"Cyrillic" and "Cyrillic alphabet" redirect here.
For national variants of the Cyrillic script, see Cyrillic alphabets.
For other uses, see Cyrillic (disambiguation).
|Type||Alphabet (impure) and Bicameral|
|Languages||See Languages using Cyrillic
Official script in:
|Time period||Earliest variants exist c. 893 – c. 940|
|Parent systems||Egyptian hieroglyphs|
|Child systems||Old Permic script|
|ISO 15924||Cyrl, 220
Cyrs (Old Church Slavonic variant)
The Cyrillic script (/sɪˈrɪlɪk/ sə-RIL-ik) is a writing system used for various languages across Eurasia and is used as the national script in various Slavic, Turkic, Mongolic and Iranic-speaking countries in Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, North Asia and East Asia.
In the 9th century AD the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I the Great, following the cultural and political course of his father Boris I, commissioned a new script, the Early Cyrillic alphabet, to be made at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire, which would replace the Glagolitic script, produced earlier by Saints Cyril and Methodius and the same disciples that created the new Slavic script in Bulgaria.
The usage of the Cyrillic script in Bulgaria was made official in 893.
For centuries Cyrillic was used by Catholic and Muslim Slavs too (see Bosnian Cyrillic).
As of 2019, around 250 million people in Eurasia use it as the official alphabet for their national languages, with Russia accounting for about half of them.
These additional letters were used for Old Church Slavonic sounds not found in Greek.
Modern scholars believe that Cyrillic was developed and formalized by the early disciples of Cyril and Methodius, particularly by Clement of Ohrid.
The new letterforms, called the Civil script, became closer to those of the Latin alphabet; several archaic letters were abolished and several letters were designed by Peter himself.
Letters became distinguished between upper and lower case.
West European typography culture was also adopted.
The pre-reform forms of letters called 'Полуустав' were notably kept for use in Church Slavonic and are sometimes used in Russian even today, especially if one wants to give a text a 'Slavic' or 'archaic' feel.
Cyrillic script spread throughout the East Slavic and some South Slavic territories, being adopted for writing local languages, such as Old East Slavic.
Its adaptation to local languages produced a number of Cyrillic alphabets, discussed below.
Capital and lowercase letters were not distinguished in old manuscripts.
Yeri (Ы) was originally a ligature of Yer and I (Ъ + І = Ы).
Sometimes different letters were used interchangeably, for example И = І = Ї, as were typographical variants like О = Ѻ.
There were also commonly used ligatures like ѠТ = Ѿ.
The letters also had numeric values, based not on Cyrillic alphabetical order, but inherited from the letters' Greek ancestors.
The early Cyrillic alphabet is difficult to represent on computers.
Many of the letterforms differed from those of modern Cyrillic, varied a great deal in manuscripts, and changed over time.
Few fonts include glyphs sufficient to reproduce the alphabet.
In accordance with Unicode policy, the standard does not include letterform variations or ligatures found in manuscript sources unless they can be shown to conform to the Unicode definition of a character.
The Unicode 5.1 standard, released on 4 April 2008, greatly improves computer support for the early Cyrillic and the modern Church Slavonic language.
In Microsoft Windows, the Segoe UI user interface font is notable for having complete support for the archaic Cyrillic letters since Windows 8.
Letterforms and typography
Late Medieval Cyrillic letters (still found on many icon inscriptions today) show a marked tendency to be very tall and narrow, with strokes often shared between adjacent letters.
Over time, these were largely adopted in the other languages that use the script.
Thus, unlike the majority of modern Greek fonts that retained their own set of design principles for lower-case letters (such as the placement of serifs, the shapes of stroke ends, and stroke-thickness rules, although Greek capital letters do use Latin design principles), modern Cyrillic fonts are much the same as modern Latin fonts of the same font family.
The development of some Cyrillic computer typefaces from Latin ones has also contributed to the visual Latinization of Cyrillic type.
