Ancient Latin alphabet
The earliest known inscriptions in the Latin alphabet date from the 6th century BC. It was adapted from the Etruscan alphabet during the 7th century BC. The letters Y and Z were taken from the Greek alphabet to write Greek loan words. Other letters were added from time to time as the Latin alphabet was adapted for other languages.
- Type of writing system: alphabet
- Direction of writing: right to left, boustrophedon or left to right
- Used to write: Latin
Ancient Latin alphabet
This is one version of the Ancient Latin alphabet. Many of the letters have serveral different shapes in different inscriptions and texts.
Other versions of the Latin alphabet
Roman alphabet for Latin
The Romans used just 23 letters to write Latin:
There were no lower case letters at first, and K. Y and Z used only for writing words of Greek origin. The letters J. U and W were added to the alphabet at a later stage to write languages other than Latin. J is a variant of I. U is a variant of V. and W was introduced as a ‘double-v’ to make a distinction between the sounds we know as ‘v’ and ‘w’ which was unnecessary in Latin.
Modern Latin alphabet
The modern Latin alphabet consists of 52 letters, including both upper and lower case, plus 10 numerals, punctuation marks and a variety of other symbols such as . % and @. Many languages add a variety of accents to the basic letters, and a few also use extra letters and ligatures.
The lowercase letters developed from cursive versions of the uppercase letters.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
Accented letters & special characters
Many languages supplement the basic Latin alphabet with a variety of accented letters:
These accented letters can have a number of different functions:
- Modifying the pronunciation of a letter
- Indicating where the stress should fall in a word
- Indicating emphasis in a sentence
- Indicating pitch or intonation of a word or syllable
- Indicating vowel length
- Visually distinguishing homophones
Some extra letters
Eth, Thorn, Yogh and Wynn were used in Old English ; Eth and Thorn are also used in Icelandic ; the long s was used in English and other languages to write non-final esses until about the late 18th / early 19th century; the dotted upper case i and dotless lowercase i are used in Turkish. and the schwa is used in Azeri. The other letters are used in various other languages, particularly those spoken in West Africa.
Ligatures (two or three letters joined together)
These are used in a number of languages including French, German, Icelandic, Croatian and Dutch:
Click here to find out how to type ligatures in Windows. Mac and HTML
Some of the languages written with the Latin alphabet