Belarusian alphabet

Belarusian alphabet
Script type
Time period
1918 to the present
Related scripts
Parent systems
Cyrillic script
  • Belarusian alphabet
Sister systems
Belarusian Latin
Belarusian Arabic
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Cyrl, , ​Cyrillic
Unicode alias
subset of Cyrillic (U+0400...U+04FF)
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Belarusian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic script and is derived from the alphabet of Old Church Slavonic. It has existed in its modern form since 1918 and has 32 letters. See also Belarusian Latin alphabet and Belarusian Arabic alphabet.


Belarusian Alphabet
Capital Name IPA Unicode
А   а а [a] /a/ U+0410 / U+0430
Б   б бэ [bɛ] /b/ U+0411 / U+0431
В   в вэ [vɛ] /v/ U+0412 / U+0432
Г   г гэ [ɣɛ] /ɣ/ U+0413 / U+0433
Д   д дэ [dɛ] /d/ U+0414 / U+0434
Е   е е [jɛ] /jɛ/, /ʲɛ/ U+0415 / U+0435
Ё   ё ё [jɔ] /jɔ/, /ʲɔ/ U+0401 / U+0451
Ж   ж жэ [ʐɛ] /ʐ/ U+0416 / U+0436
З   з зэ [zɛ] /z/ U+0417 / U+0437
І   і і [i] /i/, /ʲi/, /ji/ U+0406 / U+0456
Й   й і нескладовае [i nʲɛsklaˈdɔvajɛ] /j/ U+0419 / U+0439
К   к ка [ka] /k/ U+041A / U+043A
Л   л эл [ɛl] /l/ U+041B / U+043B
М   м эм [ɛm] /m/ U+041C / U+043C
Н   н эн [ɛn] /n/ U+041D / U+043D
О   о о [ɔ] /ɔ/ U+041E / U+043E
П   п пэ [pɛ] /p/ U+041F / U+043F
Р   р эр [ɛr] /r/ U+0420 / U+0440
С   с эс [ɛs] /s/ U+0421 / U+0441
Т   т тэ [tɛ] /t/ U+0422 / U+0442
У   у у [u] /u/ U+0423 / U+0443
Ў   ў у нескладовае [u nʲɛsklaˈdɔvajɛ]
у кароткае [u kaˈrɔtkajɛ]
/w/ U+040E / U+045E
Ф   ф эф [ɛf] /f/ U+0424 / U+0444
Х   х ха [xa] /x/ U+0425 / U+0445
Ц   ц цэ [t͡sɛ] /t͡s/ U+0426 / U+0446
Ч   ч чэ [t͡ʂɛ] /t͡ʂ/ U+0427 / U+0447
Ш   ш ша [ʂa] /ʂ/ U+0428 / U+0448
Ы   ы ы [ɨ] /ɨ/ U+042B / U+044B
Ь   ь мяккі знак
[ˈmʲakʲːi znak]
/ʲ/ U+042C / U+044C
Э   э э [ɛ] /ɛ/ U+042D / U+044D
Ю   ю ю [ju] /ju/, /ʲu/ U+042E / U+044E
Я   я я [ja] /ja/, /ʲa/ U+042F / U+044F
 – U+2019


Officially, the ⟨г⟩ represents both /ɣ/ and /ɡ/, but the latter occurs only in borrowings and mimesis. The ⟨ґ⟩ is used by some for the latter sound but, with the exception of Taraškievica, has not been standard.

A ⟨д⟩ followed by ⟨ж⟩ or ⟨з⟩ may denote either two distinct respective sounds (in some prefix-root combinations: пад-земны, ад-жыць) or the Belarusian affricates ⟨дж⟩ and ⟨дз⟩ (for example, падзея, джала). In some representations of the alphabet, the affricates are included in parentheses after the letter ⟨д⟩ to emphasis their special status: ⟨… Дд (ДЖдж ДЗдз) Ее …⟩.

⟨Ў⟩ is not a distinct phoneme but the neutralization of /v/ and /l/ when there is no following vowel, like before a consonant or at the end of a word.

