The alphabet, in alphabetical order, in various languages


The alphabet, in alphabetical order

English

aitch
are
ay
bee
cue
dee
double-you
ee
eff
ell
em
en
ess
ex
eye
gee
jay
kay
oh
pee
see
tea
vee
why
you
zee/zed

Deutsch

ah
beh
ceh
deh
eff
eh
ehr
ell
em
en
ess
esszet
fau
geh
ha
ie
iks
jot
ka
kuh
oh
peh
the
u
weh
ypsilon
zet

Svenska

a
be
de
dubbel-ve
e
eff
eks
ell
em
en
ess
ge

i
ji
ku

o
pe
se
säta
te
u
ve
y
å
ä
är
ö

Español

a
be
ce
(che)
cu
de
e
efe
ele
(elle)
eme
ene
eñe
equis
ere
ese
ge
hache
i
(i griega)
jota
ka
o
pe
te
u
uve
uve doble
ye
zeta

Français

a
ache



double vé
e
e
effe
elle
emme
enne
erre
esse

i grec
ixe
ji
ka
o

qu

u

zède

Italiano

a
acca
bi
cappa
ci
cu
di
e
effe
elle
emme
enne
erre
esse
gi
i
i greca
i lunga
ics
o
pi
ti
u
vi
vi doppia
zeta

Pinyin

a
be
ce
de
e
fe
ge
he
ia
ji
ke
le
me
ne
o
pe
qi
ri
si
te
wa
wu
xi
yi

ze

The first onstage round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place today. Best of luck to all entrants!

Bonus chatter: For many years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee FAQ, did not include the question "When does the spelling bee take place?"¹ As a result, every year, I have to guess when it's going to take place, and every year I guess wrong and have to push this entry out another year, hoping to guess better next time. For 2017, I submitted a media request, and they told me that the 2017 finals would be on May 30, 31 and June 1. But then I mis-filed this blog entry, and I didn't find it until after the spelling bee had taken place. I guess in 2018 they got tired of answering the question, so they added it to their FAQ.

¹ Or maybe nobody asked that question before 2017.

Comments (46)
  1. Damien says:

    Hmm. The French one has me a bit stumped. I’m guessing the erre entry is for how they pronounce “R”, so the two e entries are presumably for “E” and “I”. But I always heard their “E” pronunciation as having an r sound towards the end.

    1. Entegy says:

      French speaker here. “E” would be pronounced more like “euh”.

      1. Brian says:

        For French: agreed, “e” is pronounced like “euh”, and, in addition, “r” is more of a “èrre” than just “erre”. For that matter, “o” is more of a “ô” than just “o”

        1. RP says:

          Following French spelling rules (as the transcriptions for French letter pronunciations do), “erre” would be pronounced èrre, cf. “verre”, “terre”, which both have the è pronunciation.

  2. French Guy says:

    The French column has 2 “e”, but no “i”. And the German “fau” should probably be “vau” since V is pronounced that way (you seem to use the letter itself whenever its pronunciation fits).

    1. Entegy says:

      It makes sense if you think about as how an English speaker would say it. French i is pronounced like an English e.

      1. RP says:

        Yes, but the other transcriptions are given in a language-appropriate way. E.g. “ache” is read in the French way (“ash”, not rhyming with “match” or “make”) to get the correct value.

        So for consistency “e” is the correct way to represent the French pronunciation of the name of the letter E, but for the letter I, “i” would be correct (see also “i grec”).

  3. kantos says:

    I miss Michael Kaplan, he always had interesting blog posts about how this sort of thing impacted localization (for example people assuming that non-English locales used the same sorting order)

  4. viila says:

    Spelling bees are such a ludicrous concept to me, because my native language (Finnish) has almost perfect 1:1 mapping between phonemes and graphemes. If you see a written word, you know how it’s pronounced. If you hear a spoken word, you know how it’s written. There’d be no contest. But English orthography being the historical mess that it is, I do understand why they’re a thing.

