Georgian Writing System

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Georgian Writing System


an independent writing system serving the Georgian language. According to national tradition, the origin of the alphabet dates to the reign of Far-navaz (third century B.C.). Recent studies indicate that it is related genetically to a variety of the eastern Aramaic writing system (Hellenistic period), which was the source for a number of characters used by the peoples of the East. Later, as a result of the Christianization of Georgia, the Aramaic-based system was transformed under the influence of the Greek alphabet (changes were made in the directions of writing and the order of the letters in the alphabet), and symbols borrowed partially from Greek were introduced to indicate vowels.

The oldest records in Georgian script are the inscriptions from the Judean desert in Palestine (c. A.D. 433). Bolnisi (493). and Dzhvari (turn of the seventh century) and palimpsests (fifth to seventh centuries); the oldest dated manuscript (864) is from St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula.

During the process of development, three basic forms of Georgian writing evolved, each quite different from the others: the majuscule (mtavruli), or uncial, writing, which was characterized by round forms (therefore it was also called mgrglovani, or “rounded”) and a uniform letter size (with some exceptions), was used until the ninth and tenth centuries; minuscule writing (nuskhuri), which was widely used in texts from the ninth to 1 Ith centuries and later, differed from uncial writing in the angularity of lines and letter sizes that varied in height; the secular (as opposed to the two

Table 1. Georgian writing system
Georgian letterLatin transliteration1Cyrillic transliterationGeorgian letterLatin transliteration’Cyrillic transliteration
1 Newest Library of Congress system modified to eliminate diacritical marks

preceding systems, which were called khutsuri,’“church”), or military (mkhedruli), writing, which was attested in the 11th century and was used in offices, texts on secular matters, and private correspondence, was characterized by vertical elements of different sizes, similar to the nuskhuri, and round forms.

The modern Georgian writing system, which evolved from the minuscule system, became stabilized in its final accepted form after the introduction of book printing in 1709. The modern Georgian alphabet is based on a regular phonological principle (a specific grapheme corresponds to each phoneme) and contains 33 symbols (five for vowels and 28 for consonants). Capital letters are generally not used in printed texts.


Tsereteli. G. V. “Armazskoe pis’mo i problema proiskhozhdeniia gruzinskogo alfavita.” In the collection Epigrama Vostoka, books 2–3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948–49.
Tsereteli, G. V. Drevneishie gruzinskie nadpisi iz Palestiny. Tbilisi. 1960.
Javaxishvili, Iv. K’art’uli damcerlobat’mc’odneoba da paleo-grap’ia, fasc. 2. Tbilisi, 1949. (Istoriis mizani, cqaroebi da met’odebi cinat’ da exla, book 3. fase. 1.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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