The Latvian Alphabet

The Latvian language is written in a modified Latin script. At one point, it was written in Gothic lettering, but just as with English, this is no longer the norm. Latvian vowels come in both short and long varieties, and these distinctions are noted in the text with a line above the character, e.g. ā. Latvian consonants z, c, and s can be modified with a small carrot above the letter – called a jumtiņš, or “little roof” – that indicates that the letter is aspirated. Finally, a small comma below the letters k, l and n and a small, backwards-comma above g indicate that the consonant sound should be modified with a ‘-y’ sound, similar to the use of the tilda over ‘n’ in Spanish.

Character
Equivalent sound
Notes
Aa “cut”
Āā “father”
Bb bard”
Cc “pots
Čč church”
Dd dog”
Ee “bet” / “cat”
  • There is no good way to know which – you’ll have to memorize.
Ēē “hair” / “male”
  • There is no good way to know which – you’ll have to memorize.
Ff farm”
Gg game”
Ģģ d + y: “duel”
Hh hope”
Ii “tip”
Īī “seat”
Jj yarn”
Kk kite”
Ķķ t + y
Ll lift”
Ļļ l + y
Mm moon”
Nn name”
Ņņ n + y
Oo oval” / “dog”
  • Words brought into Latvian from other languages have the awe sound in “dog”, while native words with o have the oh sound in “oval”
Pp pen”
Rr rest”
  • Latvian r is rolled, unlike English “r”.
Ss summer”
Šš short”
Tt time”
Uu “pull”
Ūū “tool”
Vv village”
  • v sounds like u after a vowel. e.g. The negative 3rd person form of būt “to be” is nav, which is pronounced like English “now”.
Zz zoo”
Žž “measure”
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