), 14-16
  12. ^ a b Unicode Team of KRG-IT. "Kurdish Keyboard". unicode.ekrg.org. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  13. ^ "ڕێنووس". yageyziman.com. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. ^ Aḥmad ibn, ʿAlī Ibn Waḥshīyah (2014) [1806]. Ancient Alphabets and Hieroglyphic Characters Explained With an Account of the Egyptian Priests, Their Classes, Initiation, and Sacrifices. Translated by Joseph von Hammer, Purgstall. London: Literary Licensing, Llc. pp. 53–134. ISBN 978-1498138833.
  15. ^ "The Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Culture" (PDF). Hypotheses. Orient-Institut Beirut, American University of Beirut. 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  16. ^ Һʼ. Щнди (1974). Әлифба (3000 экз ed.). Ереван: Луйс. p. 96.
  17. ^ "Different Kurdish Scripts' Comparison" (PDF).
  18. ^ (in Russian) Курдский язык (Kurdish language), Кругосвет (Krugosvet)
  19. ^ "Kurdish language, alphabets and pronunciation". omniglot.com. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  20. ^ (in Russian) Культура и письменность Востока (Eastern Culture and Literature). 1928, №2.
  21. ^ "YAZIDIS i. GENERAL" at Encyclopædia Iranica
  22. ^ Omarkhali, Khanna. "Kitāb al-Jilwa". Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_35639.
  23. ^ a b Rovenchak, A., Pirbari, D., & Karaca, E. (2019). L2/19-051R Proposal for encoding the Yezidi script in the SMP of the UCS.
  24. ^ Rovenchak, A. (2019). Information on Yezidi UUM and hamza.
  25. ^ a b "ç", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-06, retrieved 2023-08-11
  26. ^ "Different Kurdish Scripts' Comparison" (PDF).
  27. ^ "h", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-06, retrieved 2023-08-11
  28. ^ "i", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-13, retrieved 2023-08-13
  29. ^ "k", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-06, retrieved 2023-08-11
  30. ^ "l", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-13, retrieved 2023-08-11
  31. ^ "o", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-06, retrieved 2023-08-11
  32. ^ a b "p", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-08-05, retrieved 2023-08-11
  33. ^ "R", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-13, retrieved 2023-07-19
  34. ^ "t", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2023-07-30, retrieved 2023-08-11
  35. ^ "û", Wîkîferheng (in Kurdish), 2024-02-22, retrieved 2024-02-22

External links[edit]