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Old Turkic / Orkhon   Old Turkic (Göktürk)

The earliest known examples of writing in any Turkic language were found in the Orkhon river valley in Mongolia in the 19th century. They date from the early 8th century AD and the script in which they are written is known as the Orkhon alphabet, or the Old Turkic script, the Göktürk script, or the Orkhon-Yenisey script. Inscriptions dating from the later 8th century AD in a slight variant of the Orkhon alphabet, known as Yenisei or Siberian runes, have also been found around Yenisei and other parts of Siberia.

Because of a superficial resemblance to the Runic alphabet, the alphabet is also known as Orkhon or Turkic runes. This resemblance is probably a result of the writing materials used - most inscriptions are in hard surfaces, such as stone or wood, and curved lines are difficult to inscribe in such surfaces.

The Orkhon alphabet is thought to have been derived from or inspired by a non-cursive version of the Sogdian script. By the 9th century AD, the Orkhon and Yenisei alphabets were replaced by the Uighur alphabet, which developed from the cursive version of the Sogdian script.

Notable features

Orkhon alphabet

Orkhon alphabet

Orkhon alphabet (Yenisei variant)

Orkhon alphabet (Yenisei variant)

Download an alphabet chart for Old Turkic (Excel)

Sample text

Sample text in Old Turkic


Türk Oguz begleri, bodun, eşidin üze Tengri basmasar asra yir telinmeser Türk bodun ilinin, törüngün kim artatı udaçı erti?

A recording of this text by Görkem

Modern Turkish version

Türk Oğuz beyleri, kavmi, işitin; üstte gök (Tanrı) bastırmasa, altta yer delinmese Türk kavmi; ilini, töreni kim bozabilirdi?

English version

Türk Oguz chieftains, clans, listen; unless the sky (Sky is also God) crushes, the ground punctures Turk clans; who could ever destroy your land and law?


Information about the Orkhon alphabet and Old Turkic language

Orkhon font

Turkic languages


Other writing systems

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