Coptic alphabet

From Academic Kids

Template:Alphabet The Coptic alphabet is an alphabet used for writing the Coptic language. It is based on the Greek alphabet, but contains some extra letters for sounds used in Coptic but not in Greek. Those letters are derived from the Demotic script, a highly cursive writing system used to write the Egyptian language.

The Coptic alphabet came into general use in Egypt during the 4th century AD. It is still used by the members of the Coptic Church to write their religious texts. All the Gnostic codices found in Nag Hammadi used the coptic alphabet.

The Coptic alphabet did not appear overnight. There was a long history, going back to the Hellenistic period, of using the Greek alphabet to transcribe Demotic texts, with the aim of recording the correct pronunciation of the Demotic. During the first two centuries of the Common Era, an entire series of magicial texts were written in what scholars term Old Coptic, Egyptian language texts written in the Greek alphabet. A number of letters, however, were derived from Demotic, and many of these (though not all) are used in "true" Coptic writing. With the spread of Christianity in Egypt, by the late 3rd century AD knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost, as well as Demotic slightly later, making way for a writing system more closely associated with the Christian church. By the 4th century the Coptic alphabet was "standardised", particularly for the Sahidic dialect. (It should be noted that there are a number of differences between the alphabets as used in the various dialects in Coptic.)

The Old Nubian alphabet—used to write the Old Nubian language [unrelated to the Coptic language]—is written mainly in a uncial Greek alphabet, but it borrows Coptic and Meroitic letters of Demotic origin into its inventory. It is often, though incorrectly, thought that Old Nubian used the entire Coptic alphabet directly, but this is not the case.

In Unicode, most Coptic letters formerly shared codepoints with similar Greek letters, but a disunification has been accepted for version 4.1, which appeared in 2005. The new Coptic block is U+2C80 ... U+2CFF. See also: Coptic block in Unicode (PDF) (, Greek block in Unicode (PDF) ( (which includes 7 Coptic letters derived from Demotic, and need to be included in any complete implementation of Coptic).

Missing image
Coptic letters in a florid Bohairic script

Alphabet table

 Letter    Name   Transliteration
Ⲁⲁ alfa a
Ⲃⲃ vida b
Ⲅⲅ gamma g
Ⲇⲇ dalda d
Ⲉⲉ eie e
Ⲋⲋ sou
Ⲍⲍ zata z
Ⲏⲏ hate ē
Ⲑⲑ thethe th
Ⲓⲓ iauda i, j
Ⲕⲕ kapa k
Ⲗⲗ laula l
Ⲙⲙ mi m
Ⲛⲛ ni n
Ⲝⲝ ksi ks
Ⲟⲟ o o
Ⲡⲡ pi p
Ⲣⲣ ro r
Ⲥⲥ sima s
Ⲧⲧ tau t
Ⲩⲩ ua u, w, y
Ⲫⲫ fi ph
Ⲭⲭ khi kh
Ⲯⲯ psi ps
Ⲱⲱ oou ō
Ϣϣ shei
Ϥϥ fei f
Ϧϧ khei h
Ϩϩ hori h
Ϫϫ gangia č
Ϭϭ shima c, kj
Ϯϯ dei ti

Note: the letter sou was used only for its numerical value, 6.


  • Loprieno, Antonio. 1995. Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 24–26.
  • Quaegebeur, Jan. 1982. "De la préhistoire de l'écriture copte." Orientalia lovaniensia analecta 13:125–136.
  • Ritner, Robert Kriech. 1996. "The Coptic Alphabet". In The World's Writing Systems, edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 287–290.

External links

als:Koptisches Alphabet eo:Kopta alfabeto fr:Alphabet copte nl:Koptisch alfabet ru:Коптский алфавит


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