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.
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
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:
ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font
specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical
& medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian,
Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic,
Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham,
Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic,
Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: