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Gothic alphabet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Script type
Time period
From c. 350, in decline by 600
DirectionLeft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
Related scripts
Parent systems
Greek script augmented with Latin and possibly Runic (questionable)
  • Gothic
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Goth (206), ​Gothic
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet used for writing the Gothic language. It was developed in the 4th century AD by Ulfilas (or Wulfila), a Gothic preacher of Cappadocian Greek descent, for the purpose of translating the Bible.[1]

The alphabet essentially uses uncial forms of the Greek alphabet, with a few additional letters to express Gothic phonology:

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Ulfilas is thought to have consciously chosen to avoid the use of the older Runic alphabet for this purpose, as it was heavily connected with pagan beliefs and customs.[2] Also, the Greek-based script probably helped to integrate the Gothic nation into the dominant Greco-Roman culture around the Black Sea.[3]


Below is a table of the Gothic alphabet.[4] Two letters used in its transliteration are not used in current English: thorn þ (representing /θ/), and hwair ƕ (representing //).

As with the Greek alphabet, Gothic letters were also assigned numerical values. When used as numerals, letters were written either between two dots (•𐌹𐌱• = 12) or with an overline (𐌹𐌱 = 12). Two letters, 𐍁 (90) and 𐍊 (900), have no phonetic value.

The letter names are recorded in a 9th-century manuscript of Alcuin (Codex Vindobonensis 795). Most of them seem to be Gothic forms of names also appearing in the rune poems. The names are given in their attested forms followed by the reconstructed Gothic forms and their meanings.[5]

Letter Translit. Compare Gothic name PGmc rune name IPA Numeric value XML entity
𐌰 a Α, aza < *ans "god" or *asks "ash" *ansuz /a, aː/ 1 𐌰
𐌱 b Β, Ⲃ bercna < *bairka "birch" *berkanan /b/ [b, β] 2 𐌱
𐌲 g Γ, Ⲅ geuua < giba "gift" *gebō /ɡ/ [ɡ, ɣ, x]; /n/ [ŋ] 3 𐌲
𐌳 d Δ, D, Ⲇ daaz < dags "day" *dagaz /d/ [d, ð] 4 𐌳
𐌴 e Ε, Ⲉ eyz < *aiƕs "horse" or *eiws "yew" *eihwaz, *ehwaz // 5 𐌴
𐌵 q
(Ϛ), ϰ, Ⲋ(?)
quetra < *qairþra ? or qairna "millstone" (see *perþō) // 6 𐌵
𐌶 z Ζ, Ⲍ ezec < (?)[6] Likely related to *idzēta.[7] *algiz /z/ 7 𐌶
𐌷 h Η, Ⲏ haal < *hagal or *hagls "hail" *haglaz /h/, /x/ 8 𐌷
𐌸 þ (th) Φ, Ψ, Ⲑ thyth < þiuþ "good" or þaurnus "thorn" *thurisaz /θ/ 9 𐌸
𐌹 i Ι, Ⲓ iiz < *eis "ice" *īsaz /i/ 10 𐌹
𐌺 k Κ, Ⲕ chozma < *kusma or *kōnja "pine sap" *kaunan /k/ 20 𐌺
𐌻 l Λ, Ⲗ laaz < *lagus "sea, lake" *laguz /l/ 30 𐌻
𐌼 m Μ, Ⲙ manna < manna "man" *mannaz /m/ 40 𐌼
𐌽 n Ν, Ⲛ noicz < nauþs "need" *naudiz /n/ 50 𐌽
𐌾 j G, , Ⲝ(?) gaar < jēr "year, harvest" *jēran /j/ 60 𐌾
𐌿 u , Ⲟ(?) uraz < *ūrus "aurochs" *ūruz /ʊ/, // 70 𐌿
𐍀 p Π, Ⲡ pertra < *pairþa ? *perþō /p/ 80 𐍀
𐍁 Ϙ, Ϥ 90 90 𐍁
𐍂 r R, Ⲣ reda < *raida "wagon" *raidō /r/ 100 𐍂
𐍃 s S, Ⲥ sugil < sauil or *sōjil "sun" *sôwilô /s/ 200 𐍃
𐍄 t Τ, , Ⲧ tyz < *tius "the god Týr" *tīwaz /t/ 300 𐍄
𐍅 w Υ, Ⲩ uuinne < winja "field, pasture" or winna "pain" *wunjō /w/, /y/ 400 𐍅
𐍆 f Ϝ, F, Ⲫ(?) fe < faihu "wealth, chattel" *fehu /ɸ/ 500 𐍆
𐍇 x Χ, Ⲭ enguz < *iggus or *iggws "the god Yngvi" *ingwaz /k/[8] 600 𐍇
𐍈 ƕ (hw) Θ, Ⲯ(?) uuaer < *hwair "kettle" //, /ʍ/ 700 𐍈
𐍉 ō Ω, Ο, , Ⲱ utal < *ōþal "ancestral land" *ōþala // 800 𐍉
𐍊 , Ͳ (Ϡ), Ⳁ 900 𐍊

