Bulgarian Alphabet
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Bulgarian Alphabet
A modern form of the Bulgarian alphabet, derived from the cursive forms of the letters

The Bulgarian alphabet is used to write the Bulgarian language.


In AD 886, the Bulgarian Empire introduced the Glagolitic alphabet, devised by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic script, developed around the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria at the end of the 9th century.

Several Cyrillic alphabets with 28 to 44 letters were used in the early and middle 19th century during the efforts[clarification needed] on the codification of Modern Bulgarian until an alphabet with 32 letters, proposed by Marin Drinov, gained prominence in the 1870s: it was used until the orthographic reform of 1945, when the letters yat (uppercase ?, lowercase ?) and yus (uppercase ?, lowercase ?) were removed from its alphabet, reducing the number of letters to 30. Yat was also known as "double e" ( ?/?-), and yus was also known as "big nasal sign" ( ?), crossed yer (? ), and "wide yer" ( ?).

The Bulgarian alphabet

With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, the Cyrillic script became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek scripts.[1]


The following table gives the letters of the Bulgarian alphabet, along with the IPA values for the sound of each letter. The listed transliteration in the Official transliteration column (known as the Streamlined System) is official in Bulgaria and is listed in the Official orthographic dictionary (2012). For other transliteration standards see Romanization of Bulgarian.

Bulgarian alphabet[a] ISO 9 Official transliteration IPA[b] Name of letter English equivalent
? ? (?) A a A a /a/, /?/ or /?/ ? a as in "apart"
? ? B b B b /b/ or /p/ b as in "bug"
? ? (?) V v V v /v/ or /f/ v as in "vet"
? ? (?) G g G g /?/ or /k/ g as in "good"
? ?/? (?/?)[c] D d D d /d/ or /t/ d as in "dog"
? ? E e E e /?/ ? e as in "best"
? ? ? ? Zh zh /?/ or /?/ s as in "treasure"
? ? Z z Z z /z/ or /s/ z as in "zoo"
? ? (?) I i I i /i/ ? i as in "machine"
? ? (?) J j Y y /j/ ? y as in "yes" or "yoyo"
? ? K k K k /k/ or /?/

k as in "kick"

? ? (?) L l L l /l/ before ? and ?, /?/ before ?, ? and ?, /?/ elsewhere l as in "call" or "lend"
? ? M m M m /m/ m as in "man"
? ? N n N n /n/ n as in "normal"
? ? O o O o /?/, /o/ ? o as in "order"
? ? (?) P p P p /p/ or /b/ p as in "pet"
? ? R r R r /r/ trilled r as in Spanish "perro"
? ? S s S s /s/ or /z/ s as in "sound"
? ? (?) T t T t /t/ or /d/ t as in "stick"
? ? U u U u /u/, /o/ or /?/ ? as in "boot"
? ? F f F f /f/ or /v/ f as in "food"
? ? H h H h /x/ ch as in Scottish "loch"
? ? (?) C c Ts ts /t?s/ ts as in "fits"
? ? ? ? Ch ch /t/ ch as in "chip"
? ? (?) ? ? Sh sh /?/ or /?/ sh as in "shot"
? ? (?) ?t ?t[d] Sht sht /?t/ sht as in "shtick"
? ? ? ?[d] A a /?/, /?/ or /?/ u as in "turn"
? ? ' [d] Y y /j/ or not pronounced soft sign: y as in "canyon"
? ? Ju ju[d] Yu yu /ju/, /jo/, /?u/ or /?o/ ? yu as in "youth"
? ? Ja ja[d] Ya ya /ja/, /j?/, /?a/ or // ? ya as in "yarn"
  1. ^ Lowercase cursive characters are shown in brackets when they look significantly different from their corresponding roman type. See Letterforms and typography of Cyrillic script for more information.
  2. ^ See Help:IPA/Bulgarian for details.
  3. ^ For ?, ? is used.
  4. ^ a b c d e The romanizations of these characters differ from the current version, ISO 9:1995, as it[clarification needed] was never officially adopted as a Bulgarian standard.

Most letters in the Bulgarian alphabet stand for just one specific sound. Five letters stand for sounds written in English with two or more letters. These letters are ? (ch), ? (sh), ? (sht), ? (yu), and ? (ya). Two additional sounds are written with two letters: these are (/d?/) and (/dz/). The letter ? marks the softening (palatalization) of any consonant (except ?, ?, and ?) before the letter ?, while ? and ? after consonants mark the palatalization of the preceding consonant in addition to representing the vowels /u/ and /a/.[2]

A letter that represents a voiced consonant can represent its voiceless counterpart and vice versa when adjacent to a voiceless or voiced consonant, respectively, or when a voiced consonant is the final consonant in a syllable, for example: ? /'ft?rnik/ "Tuesday", /'n/ "knife", /'z?rad?/ "building", /'svadb?/ "wedding".

