Kurdish alphabets

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

The Kurdish languages are written in either of two alphabets: a Latin alphabet introduced by Celadet Alî Bedirxan in 1932 called the Bedirxan alphabet or Hawar alphabet (after the Hawar magazine) and a Arabic script called the Sorani alphabet or Central Kurdish alphabet. The Kurdistan Region has agreed upon a standard for Central Kurdish, implemented in Unicode for computation purposes.[1]

The Hawar alphabet is used in Syria, Turkey and Armenia; the Central Kurdish in Iraq and Iran. Two additional alphabets, based on the Armenian alphabet and the Cyrillic script, were once used by Kurds in the Soviet Union, most notably in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and Kurdistansky Uyezd.

Hawar alphabet[edit]

The northern languages spoken by Kurds, Zazaki and Kurmanji, are written in an 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[clarification needed]
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 ⟨ḧ ẍ '⟩[citation needed] for غ, ح, and ع, sounds which he judged to be "non-Kurdish" (see [1] page 12,13). These three glyphs do not have the official status of letters, but serve to represent these sounds when they are indispensable to comprehension.

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.[2]

The Turkish government finally legalized the letters Q, W, and X as part of the Turkish alphabet in 2013.[3]

Kurdish Latin alphabet[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5] Some scholars have suggested making minor additions to Bedirxan's Hawar alphabet to make it more user-friendly.[6] The additions correspond to sounds that are represented in the Central Kurdish alphabet, but not in the Hawar alphabet. These scholars suggest this extended alphabet be called the Kurdish Latin alphabet. The suggested additional characters are Ł, Ň, Ř and Ü. The velar Ł/ł which appears mostly in Central Kurdish is for non-initial positions only; in Kurdish velar Ł never comes in initial position, except for in Kurmanji. The initial position in any Kurdish word beginning with r is pronounced and written as a trill Ř/ř. The letter Ü/ü is a new letter, which is sometimes written ۊ in the Central Kurdish alphabet, and represents the close front rounded vowel [y] used in the Southern Kurdish dialects. The velar nasal consonant [ŋ] is also a Kurdish phoneme[7] which never comes in initial position, and it is written as Ň/ň. The Kurdish Latin alphabet consists of 35 letters in total.[citation needed]

Kurdish Latin alphabet[clarification needed]
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 32 33 34 35
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 ł m n ň o p q r ř s ş t u û ü v w x y z
Short vowels: E, I and U.
Long vowels: A, Ê, Î, O, Û and Ü (see the IPA equivalents in Help:IPA/Kurdish table).

Sorani alphabet[edit]

Venn diagram showing Kurdish, Persian and Arabic letters

Sorani is mainly 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. Reformed Central Kurdish does have glyphs for the "i" ⟨ٮ⟩ and it is able to successfully differentiate between the consonant "w" and the short vowel "u" by representing "w" with a ⟨ڡ⟩. It is also able to successfully differentiate between the consonant "y" and the long vowel "î" by representing "î" with a ⟨ؽ⟩ and the long vowel "û" can be represented with a ⟨ۉ⟩ or ⟨ۇ⟩ instead of double ⟨و⟩.

A new sort order for the alphabet was proposed some time ago by the Kurdish Academy as the new standard,[8] all of which are letters accepted included in the Central Kurdish Unicode Keyboard:[9]

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. The standardization by Kurdistan Region 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 for the standard.[9] However, the latter glyph is still in use by various individuals and organizations.


Central Kurdish has eight vowels, whilst only seven are represented by letters:[10]

# Letter IPA Example
1 ا با /baː/ "air"
2 ە æ, ɐ مەزن /mɐzɪn/ "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 English "Y" in by and you, both و (u) and ی (i) can become consonants. In the words وان[needs IPA] (Wan) and یاری[needs IPA] (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 alphabet, from the book of Shawq al-Mustaham fi marifat rumuz al-alqlam, 856 AD by Ibn Wahshiyya

An old Kurdish alphabet is documented by the well known 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."[11] It has also been claimed that the Old Kurdish script, like several other scripts found in Ibn Washiyya's book, are fantastical inventions.[12]

Cyrillic script[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:[13]

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

Armenian alphabet[edit]

From 1921 to 1929, a modified version of the Armenian alphabet was used for Kurmanji, in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic:[14][15]

Ա ա Պ պ Ճ ճ Ջ ջ Չ չ Տ տ Աՙ աՙ Է է Ե ե Ֆ ֆ
Կ կ Հՙ հՙ Ը ը Ի ի Ժ ժ Գ գ Ք ք Լ լ Մ մ Ն ն
Օ օ Ո ո Էօ էօ Բ բ Փ փ Գՙ գՙ Ր ր Ռ ռ Ս ս Շ շ
Դ դ Թ թ Ւ ւ Ու ու Իւ իւ Վ վ Ւՙ ւՙ Խ խ Ղ ղ Յ յ
Զ զ

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

Soviet Latin alphabet[edit]

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:[16]

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 Ķ ķ L l M m N n O o Ö ö P p
Q q R r S s Ş ş T t Ţ ţ U u
Û û V v W w X x Y y Z z Ƶ ƶ Ь ь

Yazidi alphabet[edit]

Yazidi alphabet
Shukla Khatuna Fekhra.svg
The name of 'Khatuna Fekhra', a Yazidi female saint, in Yazidi script
Directionright-to-left script Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesNorthern Kurdish
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Yezi (192), ​Yezidi
Unicode alias

The Yazidi script was used to write in Kurdish, specifically in the Kurmanji dialect (also called Northern Kurdish). The script was found in historical manuscripts Meṣḥefa Reş and Kitêba Cilwe, these two manuscripts are largely considered to be western forgeries mixed with some authentic traditions.[17][18] In 2013, the Spiritual Council of Yazidis in Georgia decided to revive the Yazidi script.[19][20] It is written from right to left. The modern version of Yazidi is an alphabet and does not use ligatures.[19]

The Yezidi script was added to Unicode version 13.0 in March 2020. 47 characters are located in the Yezidi block:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10E8x 𐺀 𐺁 𐺂 𐺃 𐺄 𐺅 𐺆 𐺇 𐺈 𐺉 𐺊 𐺋 𐺌 𐺍 𐺎 𐺏
U+10E9x 𐺐 𐺑 𐺒 𐺓 𐺔 𐺕 𐺖 𐺗 𐺘 𐺙 𐺚 𐺛 𐺜 𐺝 𐺞 𐺟
U+10EAx 𐺠 𐺡 𐺢 𐺣 𐺤 𐺥 𐺦 𐺧 𐺨 𐺩 𐺫 𐺬 𐺭
U+10EBx 𐺰 𐺱
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Comparison of Kurdish alphabets[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A specific letter for this sound does not exist in the widely used Hawar alphabet. Instead H, h is used for this sound. An example is Kurdish: Hezkirin, lit.'Affection',
  2. ^ The Kurdish Latin alphabet has a specific letter for this sound. But it is not as widely used as the Hawar alphabet.
  3. ^ A specific letter for this sound does not exist in the widely used Hawar alphabet. Instead L, l is used for this sound. An example is Kurdish: Sal, lit.'Year'.
  4. ^ The Kurdish Latin alphabet has a specific letter for this sound. But it is not as widely used as the Hawar alphabet.
  5. ^ When used in sentences with the Hawar alphabet, the (R, r) is written twice for the sound. But the sound can occur in sentences with one (R, r) as well.
  6. ^ The Kurdish Latin alphabet has a specific letter for this sound. But it is not as widely used as the Hawar alphabet.
  7. ^ A specific letter for this sound does not exist in the widely used Hawar alphabet. Instead X, x is used for this sound. An example is Kurdish: Xezal, lit.'Deer',
  8. ^ The Kurdish Latin alphabet has a specific letter for this sound. But it is not as widely used as the Hawar alphabet.


  1. ^ "Kurdistan Regional Government (Kurdish article)". cabinet.gov.krd. Archived from the original on 22 Nov 2020. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Mark Liberman (2013-10-24). "Turkey legalizes the letters Q, W, and X. Yay Alphabet!". Slate. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Gorgas, Jordi Tejel (2007), p.305
  6. ^ Bahadur, Muhamadreza. "Kirmaşanî Alphabet and Pronunciation Guide". Retrieved 2015-11-03 – via Academia.edu. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Fattah, Ismaïl Kamandâr (2000). Les dialectes kurdes meridionaux. Etude linguistique et dialectologique, (Acta Iranica 37). E. J. Brill. ISBN 9042909188.
  8. ^ (in Kurdish) گۆڤاری ئەکادیمیای کوردی، ژمارە (١٦)ی ساڵی ٢٠١٠ (The 2010 Journal of Kurdish Academy, Issue 16), 14-16
  9. ^ a b Unicode Team of KRG-IT. "Kurdish Keyboard". unicode.ekrg.org. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  10. ^ "ڕێنووس". yageyziman.com. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ https://oib.hypotheses.org/files/2013/11/Program_Occult_Sciences_2013-11-27-public.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  13. ^ Һʼ. Щнди (1974). Әлифба (3000 экз ed.). Ереван: Луйс. p. 96.
  14. ^ (in Russian) Курдский язык (Kurdish language), Кругосвет (Krugosvet)
  15. ^ "Kurdish language, alphabets and pronunciation". omniglot.com. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  16. ^ (in Russian) Культура и письменность Востока (Eastern Culture and Literature). 1928, №2.
  17. ^ YAZIDIS i. GENERAL at Encyclopædia Iranica
  18. ^ Omarkhali, Khanna. "Kitāb al-Jilwa". Encyclopedia of Islam, Third Edition. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_35639.
  19. ^ a b Rovenchak, A., Pirbari, D., & Karaca, E. (2019). L2/19-051R Proposal for encoding the Yezidi script in the SMP of the UCS.
  20. ^ Rovenchak, A. (2019). Information on Yezidi UUM and hamza.

External links[edit]