Most of the letters have been taken over directly from the Greek alphabet, though a few have been created or modified from Latin and possibly (more controversially[9]) Runic letters to express unique phonological features of Gothic. These are:

  • 𐌵 - q; derived either from a form of Greek stigma/digamma (
    ),[9] or from a cursive variant of kappa (ϰ), which could strongly resemble a u.[9]
  • 𐌸 - þ; derived either from Greek phi (Φ) /f/ or psi (Ψ) /ps/ with phonetic reassignment, Runic ,[10] or a cursive form of Ⲑ from the 4th century.[11]
  • 𐌾 - j; derived from Latin G /ɡ/[9]
  • 𐌿 - u; possibly an allograph of Greek Ο (cf. the numerical values), or from Runic /u/)[12]
  • 𐍈 - ƕ; potentially derived from Greek Θ /θ/ with phonetic reassignment; possibly the letterform was switched with 𐌸;[9] also possibly pictographic in nature, with O for rounding and • for aspiration.[13]
  • 𐍉 - o; derived either from Greek Ω or from Runic ,[14] or from a cursive form of Greek Ο, as such a form was more common for omicron than for omega in this time period, and as the sound values of omicron and omega had already merged by this time,[9] though the idea that it was derived from omicron does not explain why omega and 𐍉 occupy the same numerical spot, the similarity between the Gothic alphabet ending with 𐍆 /f/ 𐍇 /x/ 𐍈 /hʷ/ 𐍉 /ō/ and the Greek alphabet ending with Φ Χ Ψ Ω, or the fact that the Gothic alphabet is ordered from 𐌰 to 𐍉 like the Greek alphabet being ordered from Α to Ω.[15]

𐍂 (r), 𐍃 (s) and 𐍆 (f) appear to be derived from their Latin equivalents rather than from the Greek, although the equivalent Runic letters (, and ), assumed to have been part of the Gothic futhark, possibly played some role in this choice.[16] However, Snædal claims that "Wulfila's knowledge of runes was questionable to say the least", as the paucity of inscriptions attests that knowledge and use of runes was rare among the East Germanic peoples.[9] Miller refutes this claim, stating that it is "not implausible" that Wulfila used a runic script in his creation of the Gothic alphabet, noting six other authors—Wimmer, Mensel, Hermann, d'Alquen, Rousseau, and Falluomini—who support the idea of the Gothic alphabet having runic contributions.[15] Some variants of 𐍃 (s) are shaped like a sigma and more obviously derive from the Greek Σ.[9]

𐍇 (x) is only used in proper names and loanwords containing Greek Χ (xristus "Christ", galiugaxristus "Pseudo-Christ", zaxarias "Zacharias", aiwxaristia "eucharist").[17]

Regarding the letters' numeric values, most correspond to those of the Greek numerals. Gothic 𐌵 takes the place of Ϝ (6), 𐌾 takes the place of ξ (60), 𐌿 that of Ο (70), and 𐍈 that of ψ (700).

Diacritics and punctuation

Diacritics and punctuation used in the Codex Argenteus include a trema placed on 𐌹 i, transliterated as ï, in general applied to express diaeresis, the interpunct (·) and colon (:) as well as overlines to indicate sigla (such as xaus for xristaus) and numerals.


