Cyrillic alphabet (Serbian: српска
ћирилица/srpska ćirilica, pronounced [sr̩̂pskaː
t͡ɕirǐlit͡sa]) is an adaptation of the
Cyrillic script for the
Serbian language, developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk
Karadžić. It is one of the two alphabets used to write standard
modern Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin, the other being Latin.
Karadžić based his alphabet on the previous "Slavonic-Serbian"
script, following the principle of "write as you speak and read as it
is written", removing obsolete letters and letters representing
iotified vowels, introducing ⟨J⟩ from the
Latin alphabet instead,
and adding several consonant letters for sounds specific to Serbian
phonology. During the same period, Croatian linguists led by Ljudevit
Gaj adapted the Latin alphabet, in use in western South Slavic areas,
using the same principles. As a result of this joint effort, Cyrillic
and Latin alphabets for Serbo-Croatian have a complete one-to-one
congruence, with the Latin digraphs Lj, Nj, and Dž counting as single
Cyrillic alphabet was officially adopted in
Serbia in 1868, and
was in exclusive use in the country up to the inter-war period. Both
alphabets were co-official in the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later in
the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Due to the shared
Gaj's Latin alphabet
Gaj's Latin alphabet saw a gradual adoption in Serbia
since, and both scripts are used to write modern standard Serbian,
Montenegrin and Bosnian; Croatian only uses the Latin alphabet. In
Cyrillic is seen as being more traditional, and has the
official status (designated in the Constitution as the "official
script", compared to Latin's status of "script in official use"
designated by a lower-level act). It is also an official script in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, along with Latin.
Cyrillic alphabet was used as a basis for the Macedonian
alphabet with the work of
Krste Misirkov and Venko Markovski.
1 Official use
2 Modern alphabet
3 Early history
3.1 Early Cyrillic
3.2 Medieval Serbian Cyrillic
4 Karadžić's reform
5 Modern history
5.2 World War II
5.4 Contemporary period
7 Differences from other
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Cyrillic is in official use in Serbia,
Montenegro and Bosnia and
Herzegovina. Although the
Bosnian language "officially accept[s]
both alphabets", the Latin script is almost always used in the
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whereas
Cyrillic is in
everyday use in Republika Srpska (and is used only by the Serbs in
the country). The
Serbian language in
Croatia is officially
recognized as a minority language, however, the use of
bilingual signs has sparked protests and vandalism.
Cyrillic is an important symbol of Serbian identity. In Serbia,
official documents are printed in
Cyrillic only even though,
according to a 2014 survey, 47% of the Serbian population write in the
Latin alphabet whereas 36% write in Cyrillic.
The following table provides the upper and lower case forms of the
Cyrillic alphabet, along with the equivalent forms in the
Latin alphabet and the International Phonetic
value for each letter:
Serbian cyrillic (Times New Roman)
See also: History of Serbia
Serbian Cyrillic, from Comparative orthography of European languages.
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić "Srpske narodne pjesme" (Serbian
folk poems), Vienna, 1841
Main article: Early Cyrillic
According to tradition, Glagolitic was invented by the Byzantine
Christian missionaries and brothers Cyril and Methodius in the 860s,
amid the Christianization of the Slavs. Glagolitic appears to be
older, predating the introduction of Christianity, only formalized by
Cyril and expanded to cover non-Greek sounds.
Cyrillic was created by
the orders of Boris I of Bulgaria by Cyril's disciples, perhaps at the
Preslav Literary School
Preslav Literary School in the 890s.
The earliest form of
Cyrillic was the ustav, based on Greek uncial
script, augmented by ligatures and letters from the Glagolitic
alphabet for consonants not found in Greek. There was no distinction
between capital and lowercase letters. The literary Slavic language
was based on the Bulgarian dialect of Thessaloniki.
Medieval Serbian Cyrillic
See also: Serbian manuscripts
Part of the Serbian literary heritage of the Middle Ages are works
such as Vukan Gospels, St. Sava's Nomocanon, Dušan's Code, Munich
Serbian Psalter, and others. The first printed book in Serbian was the
Cetinje Octoechos (1494).
Vuk Karadžić (1787–1864) fled
Serbia during the Serbian Revolution
in 1813, to Vienna. There he met Slovene
Jernej Kopitar linguist and
slavist, who along with Austrian Serb philologist
Sava Mrkalj helped
Vuk reform the
Serbian language and its orthography. Karadžić
finalized the alphabet in 1818 with the Serbian Dictionary.
Karadžić reformed the Serbian literary language and standardised the
Cyrillic alphabet by following strict phonemic principles on
the Johann Christoph Adelung' model and Jan Hus' Czech alphabet.