The names of most letters are simple representations of their phonetic values, with consonants being followed by /?/ - thus the alphabet goes: /a/ - /b?/ - /v?/, etc. However, the name of the letter ? is "i-kratko" (short i), the name of ? is "er-golyam" (large yer), and the name of ? is "er-malak" (small yer). People often refer to ? simply as /?/.

The grave accent is used to distinguish the pronoun ⟨?⟩ 'her' from the conjunction ⟨?⟩ 'and'. ? is not considered a separate letter but rather a special form of ?.


Bulgarian is usually described as having a phonemic orthography, meaning that words are spelt the way they are pronounced. This is largely true, but there are exceptions. Three of the most cited examples are:

  • The sounds [?] and [o], which appear only in unstressed syllables, are written with two different letters each - "?" or "?", and "?" or "?" respectively.
  • The vowel in stressed verb endings -?, -, -? and - and the stressed short definite articles -a and -? is pronounced [?]. Thus ? ("I read") is pronounced [te't?], and ? ("the man") is pronounced [m?'].
  • Voiced consonants are pronounced unvoiced when at the end of a word or when preceding an unvoiced consonant - e.g. ("second") is pronounced ['ft?ri], and ? ("city") is pronounced ['?rat]. Similarly, unvoiced consonants are pronounced voiced when preceding a voiced consonant - e.g. ("building") is ['z?rad?]. (The voiced consonant "?" is an exception - it does not cause the preceding unvoiced consonant to become voiced - (wedding) is ['svadb?].)

Modern developments

Cyrillic Script Monument at the Bulgarian base in Antarctica

Since the time of Bulgaria's liberation in the late 19th century, the Bulgarian language has taken on a large number of words from Western European languages. All of these are transcribed phonetically into Cyrillic, e.g.:

  • French - e.g. ? (trottoir - sidewalk), (tire-bouchon - corkscrew), (from par terre - ground floor)
  • German - e.g. ? (Bind - bandage), (Bagger - digger), (Bohrmaschine - drill)

Notable is the transliteration of many English names through German, e.g.:

  • Washington -> (Vashington), Scotland -> (Shotlandiya)

In the years since the end of communism and the rise of technology, the tendency for borrowing has shifted mainly to English, where much computer-related terminology has entered and been inflected accordingly - again, in a wholly phonetic way. Examples include:

  • ? (click-vam na file-a) - I click on the file
  • (download-vash go na desktop-a) - you download it onto the desktop
  • ? ? (chat-im v net-a) - we chat on the net

The computer-related neologisms are often used interchangeably with traditional Bulgarian words, e.g. 'download' and 'upload' can be simply and (svalyam and kachvam - 'to bring down' and 'to put up').

Use of Roman script in Bulgarian

The insertion of English words directly into a Cyrillic Bulgarian sentence, while frowned upon, has been increasingly used in the media. This is done for several reasons, including -

  • To shorten what would otherwise be a longer word or phrase -
US ? ?[3] (instead of - American)
The Yanks oppose more US troops in Afghanistan
  • To avoid the need to transcribe to Cyrillic or translate to Bulgarian well known abbreviations:
? SOPA, PIPA ? ACTA[4] (instead of, for example, ?, ? ? ?)
We have not seen the end of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA

Brand names are also often not transcribed: WikiLeaks, YouTube, Skype - as opposed to , ?-, . However, this is not always the case, as in the headline "? vs. "[5] (official transliteration: Feysbuk vs. Gugal). Note the inconsistency here - despite the insistence on Cyrillic, the "vs." has been retained in Roman script.

The 2012 Official Orthographic Dictionary of the Bulgarian Language by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences permits widely known proper names to remain in their original alphabet. Example sentences are given, all containing names of American IT companies: Yahoo, Microsoft, YouTube, PayPal, Facebook.

See also


  1. ^ Leonard Orban (24 May 2007). "Cyrillic, the third official alphabet of the EU, was created by a truly multilingual European" (PDF). europe.eu. Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ pg. 11-12 of ? ? ? ?. (Orthography and punctuation of the Bulgarian language). Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. 2011.
  3. ^ The Yanks oppose more US troops in Afghanistan Archived April 12, 2015, at the Wayback Machine (in Bulgarian) Monitor.bg, 13 Nov 2009. Retrieved 16 Sept 2012.
  4. ^ Resource: We are aware that we have not seen the end of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA (in Bulgarian) Darik News, 23 Feb 2012. Retrieved 16 Sept 2012.
  5. ^ "Standart News". Archived from the original on 2015-09-26. Retrieved .

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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