Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → , Cyrillic → , Greek → the digraph , Armenian → or Latin → . For instance, for the
Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the official standardized form of the l ...
term "", which is usually translated as "
Hellenic Republic Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one ...
", the usual transliteration to
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is a set of graphic signs (Writing system#General properties, script) based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet. This is derived from a form of the Cumae alphabet, Cumaean Greek version of the ...
is , and the name for
Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering and encompassing mo ...
Cyrillic script , bg, кирилица , mk, кирилица , russian: кириллица , sr, ћирилица, uk, кирилиця , fam1 = Egyptian hieroglyphs , fam2 = Proto-Sinaitic , fam3=Phoenician , fam4= Greek script augmented by Glagolitic , ...
, "", is usually transliterated as . Transliteration is not primarily concerned with representing the sounds of the original but rather with representing the characters, ideally accurately and unambiguously. Thus, in the Greek above example, is transliterated though it is pronounced , is transliterated though pronounced , and is transliterated , though it is pronounced (exactly like ) and is not
long Long may refer to: Places * Long, Somme, a commune in northern France * Long, Washington, a community in the United States * Long District, Laos * Long District, Phrae, Thailand * The River Long, or Longjiang (disambiguation), Longjiang (literally ...
. Conversely, transcription notes the sounds rather than the orthography of a text. So "" could be transcribed as , which does not specify which of the sounds are written with the Greek letter and which with .
Angle brackets A bracket is either of two tall fore- or back-facing punctuation marks commonly used to isolate a segment of text or data from its surroundings. Typically deployed in symmetric pairs, an individual bracket may be identified as a ''left'' or ...
may be used to set off transliteration, as opposed to slashes and square brackets for phonetic transcription. Angle brackets may also be used to set off characters in the original script. Conventions and author preferences vary.


Systematic transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another, typically
grapheme In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
to grapheme. Most transliteration systems are
one-to-one One-to-one or one to one may refer to: Mathematics and communication *One-to-one function, also called an injective function *One-to-one correspondence, also called a bijective function *One-to-one (communication), the act of an individual commun ...
, so a reader who knows the system can reconstruct the original spelling. Transliteration is opposed to transcription, which maps the '' sounds'' of one language into a writing system. Still, most systems of transliteration map the letters of the source script to letters pronounced similarly in the target script, for some specific pair of source and target language. If the relations between letters and sounds are similar in both languages, a transliteration may be very close to a transcription. In practice, there are some mixed transliteration/transcription systems that transliterate a part of the original script and transcribe the rest. For many script pairs, there is one or more standard transliteration systems. However, unsystematic transliteration is common.

Difference from transcription

In Modern Greek language, Greek, the letters ⟨η⟩ ⟨ι⟩ ⟨υ⟩ and the letter combinations ⟨ει⟩ ⟨oι⟩ ⟨υι⟩ are pronounced (except when pronounced as semivowels), and a modern transcription renders them all as ⟨i⟩; but a transliteration distinguishes them, for example by transliterating to ⟨ē⟩ ⟨i⟩ ⟨y⟩ and ⟨ei⟩ ⟨oi⟩ ⟨yi⟩. (As the ancient pronunciation of ⟨η⟩ was , it is often transliterated as an ⟨e⟩ with a Macron (diacritic), macron, even for modern texts.) On the other hand, ⟨ευ⟩ is sometimes pronounced and sometimes , depending on the following sound. A transcription distinguishes them, but this is no requirement for a transliteration. The initial letter 'h' reflecting the historical rough breathing in words such as Ellēnikē should logically be omitted in transcription from Koine Greek on, and from transliteration from Greek diacritics, 1982 on, but it is nonetheless frequently encountered.


A simple example of difficulties in transliteration is the Arabic letter qāf. It is pronounced, in literary Arabic, approximately like English [k], except that the tongue makes contact not on the soft palate but on the uvula, but the pronunciation varies between different dialects of Arabic. The letter is sometimes transliterated into "g", sometimes into "q" and rarely even into "k" in English.Language log
/ref> Another example is the Russian letter Kha (Cyrillic), "Х" (kha). It is pronounced as the voiceless velar fricative , like the Scottish pronunciation of in "loch". This sound is not present in most forms of English and is often transliterated as "kh" as in Nikita Khrushchev. Many languages have phonemic sounds, such as click consonants, which are quite unlike any phoneme in the language into which they are being transliterated. Some languages and Writing system, scripts present particular difficulties to transcribers. These are discussed on separate pages. * Ancient Near East ** Transliterating cuneiform languages ** Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian (''see also'' Egyptian hieroglyphs) ** Hieroglyphic Luwian language, Luwian * Armenian language * Avestan language, Avestan * Brahmic family ** Devanagari: see Devanagari transliteration ** Pali ** Tocharian languages, Tocharian ** Malayalam: see Romanization of Malayalam * Chinese language ** Transcription into Chinese characters ** Romanization of Chinese ** Cyrillization of Chinese * Click consonant, Click languages of Africa ** Khoisan languages ** Bantu languages * English language ** Hebraization of English * Greek language ** Romanization of Greek ** Greek alphabet ** Linear B ** Greeklish * Japanese language ** Romanization of Japanese ** Cyrillization of Japanese * Korean language ** Romanization of Korean * Persian language ** Persian alphabet *** Tajik alphabet, Cyrillic alphabet *** Romanization of Persian *** Fingilish, Persian chat alphabet * Semitic languages ** Ugaritic alphabet ** Hebrew alphabet *** Romanization of Hebrew ** Arabic alphabet *** Romanization of Arabic *** Arabic chat alphabet * Slavic languages written in the Cyrillic script, Cyrillic or Glagolitic alphabets ** Romanization of Belarusian ** Romanization of Bulgarian ** Romanization of Russian ** Romanization of Macedonian ** Romanization of Serbian ** Romanization of Ukrainian ** Volapuk encoding * Thai language ** Romanization of Thai * Urdu language, Urdu Language **Romanization of Urdu


* Buckwalter transliteration * Devanagari transliteration * Hans Wehr transliteration * International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration * Scientific transliteration of Cyrillic * Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian * Transliterations of Manchu * Wylie transliteration

See also

* Cyrillization * International Components for Unicode *
Latin script Latin script, also known as Roman script, is a set of graphic signs (Writing system#General properties, script) based on the letters of the classical Latin alphabet. This is derived from a form of the Cumae alphabet, Cumaean Greek version of the ...
* List of ISO transliterations * Orthographic transcription * Phonemic orthography * Phonetic transcription * Romanization * Spread of the Latin script * Substitution cipher * Transcription (linguistics)


External links

International Components for Unicode transliteration services

– history of the transliteration of Slavic languages into Latin alphabets.
Transliteration of Non-Latin scripts
– Collection of transliteration tables for many non-Latin scripts maintained by Thomas T. Pedersen.

United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN)
– working group on Romanization Systems.
Library of Congress: Romanization Tables

implements google transliteration library and also allows to create To-Do Lists in English and Transliterated Languages.
Usage of Transliterations
– condensed description of the definition of transliteration and its usage. * G. Gerych
Transliteration of Cyrillic Alphabets.
Ottawa University, April 1965. 126 pp. – historical overview of the concept of transliteration and its evolution and application {{Authority control Transliteration,