Karadžić's reforms of the Serbian literary language modernised it
and distanced it from Serbian and Russian Church Slavonic, instead
bringing it closer to common folk speech, specifically, to the Eastern
Herzegovinian dialect which he himself spoke. Karadžić was, together
with scholar Đuro Daničić, the main Serbian signatory to the Vienna
Literary Agreement of 1850 which, encouraged by Austrian authorities,
laid the foundation for the Serbian language, various forms of which
are used by Serbs in Serbia, Montenegro,
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Croatia today. Karadžić also translated the
New Testament into
Serbian, which was published in 1868.
He wrote several books; Mala prostonarodna slaveno-serbska pesnarica
and Pismenica serbskoga jezika in 1814, and two more in 1815 and 1818,
all with the alphabet still in progress. In his letters from 1815-1818
he used: Ю, я, Ы and Ѳ. In his 1815 song book he dropped the
The alphabet was officially adopted in 1868, four years after his
From the Old Slavic script Vuk retained these 24 letters:
He added one Latin letter:
And 5 new ones:
Ѥ ѥ (yе)
Ѣ, ѣ (yat)
І ї (i)
Ѵ ѵ (i)
Ѹ ѹ (u)
Ѡ ѡ (о)
Ѧ ѧ (small yus)
Ѫ ѫ (big yus)
Ы ы (yeri, hard i)
Ю ю (yu)
Ѿ ѿ (оt)
Ѳ ѳ (t)
Ѕ ѕ (dz)
Щ щ (sht)
Ѯ ѯ (ks)
Ѱ ѱ (ps)
Ъ ъ (hard sign)
Ь ь (soft sign)
Я я (yа)
Orders issued on the 3 and 13 October 1914 banned the use of Serbian
Cyrillic in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, limiting it for use in
religious instruction. A decree was passed on January 3, 1915, that
Cyrillic completely from public use. An imperial order
in October 25, 1915, banned the use of Serbian
Cyrillic in the
Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, except "within the scope of
Serb Orthodox Church authorities".
World War II
On April 25, 1941, Grand Mufti
Haj Amin al-Husseini
Haj Amin al-Husseini of Jerusalem, who
was made chief architect of the Nazi German offensive in Bosnia, had
Cyrillic outlawed. In 1941, the Nazi puppet Independent
Croatia banned the use of Cyrillic, having regulated it
on 25 April 1941, and in June 1941 began eliminating "Eastern"
(Serbian) words from the Croatian language, and shut down Serbian
Cyrillic script was one of the two official scripts used
to write the
Serbo-Croatian language in
Yugoslavia since its
establishment in 1918, the other being Latin script (latinica).
With the collapse of
Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbo-Croatian was
divided into its variants on ethnic lines (as it had been in
pre-Yugoslav times) and
Cyrillic is no longer used officially in
Croatia, while in Serbia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Cyrillic stayed the official constitutional script.
Under the Constitution of
Serbia of 2006,
Cyrillic script is the only
one in official use.
The ligatures ⟨Љ⟩ and ⟨Њ⟩, together with ⟨Џ⟩, ⟨Ђ⟩
and ⟨Ћ⟩ were developed specially for the Serbian alphabet.
Karadžić based the letters ⟨Љ⟩ and ⟨Њ⟩ on a design by Sava
Mrkalj, combining the letters ⟨Л⟩ (L) and ⟨Н⟩ (N) with the
soft sign (Ь).
Karadžić based ⟨Џ⟩ on letter "Gea" in the Romanian Cyrillic
⟨Ћ⟩ was adopted by Karadžić to represent the voiceless
alveolo-palatal affricate (IPA: /tɕ/). The letter was based on, but
different in appearance to, the letter Djerv, which is the 12th letter
of the Glagolitic alphabet; that letter had been used in written
Serbian since the 12th century, to represent /ɡʲ/, dʲ/ and /dʑ/.
Karadžić adopted a design by
Lukijan Mušicki for the letter
⟨Ђ⟩. It was based on the letter ⟨Ћ⟩, as adapted by
⟨Ј⟩ was adopted from the Latin alphabet.
⟨Љ⟩, ⟨Њ⟩ and ⟨Џ⟩ were later adopted for use in the
Differences from other
There are non-italic and italic glyphs of some letters б, г, д, п,
т in different languages; note that both forms of д are quite
acceptable in handwritten Russian cursive
Cyrillic does not use several letters encountered in other
Cyrillic alphabets. It does not use hard sign (ъ) and soft
sign (ь), but the aforementioned soft-sign ligatures instead. It does
not have Russian/Belorussian Э, the semi-vowels Й or Ў, nor the
iotated letters Я (Russian/Bulgarian ya), Є (Ukrainian ye), Ї (yi),
Ё (Russian yo) or Ю (yu), which are instead written as two separate
letters: Ja, Je, Jи, Jo, Jy. J can also be used as a semi-vowel, in
place of й. The letter Щ is not used. When necessary, it is
transliterated as either ШЧ or ШT.
