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Tibetan (བོད་སྐད)   བོད་སྐད

Tibetan is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 6 million people in China (Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan), India, Bhutan, and Nepal. In Mongolia Tibetan is considered the Classical language of Buddhism and was widely taught until quite recently.

Before 1949-50, Tibet comprised of three provinces: Amdo, now split between the Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan provinces; Kham, now largely incorporated into the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai, and U-Tsang, which, together with western Kham, is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region, which was created in 1965.

During the 7th Century AD Songstem Gampo [སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ་] (569-649AD), the 33rd king of the Yarlung Dynasty of southern Tibet and the first Emperor of Tibet, sent Thonmi Sambhota, one of his ministers, to India to gather information on Buddhism. The minister then reputedly devised a script for Tibetan based on the Devanagari model and also wrote a grammar of Tibetan based on Sanskrit grammars.

The new Tibetan alphabet was used to write Tibetan translations of Buddhists texts. The first Sanskrit-Tibetan dictionary, Mahavyutpatti, appeared in the 9th century. Wood block printing, introduced from China, was used in Tibet from an early date and is still used in a few monasteries.

Tibetan literature is mainly concerned with Buddhist themes and includes works translated from Sanskrit and Chinese and original Tibetan works. There are also literary works about the Bon religion, a pre-Buddhist religion indigenous to Tibet. The most unusual genre of Tibetan literature is that of gter-ma (གཏེར་མ་) or 'rediscovered' texts - reputedly the work of ancient masters which have been hidden in remote caves for many centuries.

Notable features

The Tibetan alphabet

The form of the alphabet shown below, known as u-chen (དབུ་ཅན་) is used for printing. Cursive versions of the alphabet, such as the gyuk yig or 'flowing script' (རྒྱུག་ཡིག་) are used for informal writing.


Tibetan consonants

Vowels diacritics

Tibetan vowel diacritics

Conjunct consonants

Standard letter combinations in Tibetan


This table includes the standard consonant combinations used for native Tibetan words. It does not include other combinations found in common loan words or the thousands of combinations used for translitterating Sanskrit words in religious texts.



Tibetan numerals

Punctuation and other symbols

Tibetan punctuation and other symbols


Download a Tibetan alphabet chart in Excel, Word or PDF format

Sample text in the u-chen script (དབུ་ཅན་)

འགྲོ་བ་མིའི་རིགས་རྒྱུད་ཡོངས་ལ་སྐྱེས་ཙམ་ཉིད་ནས་ཆེ་མཐོངས་དང༌། ཐོབ་ཐངགི་རང་དབང་འདྲ་མཉམ་དུ་ཡོད་ལ། ཁོང་ཚོར་རང་བྱུང་གི་བློ་རྩལ་དང་བསམ་ཚུལ་བཟང་པོ་འདོན་པའི་འོས་བབས་ཀྱང་ཡོད། དེ་བཞིན་ཕན་ཚུན་གཅིག་གིས་གཅིག་ལ་བུ་སྤུན་གྱི་འདུ་ཤེས་འཛིན་པའི་བྱ་སྤྱོད་ཀྱང་ལག་ལེན་བསྟར་དགོས་པ་ཡིན༎

Sample text in the gyuk yig script (རྒྱུག་ཡིག་)

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tibetan (gyuk yig script)


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample video in Tibetan

Tibetan script for Sanskrit

These are the Tibetan letters used to write Sanskrit. Some of them are not used in Tibetan.

Tibetan consonants for writing Sanskrit words

Information about Tibetan | Phrases | Tower of Babel | Learning materials


Information about the Tibetan language and alphabet

Online Tibetan lessons

Tibetan phrases

Tibetan dictionaries

Nitartha international - Tibetan software and online dictionary

Languages and dialects of Tibet

The Tibetan language Institute - teaches Tibetan in Hamilton, Montana, USA

PechaMaker - a tool for creation of Tibetan Pecha

Tibetan calligraphy

Online Tibetan language news and radio

Tibetan songs

Tibetan fonts and software

ATTU - ANSI Tibetan to Unicode font convertor

Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library (THDL)

Tibetan Government in Exile's Official Web Site (includes information on Tibetan language and culture):

Khagyun: Stories from the Tibetan Diaspora

Information about Tibetan medicine, buddhism and calligraphy (in French and English)

Tibet Travel Tips

Some of the writing systems used to write Sanskrit

Tibeto-Burman languages

Achang, Arakanese, Balti, Bantawa, Bisu, Burmese, Dzongkha, Garo, Hajong, Hmar, Karen, Kayah Li, Ladakhi, Lahu, Lepcha, Limbu, Lisu, Manipuri, Marma, Mro, Naxi, Nepal Bhasa / Newari, Sikkimese, Sunuwar, Tibetan, Tshangla, Tujia, Yi

Languages written with the Tibetan alphabet

Balti, Bokar, Dzongkha (Bhutanese), Ladakhi, Sikkimese, Tibetan, Tshangla

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

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