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Georgian alphabet
ქართული ანბანი
Type Alphabet
Languages Georgian and other Kartvelian languages
Time period 430 to present
ISO 15924 ,
  Geok (, Writing system)
Unicode alias
Unicode range U+2D00–U+2D2F
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Georgian alphabet is a graphically independent and unique alphabet used to write the Georgian language. It is a phonemic orthography and the modern alphabet has 33 letters.

The Georgian script can also be used to write other Kartvelian languages (Mingrelian, Svan, sometimes Laz), and occasionally other languages of the Caucasus such as Ossetian and Abkhaz during the 1940s.[1] Historically Ingush,[2] Chechen[3] and Avar languages[4][5] were written in the Georgian script, later replaced in the 17th century by Arabic and by the Cyrillic script in modern times.

The Georgian word ანბანი (anbani) meaning "alphabet" is derived from the names of the first two letters of the three Georgian alphabets, which, although they look very different from one another, share the same alphabetic order and letter names. The alphabets can be seen mixed in some context, although Georgian is formally unicameral meaning there is normally no distinction between upper and lower case in any of the alphabets.


The oldest Georgian inscription in Bethlehem, 430 AD.
Second oldest Georgian inscription of Bolnisi Sioni, 5th century.

The Georgian kingdom of Iberia converted to Christianity in 326 AD. Scholars believe that the creation of an Old Georgian alphabet was instrumental in making religious scripture more accessible to the Georgians. This happened in the 4th or 5th century, not long after conversion. The oldest uncontested example of Georgian writing is an Asomtavruli inscription from 430 AD in a church in Bethlehem.

The writing of the Georgian language has progressed through three forms, known by their Georgian names: Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri, and Mkhedruli. They have always been distinct alphabets, even though they have been used together to write the same languages, and even though these alphabets share the same letter names and collation. Although the most recent alphabet, Mkhedruli, contains more letters than the two historical ones, those extra letters are no longer needed for writing modern Georgian.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica in the article "Georgian language" suggests that the Old Georgian script must have been derived from the Greek alphabet, on account of the order of the alphabet and the shapes of some of the characters, although the shapes of the majority of the signs appear to be a result of a free creation of its inventor.[6] The same Encyclopaedia Britannica in the article "Alphabet" suggests that the Armenian and Georgian alphabets, created by St. Mesrob (Mashtots) in the early 5th century AD, were based on the Aramaic alphabet.[7]

Some scholars and encyclopedias claim that the first Georgian alphabet was created by Armenian theologian and linguist Mesrop Mashtots, who invented the Armenian alphabet in the year 406 AD.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Other authorities such as John Greppin and Anahit Perikhanyan have concluded that while Mesrop Mashtots may not have been the only creator of the Georgian alphabet, it could not have appeared without his participation.[16][17]

Georgian historical tradition attributes the invention of the Georgian alphabets to the semi-mythical[18] Parnavaz I of Iberia in the 3rd century BC. Georgian scholars (including Ivane Javakhishvili) have asserted that the Georgian alphabet was created before Mesrop Mashtots.[19][20][21][22] According to Georgian scholar Ivane Javakhishvili there are many similarities as well as differences between Georgian and Armenian alphabet, but the order of the letters in the first part of Georgian alphabet is almost parallel to the similar letters of the Greek alphabet, and the other part consists of letters which are very specific to Georgian. Also, the names of the letters and the numeral values of letters are completely different, which, would not have been the case if the Georgian alphabet had been created on the root of Armenian alphabet.[23] The modern Georgian scholar Levan Chilashvili, on the basis of dating the Nekresi inscription in eastern Georgia to the 1st or 2nd century AD, claimed that Parnavaz probably created the scripts in order to translate the Avesta (sacred Zoroastrian writings) into Georgian. However, a pre-Christian origin for the Georgian scripts has not been firmly supported by archaeological evidence. According to Donald Rayfield, the assumption that the Georgian script has pre-Christian origin, is rather unfounded and was not confirmed by archaeological findings.[9] Stephen H. Rapp, too, has questioned such a dating.[24]

Russian historian and ethnologist Victor Schnirelmann has noted that the Georgian historians' somewhat painful attitude towards Mesrop Mashtots is conditioned by the "myth of some pure original indigenous culture."[25] Werner Seibt offers to better forget the stories about such an old origin of the Georgian alphabet, and suggests that the Georgian script perhaps was invented by Georgian monks in Palestine, who were encouraged by the Armenian translation of the Holy Scriptures, so Mashtots would have been at least an indirect initiator of the Georgian alphabet.[26]

The scholars which are in favour of the idea that the Georgian alphabet was invented by the Armenian saint Mesrop Mashtots, use as a source the writing from the 5th century, of the Armenian historian Koryun. His work "Life of Mesrob" contains many details about the evangelization of Armenia and the invention of the Armenian alphabet, and is the primary source which mentions that the Georgian alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots. However, there is some suspicion that the original text of Koryun was altered or interpolated later on in accordance with ideological requests especially between the Armenian church and the neighbouring ones, as the Armenians postulated a certain hegemony over them.[26] After researching Koryun's Life of Mashtots,[27] a Georgian historian Ivane Javakhishvili came to conclusion that the story of creation of Georgian alphabet by Mashtots was a mere addition made in the 6th century.[23]


Asomtavruli at David Gareja.
Asomtavruli at Ateni Sioni Church.

Asomtavruli (Georgian: ასომთავრული), also known as "Mrgvlovani" is a historical, monumental and oldest form of the Georgian alphabet. Asomtavruli (ასომთავრული, "capital letters") derives from aso (ასო, "letter, type") and mtavari (მთავარი, "main, chief, principal, head"). Mrgvlovani (მრგვლოვანი, "rounded") is related to the word mrgvali (მრგვალი, "round"). Despite its common Georgian name, this rounded alphabet was originally purely unicameral, just like the modern Georgian alphabet. Examples of the earliest Asomtavruli scripts found in Nekresi are still preserved in national museum of Georgia.

Asomtavruli letters
Some fonts for modern Georgian do not show the actual Asomtavruli forms for these letters, but instead show taller ("capitalized") variants of the modern Mkhedruli alphabet (see below).

This unicameral alphabet is still used today in some section headings and book titles, and sometimes used in a pseudo-bicameral way by varying the glyph sizes for creating capitals. Since it is no longer used for writing Georgian, it has also been reused in a creative way for writing capital letters, along with letters of one of the two other Georgian alphabets.

Incidentally, a unique local form of Aramaic writing known as Armazuli (არმაზული დამწერლობა, armazuli damts'erloba, i.e. the "Armazian script", derived from the name of the god Armazi) existed before that, as demonstrated by the 1940s discovery of a bilingual Greco-Aramaic inscription at Mtskheta, Georgia. It is conceivable that local pre-Christian records did exist, but were subsequently destroyed by zealous Christians. Therefore, many found more palatable the idea that the medieval Georgian chronicles crediting Parnavaz with the creation of Georgian writing actually refer to the introduction of a local form of written Aramaic during his reign.[24]

Asomtavruli is used by Georgian Orthodox Church.


Old Georgian manuscript written in nuskhuri.

Nuskhuri (Georgian: ნუსხური) ("minuscule, lowercase") is the ecclesiastical alphabet which first appeared in the 9th century. It was mostly used in hagiography. Nuskhuri is related to the word nuskha (ნუსხა "inventory, schedule").

Nuskhuri letters
ⴍⴣ, ⴓ

The forms of the Khutsuri letters may have been derived from the northern Arsacid variant of the Pahlavi (or Middle Iranian) script, which itself was derived from the older Aramaic, although the direction of writing (from left to right), the use of separate symbols for the vowel sounds, the numerical values assigned to the letters in earlier times, and the order of the letters all point to significant Greek influence on the script.[28] However, the Georgian linguist Tamaz Gamkrelidze argues that the forms of the letters are freely invented in imitation of the Greek model rather than directly based upon earlier forms of the Aramaic alphabet, even though the Georgian phonological inventory is very different from Greek. Like the monumental Asomtavruli alphabet, this squared alphabet was initially purely unicameral. However, it has also been used along with the Asomtavruli alphabet (serving as capital letters in religious manuscripts) to form the Khutsuri (ხუცური "ecclesiastical") bicameral style that is still used sometimes today. Nuskhuri is used by Georgian Orthodox Church.


Mkhedruli of King Vakhtang VI of Kartli.

Mkhedruli (Georgian: მხედრული) ("cavalry" or "military") is the modern Georgian alphabet which first appeared in the 11th century. It was used for non-religious purposes up until the 19th century, when it completely replaced the Khutsuri style (that used the two previous alphabets). Mkhedruli is related to the word mkhedari (მხედარი, "horseman", "knight", or "warrior"); Khutsuri is related to the term khutsesi (ხუცესი, "elder" or "priest").

Mkhedruli letters

Like the two other alphabets, the Mkhedruli alphabet is purely unicameral. However, certain modern writers have experimented with using Asomtavruli letters as capitals, similarly to Khutsuri script style. In some cases, this may be a conflation with the religious Khutsuri style rather than the result of a creative design choice. Georgians often consider this bicameral use of Mkhedruli an error because some Mkhedruli letters lack equivalents in the other alphabets. Others use the Mkhedruli alphabet alone in a pseudo-bicameral way, adapting letter sizes to create capital letters, known as Mtavruli for titles and headings. Mtavruli (მთავრული) means "titlecase" and is an appropriate tribute to the older Asomtavruli.