Upright Cyrillic lowercase letters are essentially small capitals (with exceptions: Cyrillic ⟨а⟩, ⟨е⟩, ⟨і⟩, ⟨ј⟩, ⟨р⟩, and ⟨у⟩ adopted Western lowercase shapes, lowercase ⟨ф⟩ is typically designed under the influence of Latin ⟨p⟩, lowercase ⟨б⟩, ⟨ђ⟩ and ⟨ћ⟩ are traditional handwritten forms), although a good-quality Cyrillic typeface will still include separate small-caps glyphs.
Cyrillic fonts, as well as Latin ones, have roman and italic types (practically all popular modern fonts include parallel sets of Latin and Cyrillic letters, where many glyphs, uppercase as well as lowercase, are simply shared by both).
However, the native font terminology in most Slavic languages (for example, in Russian) does not use the words "roman" and "italic" in this sense.
Instead, the nomenclature follows German naming patterns:
- Roman type is called pryamoy shrift ("upright type")—compare with Normalschrift ("regular type") in German
- Italic type is called kursiv ("cursive") or kursivniy shrift ("cursive type")—from the German word Kursive, meaning italic typefaces and not cursive writing
- Cursive handwriting is rukopisniy shrift ("handwritten type") in Russian—in German: or Laufschrift, both meaning literally 'running type'
As in Latin typography, a sans-serif face may have a mechanically sloped oblique type (naklonniy shrift—"sloped", or "slanted type") instead of italic.
Similarly to Latin fonts, italic and cursive types of many Cyrillic letters (typically lowercase; uppercase only for handwritten or stylish types) are very different from their upright roman types.
In certain cases, the correspondence between uppercase and lowercase glyphs does not coincide in Latin and Cyrillic fonts: for example, italic Cyrillic ⟨т⟩ is the lowercase counterpart of ⟨Т⟩ not of ⟨М⟩.
A boldfaced type is called poluzhirniy shrift ("semi-bold type"), because there existed fully boldfaced shapes that have been out of use since the beginning of the 20th century.
A bold italic combination (bold slanted) does not exist for all font families.
In Standard Serbian, as well as in Macedonian, some italic and cursive letters are allowed to be different to resemble more to the handwritten letters.
The regular (upright) shapes are generally standardized among languages and there are no officially recognized variations.
The following table shows the differences between the upright and italic Cyrillic letters of the Russian alphabet.
Italic forms significantly different from their upright analogues, or especially confusing to users of a Latin alphabet, are highlighted.
Note: in some fonts or styles, lowercase italic Cyrillic ⟨д⟩ (⟨д⟩) may look like Latin ⟨g⟩ and lowercase italic Cyrillic ⟨т⟩ (⟨т⟩) may look exactly like a capital italic ⟨T⟩ (⟨T⟩), only smaller.
Main article: Cyrillic alphabets
Among others, Cyrillic is the standard script for writing the following languages:
- Slavic languages: Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Rusyn, Serbo-Croatian (for Standard Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin), Ukrainian
- Non-Slavic languages: Abkhaz, Aleut (now mostly in church texts), Azerbaijani (Dagestan only), Bashkir, Chuvash, Erzya, Uzbek (officially replaced by Latin script, but still in wide use), Kazakh (to be replaced by Latin script by 2025), Kildin Sami, Komi, Kyrgyz, Dungan, Mari, Moksha, Mongolian (to also be written with traditional Mongolian script by 2025), Ossetic, Romani (some dialects), Sakha/Yakut, Tajik, Tatar, Tlingit (now only in church texts), Tuvan, Udmurt, Yuit (Siberian Yupik), and Yupik (in Alaska).
Since the script was conceived and popularised by the followers of Cyril and Methodius, rather than by Cyril and Methodius themselves, its name denotes homage rather than authorship.
The name "Cyrillic" often confuses people who are not familiar with the script's history, because it does not identify a country of origin (in contrast to the "Greek alphabet").
Among the general public, it is often called "the Russian alphabet," because Russian is the most popular and influential alphabet based on the script.
