Ethiopian Alphabet (Ge'ez)

Ethiopian Alphabet & Ge'ez

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Ethiopia has its own alphabets. They are built upon Ge'ez alphabets. Ge'ez is an ancient language that is currently used by Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

These alphabets are currently used by the following languages: Amharic, Tigrigna, Guragigna and Aderigna. However, there might be some extra characters to the Ge'ze as per the requirements of the modern language.

According to a wikipedia article, the earliest inscriptions of Ethio-Semitic in Ethiopia date to the 9th century BC in Epigraphic South Arabian (ESA), an alphabet shared with contemporary kingdoms in South Arabia. After the 7th and 6th centuries BC, however, variants of the script arose, evolving in the direction of the Ge'ez alphabet. This evolution can be seen most clearly in evidence from inscriptions (mainly graffiti on rocks and caves) in Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. By the first centuries AD, what is called "Old Ethiopic" or the "Old Ge'ez alphabet" arose, an abjad written left-to-right (as opposed to boustrophedon like ESA) with letters basically identical to the first-order forms of the modern vocalized alphabet (e.g. "k" in the form of "kä").

Ethiopian Syllable signs

Ethiopian Syllable signs

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Syllable signs

The Ge'ez script is an abugida: each symbol represents a consonant+vowel combination, and the symbols are organized in groups of similar symbols on the basis of both the consonant and the vowel.

Ge'ez is written from left to right across the page.

In Ge'ez, each consonant can be combined with seven vowels:

    ä, u, i, a, e, ə, o

For each consonant in an abugida, there is a basic or unmarked symbol that represents that consonant followed by a default vowel, called the inherent vowel. For the Ge'ez script, the inherent vowel is /ä/, the first column in the table. For the other vowels, the basic consonant symbol is modified in consistent ways.

In the table below, the rows of the table show the consonants in the traditional order. The columns show the seven vowels, also in the traditional order. A consonant can be described, for example, as being in the fifth order, meaning that it is of the form that is fifth in this traditional order of vowels. For some letters, there is an eighth modification expressing a diphthong -wa or -oa, and a ninth expressing -yä.

To represent a consonant with no following vowel, for example at the end of a syllable or in a consonant cluster, the consonant+ə form is used (the symbol in the sixth column).

Ge'ez Numberic

Ge'ez Numberic

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Ge'ez uses a systems of ones and tens comparable to the Hebrew, Arabic abjad and Greek numerals, but unlike these systems, rather than giving numeric values to letters, it has separate numeral symbols that are derived from the Coptic letter-numbers.


Ethiopic has been assigned Unicode 3.0 codepoints between U+1200 and U+137F (decimal 4608–4991), containing the basic syllable signs for Ge'ez, Amharic, and Tigrinya, punctuation and numerals. Additionally, in Unicode 4.1, there is the supplement range from U+1380 to U+139F (decimal 4992–5023) containing syllables for Sebatbeit and tonal marks, and the extended range between U+2D80 and U+2DDF (decimal 11648–11743) containing syllable signs needed for writing Sebatbeit, Me'en and Blin. Finally in Unicode 6.0, there is the extended-A range from U+AB00 to U+AB2F (decimal 43776–43823) containing syllables for Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, Basketo and Gumuz.


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