The Gothic alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2001 with the release of version 3.1.

The Unicode block for Gothic is U+10330– U+1034F in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane. As older software that uses UCS-2 (the predecessor of UTF-16) assumes that all Unicode codepoints can be expressed as 16 bit numbers (U+FFFF or lower, the Basic Multilingual Plane), problems may be encountered using the Gothic alphabet Unicode range and others outside of the Basic Multilingual Plane.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1033x 𐌰 𐌱 𐌲 𐌳 𐌴 𐌵 𐌶 𐌷 𐌸 𐌹 𐌺 𐌻 𐌼 𐌽 𐌾 𐌿
U+1034x 𐍀 𐍁 𐍂 𐍃 𐍄 𐍅 𐍆 𐍇 𐍈 𐍉 𐍊
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ According to the testimony of the historians Philostorgius, Socrates of Constantinople and Sozomen. Cf. Streitberg (1910:20).
  2. ^ Cf. Jensen (1969:474).
  3. ^ Cf. Haarmann (1991:434).
  4. ^ For a discussion of the Gothic alphabet see also Fausto Cercignani, The Elaboration of the Gothic Alphabet and Orthography, in "Indogermanische Forschungen", 93, 1988, pp. 168–185.
  5. ^ The forms which are not attested in the Gothic corpus are marked with an asterisk. For a detailed discussion of the reconstructed forms, cf. Kirchhoff (1854). For a survey of the relevant literature, cf. Zacher (1855).
  6. ^ Zacher arrives at *iuya, *iwja or *ius, cognate to ON ȳr, OE īw, ēow, OHG īwa "yew tree", though he admits having no ready explanation for the form ezec. Cf. Zacher (1855:10–13).
  7. ^ Miller (2019:22)
  8. ^ Streitberg, p. 47
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Magnús Snædal (2015). "Gothic Contact with Latin" in Early Germanic Languages in Contact, Ed. John Ole Askedal and Hans Frede Nielsen.
  10. ^ Cf. Mees (2002/2003:65)
  11. ^ Marchand (1973:20)
  12. ^ Cf. Kirchhoff (1854:55).
  13. ^ Miller (2019:23)
  14. ^ Haarmann (1991:434).
  15. ^ a b Miller (2019:25)
  16. ^ Cf. Kirchhoff (1854:55–56); Friesen (1915:306–310).
  17. ^ Wright (1910:5).

See also


  • Braune, Wilhelm (1952). Gotische Grammatik. Halle: Max Niemeyer.
  • Cercignani, Fausto (1988). "The Elaboration of the Gothic Alphabet and Orthography", in Indogermanische Forschungen, 93, pp. 168–185.
  • Dietrich, Franz (1862). Über die Aussprache des Gotischen Wärend der Zeit seines Bestehens. Marburg: N. G. Elwert'sche Universitätsbuchhandlung.
  • Friesen, Otto von (1915). "Gotische Schrift" in Hoops, J. Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Bd. II. pp. 306–310. Strassburg: Karl J. Trübner.
  • Haarmann, Harald (1991). Universalgeschichte der Schrift. Frankfurt: Campus.
  • Jensen, Hans (1969). Die Schrift in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.
  • Kirchhoff, Adolf (1854). Das gothische Runenalphabet. Berlin: Wilhelm Hertz.
  • Mees, Bernard (2002/2003). "Runo-Gothica: the runes and the origin of Wulfila's script", in Die Sprache, 43, pp. 55–79.
  • Streitberg, Wilhelm (1910). Gotisches Elementarbuch. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.
  • Weingärtner, Wilhelm (1858). Die Aussprache des Gotischen zur Zeit Ulfilas. Leipzig: T. O. Weigel.
  • Wright, Joseph (1910). Grammar of the Gothic Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Zacher, Julius (1855). Das gothische Alphabet Vulvilas und das Runenalphabet. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.
  • Miller, Gary (2019). The Oxford Gothic Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Marchand, James (1973). The Sounds and Phonemes of Wulfila's Gothic. De Gruyter Mouton.

External links

This page was last edited on 10 June 2024, at 23:48
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