Some Bulgarian intellectuals, notably Stefan Tsanev, have expressed concern over this, and have suggested that the Cyrillic script be called the "Bulgarian alphabet" instead, for the sake of historical accuracy.
It must be noted here that 'alphabet' is not the same as 'script' (e.g. letter Її exists in the Cyrillic script since its very invention and is still used in Ukrainian, but is absent in the modern Bulgarian alphabet, that is Cyrillic as used in Bulgarian), so the accurate name is actually 'the Bulgarian script'.
In Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Czech and Slovak, the Cyrillic alphabet is also known as azbuka, derived from the old names of the first two letters of most Cyrillic alphabets (just as the term alphabet came from the first two Greek letters alpha and beta).
Main article: Early Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script was created in the First Bulgarian Empire.
Tradition holds that Cyrillic and Glagolitic were formalized either by Saints Cyril and Methodius who brought Christianity to the southern Slavs, or by their disciples.
Paul Cubberley posits that although Cyril may have codified and expanded Glagolitic, it was his students in the First Bulgarian Empire under Tsar Simeon the Great that developed Cyrillic from the Greek letters in the 890s as a more suitable script for church books.
Later Cyrillic spread among other Slavic peoples, as well as among non-Slavic Vlachs.
Hence expressions such as "И is the tenth Cyrillic letter" typically refer to the order of the Church Slavonic alphabet; not every Cyrillic alphabet uses every letter available in the script.
The Cyrillic script came to dominate Glagolitic in the 12th century.
However, over the course of the following millennium, Cyrillic adapted to changes in spoken language, developed regional variations to suit the features of national languages, and was subjected to academic reform and political decrees.
A notable example of such linguistic reform can be attributed to Vuk Stefanović Karadžić who updated the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet by removing certain graphemes no longer represented in the vernacular, and introducing graphemes specific to Serbian (i.e. Љ Њ Ђ Ћ Џ Ј), distancing it from Church Slavonic alphabet in use prior to the reform.
Relationship to other writing systems
A number of languages written in a Cyrillic alphabet have also been written in a Latin alphabet, such as Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Serbian and Romanian (in the Republic of Moldova until 1989, in Romania throughout the 19th century).
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, some of the former republics officially shifted from Cyrillic to Latin.
For example, the separatist Chechen government mandated a Latin script which is still used by many Chechens.
Those in the diaspora especially refuse to use the Chechen Cyrillic alphabet, which they associate with Russian imperialism.
Cyrillic is nominally the official script of Serbia's administration according to the Serbian constitution; however, the law does not regulate scripts in standard language, or standard language itself by any means.
In practice the scripts are equal, with Latin being used more often in a less official capacity.
The Zhuang alphabet, used between the 1950s and 1980s in portions of the People's Republic of China, used a mixture of Latin, phonetic, numeral-based, and Cyrillic letters.
The non-Latin letters, including Cyrillic, were removed from the alphabet in 1982 and replaced with Latin letters that closely resembled the letters they replaced.
Standard Cyrillic-to-Latin transliteration systems include:
- Scientific transliteration, used in linguistics, is based on the Bosnian and Croatian Latin alphabet.
- The Working Group on Romanization Systems of the United Nations recommends different systems for specific languages. These are the most commonly used around the world.
- ISO 9:1995, from the International Organization for Standardization.
- American Library Association and Library of Congress Romanization tables for Slavic alphabets (ALA-LC Romanization), used in North American libraries.
- BGN/PCGN Romanization (1947), United States Board on Geographic Names & Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use).
- GOST 16876, a now defunct Soviet transliteration standard. Replaced by GOST 7.79, which is ISO 9 equivalent.
- Various informal romanizations of Cyrillic, which adapt the Cyrillic script to Latin and sometimes Greek glyphs for compatibility with small character sets.
Representing other writing systems with Cyrillic letters is called Cyrillization.