    1. pc says:

      Yes, Raymond has even commented on the different grammar/spelling/etc. contents in different languages: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20060512-16/?p=31213

      And thank you for this insightful entry, Raymond. I don’t think I’ll ever think of alphabetical order in the same way again.

      1. Joshua says:

        ay confused me for awhile because it’s an actual English word pronounced like eye (I only know it because Scrabble). Just a would have been better.

        1. pc says:

          Well, the word “a” as often pronounced “ah” (I’ll call it a “short a” because I’m no linguist). It’s hard to come up with a spelling that would be intuitively pronounced as a “long a” which is how we usually name that latter. Maybe something silly like “ae”? I can see how “ay” may be the best choice, though as with anything in English one can’t be certain of a word’s pronunciation just based on the spelling.

          1. RP says:

            In reality I suspect “ae” or even “ai” would give more people pause, or even cause to err, than “ay” does!

          2. Joshua says:

            I think ae is pretty good.

    2. Marc says:

      I find the 1:1 ratio surprising – whenever I hear someone yell “PERKELE!” it seems to have a _lot_ more Rs in it.

    3. Zul says:

      That’s what you get for not being a world power; your language doesn’t have loanwords from every language on the planet.

      1. laonianren says:

        English has always been a mongrel, and that was a consequence not of power but of repeated foreign invasion.

  5. kakurady says:

    Chinese also has a different order called Bopomofo: bo po mo fo de te ne le ge ke he ji qi xi zhi chi shi ri zi ci si a o e yi wu yu

    (ng is notably missing, vowel orders differ, and whether e and é are the same depends on where you live)

    This is also not the order you would sort people’s names in Mainland China (you would use the Latin alphabetical order; but Bopomofo might be used in Taiwan. The Taiwan phonetic symbols – Zhuyin or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II – follows this order.)

    1. Pinyin conventional order is similar to Bopomofo, but I decided to alphabetize it.

    2. GL says:

      As someone who learnt his Pinyin in 2002 (was in grade 1), I started off by reciting those consonants in Bo Po Mo Fo order. Interestingly, the “official” alphabet song for Pinyin has the tune of that of English alphabet song, and I took me a 3-grader, by when I came to know the existence of Pinyin version English alphabet song, quite a while before I can sing it without fusing the English version into it.

  6. kakurady says:

    (Correction: Zhuyin is not the same as MPS-II)

  7. Simon Clarkstone says:

    Some dialects in English use “haitch” instead of “aitch”. A notable boundary in the UK is Irish Catholics (traditionally) say “haitch” and Irish Protestants “aitch”.

  8. BZ says:

    Nice, but you could use “cee” instead of “see” if you wanted to put it in the right order. After all, you did use “kay” and not “cay” despite k-initial words being very rare (at least the non-silent k ones)

    1. Neil says:

      Wiktionary agrees with you for “cee” but it sticks with “kay”:

      a, bee, cee, dee, e, ef, gee, aitch, i, jay, kay, el, em, en, o, pee, cue, ar, ess, tee, u, vee, double-u, ex, wye, zee / zed

      Or should that be

      a, aitch, ar, bee, cee, cue, dee, double-u, e, ef, el, em, en, ess, ex, gee, i, jay, kay, o, pee, tee, u, vee, wye, zee / zed

      Of course there are several other homophones available, e.g. aye, be, ewe, eye, queue, pea, sea.

  9. Karl says:

    Swedish är should probably be ärr instead.

    1. Indeed. “R” is pronounced “ärr”.

  10. rob says:

    Can someone explain what the chart above is trying to show? to me the alphabet is a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h….x,y,z. so i dont understand what he is trying to say by “The alphabet, in alphabetical order, in various languages”.

    1. KP says:

      Hi, the chart shows the alphabet sorted alphabetically according to the spelling of the letters (e.g. a is ay). That is why in the English column ‘aitch’ (H) comes before ‘ay’ (A).