Palatalization of consonants is usually indicated through choice of vowel letter, as illustrated here with /p/ and /pʲ/, both written with the letter ⟨п⟩:

palatalization /p/ /pʲ/
final п пь
before /a/ па пя
before /ɛ/ пэ пе
before /i/ пы пі
before /ɔ/ по пё
before /u/ пу пю

When a consonant is not palatalized and precedes /j/, the apostrophe ⟨’⟩ is used to separate the iotated vowel: ⟨п’я п’е п’і п’ё п’ю⟩ /pja pjɛ pi pjɔ pju/. (⟨і⟩ is the palatalizing version of ⟨ы⟩, and arguably, they represent a single phoneme.) The apostrophe is not considered a letter and so is not taken into account for alphabetical order. In pre-Second World War printing, the form ⟨‘⟩ was used. When computers are used, the form is frequently substituted by ⟨'⟩.


The medieval Cyrillic alphabet had 43 letters. Later, 15 letters were dropped, the last 4 after the introduction of the first official Belarusian grammar in 1918. Since four new letters were added, there are now 32 letters.

The new letters were:

  • The ⟨э⟩ ((CYRILLIC) EH) appeared in Belarusian texts in about the late-15th century.
  • The ⟨й⟩ ((CYRILLIC) SHORT I) evolved from ⟨и⟩ ((CYRILLIC) I), combined with a diacritical sign by the end of the 16th century (it would be part of the Russian alphabet in 1735).
  • The ⟨ё⟩ ((CYRILLIC) IO) came from the Russian alphabet in the 19th century (it had been part of the Russian alphabet since 1797).
  • The ⟨ў⟩ ((CYRILLIC) SHORT U) was proposed by Russian linguist Pyotr Bezsonov in 1870.

The Belarusian alphabet, in its modern form, has formally existed since the adoption of the Branislaw Tarashkyevich's Belarusian grammar, for use in Soviet schools, in 1918[citation needed] Several slightly different versions had been used informally.[citation needed]

In the 1920s and notably at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926), miscellaneous changes of the Belarusian alphabet were being proposed. Notable were replacing ⟨й⟩ with ⟨ј⟩ ((CYRILLIC) JE), and/or replacing ⟨е⟩, ⟨ё⟩, ⟨ю⟩, ⟨я⟩ with ⟨је⟩ (or else with ⟨јє⟩), ⟨јо⟩, ⟨ју⟩, ⟨ја⟩, respectively (as in the Serbian alphabet), replacing ⟨ы⟩ with ⟨и⟩, introducing ⟨ґ⟩ (see also Ge with upturn; both proposed changes would match the Ukrainian alphabet) and/or introducing special graphemes/ligatures for affricates: ⟨дж⟩, ⟨дз⟩ etc. Even the introduction of the Latin script was contemplated at one moment (as proposed by Zhylunovich at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926)). Nothing came of it.

Noted Belarusian linguist Yan Stankyevich in his later works suggested a completely different form of the alphabet:

Layout of the Belarusian alphabet
(Stankyevich, 1962)
Оо Аа Ээ Бб Ґґ Гг Хх Дд Ее Ёё
Яя ДЗдз ДЖдж Зз Жж Іі Йй Кк Лл Мм
Нн Пп Рр Сс Шш Тт Вв Уу Ўў Фф
Ьь Цц Чч Ыы Юю

Note that proper names and place names are rendered in BGN/PCGN romanization of Belarusian.

See also


  • Да рэформы беларускай азбукі. // Працы акадэмічнае канферэнцыі па рэформе беларускага правапісу і азбукі. – Мн. : [б. м.], 1927.
  • Ян Станкевіч. Які мае быць парадак літараў беларускае абэцады [1962] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 2. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Б. Тарашкевіч. Беларуская граматыка для школ. – Вільня : Беларуская друкарня ім. Фр. Скарыны, 1929 ; Мн. : <Народная асвета>, 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае.
  • Што трэба ведаць кожнаму беларусу. Выданне „Вольнае Беларусі“. – Менск : друк-ня А. Я. Грынблята, 1918 ; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Зборнік артыкулау розных аутарау: М. Міцкевіча, Я. Лёсіка, В. Ластоўскаго, М. Багдановіча, Пётр[?] з Арленят і інш.

External links

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