Main article: Cyrillic script in Unicode
As of Unicode version 13.0, Cyrillic letters, including national and historical alphabets, are encoded across several blocks:
- Cyrillic Supplement:
- Cyrillic Extended-A:
- Cyrillic Extended-B:
- Cyrillic Extended-C:
- Phonetic Extensions:
- Combining Half Marks:
The characters in the range U+0400 to U+045F are essentially the characters from ISO 8859-5 moved upward by 864 positions.
The characters in the range U+0460 to U+0489 are historic letters, not used now.
The characters in the range U+048A to U+052F are additional letters for various languages that are written with Cyrillic script.
Unicode as a general rule does not include accented Cyrillic letters.
A few exceptions include:
- combinations that are considered as separate letters of respective alphabets, like Й, Ў, Ё, Ї, Ѓ, Ќ (as well as many letters of non-Slavic alphabets);
- two most frequent combinations orthographically required to distinguish homonyms in Bulgarian and Macedonian: Ѐ, Ѝ;
- a few Old and New Church Slavonic combinations: Ѷ, Ѿ, Ѽ.
To indicate stressed or long vowels, combining diacritical marks can be used after the respective letter (for example, U+0301 ◌́ COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT: ы́ э́ ю́ я́ etc.).
Some languages, including Church Slavonic, are still not fully supported.
Unicode 5.1, released on 4 April 2008, introduces major changes to the Cyrillic blocks.
Revisions to the existing Cyrillic blocks, and the addition of Cyrillic Extended A (2DE0 ... 2DFF) and Cyrillic Extended B (A640 ... A69F), significantly improve support for the early Cyrillic alphabet, Abkhaz, Aleut, Chuvash, Kurdish, and Moksha.
Punctuation for Cyrillic text is similar to that used in European Latin-alphabet languages.
Other character encoding systems for Cyrillic:
- CP866 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by Microsoft for use in MS-DOS also known as GOST-alternative. Cyrillic characters go in their native order, with a "window" for pseudographic characters.
- ISO/IEC 8859-5 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by International Organization for Standardization
- KOI8-R – 8-bit native Russian character encoding. Invented in the USSR for use on Soviet clones of American IBM and DEC computers. The Cyrillic characters go in the order of their Latin counterparts, which allowed the text to remain readable after transmission via a 7-bit line that removed the most significant bit from each byte—the result became a very rough, but readable, Latin transliteration of Cyrillic. Standard encoding of early 1990s for Unix systems and the first Russian Internet encoding.
- KOI8-U – KOI8-R with addition of Ukrainian letters.
- MIK – 8-bit native Bulgarian character encoding for use in Microsoft DOS.
- Windows-1251 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by Microsoft for use in Microsoft Windows. The simplest 8-bit Cyrillic encoding—32 capital chars in native order at 0xc0–0xdf, 32 usual chars at 0xe0–0xff, with rarely used "YO" characters somewhere else. No pseudographics. Former standard encoding in some GNU/Linux distributions for Belarusian and Bulgarian, but currently displaced by UTF-8.
- GB 2312 – Principally simplified Chinese encodings, but there are also the basic 33 Russian Cyrillic letters (in upper- and lower-case).
- JIS and Shift JIS – Principally Japanese encodings, but there are also the basic 33 Russian Cyrillic letters (in upper- and lower-case).
With the flexibility of computer input methods, there are also transliterating or phonetic/homophonic keyboard layouts made for typists who are more familiar with other layouts, like the common English QWERTY keyboard.
When practical Cyrillic keyboard layouts or fonts are unavailable, computer users sometimes use transliteration or look-alike "volapuk" encoding to type in languages that are normally written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
- Cyrillic Alphabet Day
- Cyrillic digraphs
- Faux Cyrillic, real or fake Cyrillic letters used to give Latin-alphabet text a Soviet or Russian feel
- List of Cyrillic digraphs
- Russian Braille
- Russian cursive
- Russian manual alphabet
- Vladislav the Grammarian
- Yugoslav Braille
- Yugoslav manual alphabet
Internet top-level domains in Cyrillic
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrillic script.