  11. Ray Koopa says:

    You may wanna add the Umlaute to German (or is there a reason not to?):
    ä
    ö
    ü
    ß – doppel-ess / buckel-ess / esszett

    1. RP says:

      There is a reason not to: those aren’t considered distinct and separate letters of the German alphabet, whereas the Swedish extra letters are.

  12. cheong00 says:

    I wonder, why not Greek?

    http://www.foundalis.com/lan/grkalpha.htm

    If it’s on the table, I could say “This looks Greek to me.” :P

    1. French Guy says:

      Reminds me of something I said to Chinese coworkers who speak different dialects: “It’s all Chinese to me.” (meaning I couldn’t tell which dialect was spoken, unless I deduced it from who was speaking to whom).

  13. So Immature says:

    Haha, you wrote “pee”.

  14. Ivan K says:

    Why do letters have names that aren’t just the letters themselves? I ask because I was curious about the definition of “aitch”, only to learn that it is “h”. Google got me a link to a blog post with the same question and a memory of an old Calvin and Hobbes strip but no answer. And english.stackexchange had a similar question too. I’d post the links from my phone’s browser but there’s about a kb of amp or whatever in the urls.

    1. Aged .Net Guy says:

      Strictly, letters don’t have names distinct from the letterform/glyph itself.

      But there is some pronounceable noise we make to signify a glyph. For example, the noise we make in US English for the glyph “H” sounds like a word that would be written in conventional orthography as “aitch”. Which of course could be recursively decomposed as a i t c h which in turn could be expanded as ay eye tee cee aitch which could be recursively …

      It’s just labels of labels of labels of labels all the way down!

      1. DWalker07 says:

        Letters don’t have names?

        Most dictionaries list the names of letters as distinct words. These words, like “aitch”, are also acceptable as words in Scrabble play.

        https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aitch

        1. Well, that’s not the case for Swedish.

    2. RP says:

      Afair, it started off with all the letters being named after their sounds by the Romans, but the consonants obviously needed a short vowel added before (“em”) or after (“be”) to make them easy to say. The vowels were named after their long vowel sounds rather than their short variants. (In English, the long sounds for transitioned into different vowels or diphthongs along with other long uses of the vowels.)
      W wasn’t part of the Latin alphabet.
      Y, Z weren’t originally, either, so took on their Greek names or variations on those (though English discarded the Greek name for Y, and Americans discarded the Greek-derived name for Z).
      H was hard to name because “ah” and “ha” aren’t distinctive enough, especially in late Latin where H was only pronounced. So it became “ahha” and then the h sound was replaced with a sh (in French) or ch (in English).

  15. DWalker07 says:

    You said the FAQ previously didn’t say when the Bee took place.

    Currently, the Web page says “Bee Week 2018 will take place from May 27 to June 1 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, , with the Finals occurring at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.” It doesn’t tell you where the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is. What state? What city? I will guess it’s somewhere in the U.S.

    Similarly, many newspaper web sites will say something like they serve the “tri-state area” or something equally vague.

    1. Brian says:

      Uh, the internet has search tools. It’s in Maryland.

      1. DWalker07 says:

        Sure, the Internet has search tools, but why give partial information and make the user jump through more hoops? It’s not as bad as saying “I live in the city of Madison”, since there are several of those in the US.

  16. Joe says:

    The Spanish alphabet is full of mistakes, including missing a range of letters.

  17. Joe says:

    Let me revise that; the Spanish alphabet has three too many letters. (Also interesting that it uses “uve doble” when I’ve only ever used or heard “doble ve”.)

    For English, “why” is odd; isn’t it “wye”?

    1. RP says:

      Ch and ll were formerly considered separate letters by Spanish authorities but aren’t generally so considered any more. Isn’t that why they’re in parentheses?

  18. Ben Lubar says:

    lojban: abu, by, cy, dy, ebu, fy, gy, ibu, jy, ky, ly, my, ny, obu, py, ry, sy, ty, ubu, vy, xy, ybu, y’y, zy

    So only the last two are swapped.

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