Other forms of some Mkhedruli letters

Some mkhedruli letters have alternative written forms.

  1. Different form of letter
  2. Different form of letter
  3. Different form of letter
  4. Different form of letter
  5. Different form of letter

Obsolete letters

Eight of the forty-one Mkhedruli letters (shaded above) are now obsolete. Five of these, ⟨ჱ⟩ (he), ⟨ჲ⟩ (hie), ⟨ჳ⟩ (vie), ⟨ჴ⟩ (qar), and ⟨ჵ⟩ (hoe) were used in Old Georgian. These letters were discarded by the Society for the Spreading of Literacy Among Georgians, founded by Ilia Chavchavadze in 1879, and were either dropped entirely or replaced by the sounds they had become. The last three, ⟨ჶ⟩ (fi), ⟨ჷ⟩ (shva), and ⟨ჸ⟩ (elifi), were later additions to the Georgian alphabet used to represent sounds not present in Georgian proper, and are used to write other languages in the region. Also obsolete in modern Georgian is a variant of the letter ⟨უ⟩ (un), differentiated using a diacritic: ⟨უ̌⟩ or ⟨უ̂⟩.

  • ⟨ჱ⟩ (he), sometimes called "ei" or "e-merve" ("eighth e"). As in Ancient Greek (Ηη, Ͱͱ, ēta), it holds the eighth place in the Georgian alphabet. The name and shapes of the letter in Asomtavruli ⟨Ⴡ⟩ and Nuskhuri ⟨ⴡ⟩ also resemble Greek's tack-shaped archaic consonantal heta. In old Georgian, he was interchangeable with the digraph ⟨ეჲ⟩. It represented [ei] or [ej].
  • ⟨ჲ⟩ (hie), also called iot'a, often marked Georgian nouns in the nominative case. In Old Georgian, it represented [i] or [j].
  • ⟨ჳ⟩ (vie) represented the diphthong [ui] or [uj]. It holds the same position and numerical value as Ancient Greek's Υυ upsilon, which its Asomtavruli ⟨Ⴣ⟩ and Nuskhuri ⟨ⴣ⟩ versions resemble. Its modern pronunciation is usually like ⟨უ⟩ [u] or ⟨ი⟩ [i].
  • ⟨ჴ⟩ (qar, har) represented [q] or [qʰ], the non-ejective counterpart to ⟨ყ⟩ (q'ar) above. Although this consonant is still distinguished in Svan, its modern pronunciation in Georgian is identical to ⟨ხ⟩ [χ].
  • ⟨ჵ⟩ (hoe), also called oh, represented a long ⟨ო⟩, [oː].
  • ⟨ჶ⟩ (fi) was borrowed to represent the phoneme /f/ in loanwords from Latin and Greek such as ჶილოსოჶია (filosofia, 'philosophy'). Its name and shape derive from Greek. Its modern usage is a feature of Ossetic and Laz when written in the Georgian alphabet. In modern Georgian, ⟨ფ⟩ par replaces fi.
  • ⟨ჷ⟩ (shva), also called yn, represents the mid central vowel [ə]. It appears in written Mingrelian, Laz, and Svan.
  • ⟨ჸ⟩ (elifi) represents the glottal stop [ʔ]. Its name and pronunciation derive from Aramaic. It is used in written Mingrelian and rarely in Laz.
  • ⟨უ̌⟩ or ⟨უ̂⟩ (un-brjgu) represented a short [u] in Old Georgian. It is still differentiated in Svan, Mingrelian, and Laz. In modern Georgian, it becomes ⟨ვ⟩ vin.

Ligatures and abbreviations

Writing in Asomtavruli is often highly stylized. Since the time of Vakhtang I of Iberia in the 5th century, writers readily formed ligatures, intertwined letters, and placed letters within letters. The first ligature below was a feature of 6th-century Sassanid period currency. The second and third examples come from the arch of the David Gareja Monastery, pictured above. Ligatures flourished during the Middle Ages and could represent up to three letters.

Nuskhuri, like Asomtavruli is also often highly stylized. Writers readily formed , I~ui K~e).

In the 11th to 17th centuries, Mkhedruli also came to employ digraphs to the point that they were obligatory, requiring adhesion to a complex system. For example, ⟨დ⟩ don and ⟨ა⟩ an make "da": .

In the older Asomtavruli, the sound /u/ was represented by the digraph ⟨ႭჃ⟩ or as ⟨Ⴓ⟩, a modified ⟨Ⴍ⟩. Nuskhuri saw the combination of the digraph ⟨ⴍⴣ⟩ into a ligature, ⟨ⴓ⟩ (cf. Greek ου, Cyrillic Ѹ/). However, Mkhedruli normally uses only ⟨უ⟩ as opposed to a digraph or ligature, and uses ⟨უ⟩ instead of obsolete ⟨ჳ⟩ (above) to represent the value 400.