Serbian and Macedonian italic and cursive forms of lowercase letters
б, г, д, п, and т, differ from those used in other Cyrillic
alphabets (in Serbian ш can optionally be underlined, whereas in
Macedonian it is never underlined). That presents an obstacle in
Unicode modeling, as the glyphs differ only in italic versions, and
historically non-italic letters have been used in the same code
positions. Serbian professional typography uses fonts specially
crafted for the language to overcome the problem, but texts printed
from common computers contain East Slavic rather than Serbian italic
Cyrillic fonts from Adobe, Microsoft (Windows Vista
and later) and a few other font houses include the
Serbian variations (both regular and italic).
If the underlying font and Web technology provides support, the proper
glyphs can be obtained by marking the text with appropriate language
codes. Thus, in non-italic mode:
<span lang="sr">бгдпт</span>, produces бгдпт,
same (except for the shape of б) as
<span lang="ru">бгдпт</span>, producing бгдпт
<span lang="sr" style="font-style:
italic">бгдпт</span> gives бгдпт, and
<span lang="ru" style="font-style:
italic">бгдпт</span> produces бгдпт.
Unicode unified different characters in same script,
OpenType locl (locale) support must be present to display the correct
variant. Programs like Mozilla Firefox,
LibreOffice (currently under
Linux only), and some others provide required
Starting from CSS 3, web authors also have to use this:
font-feature-settings: 'locl';. Of course, font families like GNU
FreeFont, DejaVu, Ubuntu, Microsoft "C*" fonts from
Windows Vista and
above must be used.
There are also variations of some letters like Л,Љ and
Д that can
also be written like the Greek letters Lambda and Delta.
Gaj's Latin alphabet
Yugoslav manual alphabet
Romanization of Serbian
^ a b c d Ronelle Alexander (15 August 2006). Bosnian, Croatian,
Serbian, a Grammar: With Sociolinguistic Commentary. Univ of Wisconsin
Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-0-299-21193-6.
^ Tomasz Kamusella (15 January 2009). The Politics of Language and
Nationalism in Modern Central Europe. Palgrave Macmillan.
ISBN 978-0-230-55070-4. In addition, today, neither Bosniaks nor
Croats, but only Serbs use
Cyrillic in Bosnia.
^ Entangled Histories of the Balkans: Volume One: National Ideologies
and Language Policies. BRILL. 13 June 2013. pp. 414–.
^ a b Cubberley, Paul (1996) "The Slavic Alphabets". in Daniels, Peter
T., and William Bright, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems.
Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0.
^ The life and times of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, p. 387
^ Vek i po od smrti Vuka Karadžića (in Serbian), Radio-Television of
Serbia, 7 February 2014
^ Andrej Mitrović, Serbia's great war, 1914-1918 p.78-79. Purdue
University Press, 2007. ISBN 1-55753-477-2,
^ Ana S. Trbovich (2008). A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia's
Disintegration. Oxford University Press. p. 102.
^ David J. Jonsson (2006). Islamic Economics and the Final Jihad.
Xulon Press. p. 90.
Sabrina P. Ramet (2006). The Three Yugoslavias: State-building and
Legitimation, 1918-2005. Indiana University Press. pp. 312–.
Enver Redžić (2005).
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Second World
War. Psychology Press. pp. 71–.
^ Alex J. Bellamy (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity:
A Centuries-old Dream. Manchester University Press. pp. 138–.
^ David M. Crowe (13 September 2013). Crimes of State Past and
Present: Government-Sponsored Atrocities and International Legal
Responses. Routledge. pp. 61–.
^ Yugoslav Survey. 43. Jugoslavija Publishing House. 2002. Retrieved
27 September 2013.
^ Article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of
^ Janko Stamenović. "Serbian
Cyrillic Letters BE, GHE, DE, PE, TE*
(collection of related items from
Unicode mailing list)". Retrieved
Unicode 8.0.0 ch.02 p.14-15
Đorđić, P. (1987). Istorija srpske ćirilice:
paleografsko-filološki prilozi. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna
Đorđić, P. (1971). Istorija srpske ćirilice [History of Serbian
Cyrillic]. Zavod za izdavanje udžbenika SR Srbije.
Wilson, Duncan (1970). The life and times of Vuk Stefanović
Karadžić, 1787-1864: literacy, literature and national independence
in Serbia. Clarendon Press.
Bonkovski, R. (2009). "Srpska pisma". Nasleđe. Kragujevac. 6 (14-1):
99–105. ISSN 1820-1768.
Ivković, D., 2013. Pragmatics meets ideology: Digraphia and
non-standard orthographic practices in Serbian online news forums.
Journal of Language and Politics, 12(3), pp.335-356.
Omniglot – Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian
Transliteration and transcription into Cyrillic
International Phonetic Alphabet
Scientific transliteration of Cyrillic