Asomtavruli ⟨Ⴂ⟩ gan and ⟨Ⴌ⟩ nar form a ligature.[26] The word da (⟨ႣႠ⟩, "and") in Asomtavruli. The word ars (⟨ႠႰႱ⟩, "be; is") in Asomtavruli. Development of the letter un from a digraph through the three alphabets.


Main article: Georgian calligraphy

Georgian calligraphy is a centuries-old tradition of artistic writing of the Georgian language in its three Georgian alphabets.


This table lists the three alphabets in parallel columns, including the letters that are now obsolete (shown with a blue background). "National" is the transliteration system used by the Georgian government, while "Laz" is the system used in northeastern Turkey for the Laz language. The table also shows the traditional numeric values of the letters.[30]

Letters Unicode
Name IPA Transcriptions Numeric
asomtavruli nuskhuri mkhedruli National ISO 9984 BGN Laz
U+10D0 an // A a A a A a A a 1
U+10D1 ban B b B b B b B b 2
U+10D2 gan G g G g G g G g 3
U+10D3 don D d D d D d D d 4
U+10D4 en E e E e E e E e 5
U+10D5 vin V v V v V v V v 6
U+10D6 zen Z z Z z Z z Z z 7
U+10F1 he - - - - 8
U+10D7 tan T t T' t' T' t' T t 9
U+10D8 in I i I i I i I i 10
U+10D9 k'an K' k' K k K k K' k' 20
U+10DA las L l L l L l L l 30
U+10DB man M m M m M m M m 40
U+10DC nar N n N n N n N n 50
U+10F2 hie , - - - - 60
U+10DD on O o O o O o O o 70
U+10DE p'ar P' p' P p P p P' p' 80
U+10DF zhan Zh zh Ž ž Zh zh J j 90
U+10E0 rae R r R r R r R r 100
U+10E1 san S s S s S s S s 200
U+10E2 t'ar T' t' T t T t T' t' 300
U+10F3 vie // - - - - 400*
U+10E3 un U u U u U u U u 400*
U+10E4 par P p P' p' P' p' P p 500
U+10E5 kan K k K' k' K' k' K k 600
U+10E6 ghan Gh gh Ḡ ḡ Gh gh Ğ ğ 700
U+10E7 q'ar Q' q' Q q Q q Q q 800
U+10E8 shin Sh sh Š š Sh sh Ş ş 900
U+10E9 chin [31] Ch ch Č' č' Ch' ch' Ç ç 1000
U+10EA tsan [31] Ts ts C' c' Ts' ts' Ts ts 2000
U+10EB dzil Dz dz J j Dz dz Ž ž 3000
U+10EC ts'il Ts' ts' C c Ts ts Ts' ts' 4000
U+10ED ch'ar Ch' ch' Č č Ch ch Ç' ç' 5000
U+10EE khan Kh kh X x Kh kh X x 6000
U+10F4 qar, har , - - - - 7000
U+10EF jan J j J̌ ǰ J j C c 8000
U+10F0 hae H h H h H h H h 9000
U+10F5 hoe - - - - 10000
(none) (none) U+10F6 fi  ?  ?  ?  ? (none)

* ჳ and უ have the same numeric value (400).


The Georgian alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0.


In Unicode version 1.0 the U+10A0 ... U+10CF range of the Georgian block represented Khutsuri (Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri). With the release of version 4.1 in March, 2005 Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri were "disunified". The U+10A0 ... U+10CF range of the Georgian block now represents Asomtavruli and the Georgian Supplement block represents Nuskhuri.


The Unicode block for Georgian is U+10A0 ... U+10FF. Mkhedruli (modern Georgian) occupies the U+10D0 ... U+10FF range and Asomtavruli occupies the U+10A0 ... U+10CF range.

The Unicode block for Georgian Supplement is U+2D00 ... U+2D2F and it represents Nuskhuri. chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 6.3
Georgian chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 6.3

Keyboard layout

Main article: Georgian keyboard layout

Most keyboards in Georgia are fitted with both Latin and Georgian letters.

Below is the Georgian QWERTY keyboard. While Georgian has no capital letters, because it has 33 letters and English has only 26, using the shift key is necessary to write Georgian.


See also



External links

  • Reference grammar of Georgian by Howard Aronson (SEELRC, Duke University)
  • Georgian transliteration + Georgian virtual keyboard
  • Direct transliteration Latin ↔ Georgian
  • Georgian fonts, compliant with Unicode 4.0, also available for MAC OS 9 or X
  • Unicode Code Chart (10A0–10FF) for Georgian scripts PDF (105 KB)
  • Transliteration of Georgian PDF (105 KB)

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