Georgian

Mkhedruli & Mtavruli orthography notes

Updated 26 January, 2024

This page brings together basic information about the two scripts used to write modern Georgian: Mkedruli and Mtavruli. There is also a brief overview of Khutsuri (Asomtavruli+Nuskhuri). It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Georgian using Unicode.

Referencing this document

Richard Ishida, Georgian (Mkhedruli & Mtavruli) Orthography Notes, 26-Jan-2024, https://r12a.github.io/scripts/geor/ka

Sample

Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details. Source
Change size:   24px

მუხლი 1. ყველა ადამიანი იბადება თავისუფალი და თანასწორი თავისი ღირსებითა და უფლებებით. მათ მინიჭებული აქვთ გონება და სინდისი და ერთმანეთის მიმართ უნდა იქცეოდნენ ძმობის სულისკვეთებით.

მუხლი 2. ამ დეკლარაცით გამოცხადებული ყველა უფლება და ყველა თავისუფლება მინიჭებული უნდა ჰქონდეს ყოველ ადამიანს განურჩევლად რაიმე განსხვავების, სახელდობრ, რასის, კანის ფერის, სქესის, ენის, რელიგიის, პოლიტიკური თუ სხვა რწმენის, ეროვნული თუ სოციალური წარმომავლობის, ქონებრივი, წოდებრივი თუ სხვა მდგომარეობისა. გარდა ამისა, დაუშვებელია რაიმე განსხვავება იმ ქვეყნის თუ ტერიტორიის პოლიტიკური, სამართლებრივი ან საერთაშორისო სტატუსის საფუძველზე, რომელსაც ადამიანი ეკუთვნის, მიუხედავად იმისა, თუ როგორია ეს ტერიტორია - დამოუკიდებელი, სამეურვეო, არათვითმმართველი თუ სხვაგვარად შეზღუდული თავის სევერენიტეტში.

Usage & history

The Georgian language is spoken by approximately 3,900,000 people in Georgia, as well as by 355,000 people in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran.

Characters in the Unicode Georgian blocks represent 4 different letter styles for, with few exceptions, the same phonetic range. Modern Georgian uses only the mkhedruli style of lettering, though occasionally its mtavruli variants are used for emphasis or titles. The asomtavruli and nuskhuri styles are not well understood by ordinary Georgians. They are used together in ecclesiastical texts as the bicameral 'khutsuri' writing system.

The Mkhedruli alphabet is also used for writing the Mingrelian and Svan languages spoken in Georgia, as well as Laz, spoken in Turkey. Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri are now used only by the Georgian Orthodox Church, in ceremonial religious texts and iconography.

დამწერლობა damʦ̇ɛrlɔba damts'erloba script (mkhedruli)

The earliest uncontested use of the script dates from a 5th century inscription. Scriptsource describes the subsequent development as follows:

Since that time, Georgian has been written in three distinct scripts. The original script was an inscriptional form called Asomtavruli, from which a manuscript form, Nuskhuri, was derived. For a time, these were combined in a bicameral system called Khutsuri in which Asomtavruli letters were used as the upper case and Nushkuri as the lower case. Since the 11th century, a third script has been attested, called Mkhedruli. There is some debate as to the origins of this third script; some scholars say that it evolved from the Khutsuri system, other, that it pre-dates it. What is generally agreed upon is that Mkhedruli was used as a secular script alongside the ecclesiastical Khutsuri until the 18th century, since which time it has been used for nearly all Georgian writing. The three scripts share the same letter names, despite having different letter shapes.

Sources: Scriptsource, Wikipedia.

Modern Georgian scripts

Mkhedruli

Mkhedruli (მხედრული mχɛdruli mxɛdruli) is the standard set of characters for writing modern Georgian. It is normally used as a monocased script, even though there are Unicode mappings to uppercase variants (see mtavruli).

For more information about the characters, click on them and follow the links to the character notes page.

Mtavruli

Mtavruli (მხედრული მთავრული mχɛdruli mtavruli mxɛdruli mtʰɑvruli) is also used for writing modern Georgian. These characters in Unicode are classed as uppercase versions of the mkedruli, however in modern text they are normally used like all-caps rather than at the beginning of a sentence or proper noun, etc. They are typically used to emphasise words or for headings.w,#Mkhedruli

The mtavruli letters are have similar forms to the mkhedruli except that, in principle, all letters written in the mtavruli style appear with an equal height standing on the baseline, similar to small caps in the Latin script.

Dedicated characters were only introduced in Unicode v11. Prior to that, authors had to use special fonts with the mkhedruli code points in order to write mtavruli letters.

At the time of writing, there are still not many Unicode fonts that provide glyphs for the mtavruli characters, and browsers on OS X and iOS browsers map (most) mtavruli letters to mkhedruli glyphs if a font doesn't contain the necessary glyphs.

Ecclesiastical/archaic Georgian scripts

Asomtavruli

Asomtavruli was used for writing historic Georgian inscriptions, and is really only used in liturgical texts now. These characters in Unicode are classed as uppercase versions of the nuskhuri, and in religious texts they are mixed in a similar way to capitals and lowercase characters in the Latin script. This mixture is called khutsuri.

Nuskhuri

Nuskhuri developed as a non-inscriptional alphabet, alongside Asomtravuli, and is also only used in liturgical texts now. These characters in Unicode are classed as lowercase versions of the asomtravuli.

Khutsuri

In religious texts asomtravuli and nuskhuri are mixed in a similar way to capitals and lowercase characters in the Latin script. This mixture is called khutsuri.

There is a one-to-one mapping of mkhedruli/mtavruli characters and their khutsuri counterparts (asomtavruli and nuskhuri). For a brief overview of the khutsuri letters, see khutsuri_description.

Basic features

The scripts are alphabets. Both consonants and vowels are indicated by letters. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the orthography of the modern Georgian language, including both mkhedruli and mtavruli.

The script is very close to the phonetics of the language, and all 4 styles generally provide a letter for each sound in a very regular way.

Georgian texts run left to right in horizontal lines. Words are separated by spaces. The visual forms of letters don't usually interact.

Case is a little special. When asomtavruli and nuskhuri are mixed as khutsuri, then words may be title-cased, and there was an attempt to introduce something similar for mkhedruli in the mid-20th century, but modern Georgian is normally written using lowercase only. If the mtavruli capitals are used, they are applied to a whole word at the minimum, so their use is more akin to ALL-CAPS than to the Capitalisation used in the Latin script.

❯ consonantSummary

Mkhedruli has 28 basic consonant letters, which are matched by 28 mtavruli letters for all-caps text. Stops are either unvoiced aspirated, unvoiced (lightly) ejective, or voiced.

❯ basicV

Mkhedruli is a straighforward alphabet that uses 5 letters to represent vowels. There are 5 mtavruli letters to match them. There are no combining marks, and no decompositions.

Vowel letters can be used in standalone positions without any special arrangements.

Numbers use ASCII digits.

Character index

Letters

Show

Consonants

ფ␣პ␣ბ␣თ␣ტ␣დ␣ქ␣კ␣გ␣ყ␣ც␣წ␣ძ␣ჩ␣ჭ␣ჯ␣ვ␣ს␣ზ␣შ␣ჟ␣ღ␣ხ␣ჰ␣მ␣ნ␣რ␣ლ
Ფ␣Პ␣Ბ␣Თ␣Ტ␣Დ␣Ქ␣Კ␣Გ␣Ყ␣Ც␣Წ␣Ძ␣Ჩ␣Ჭ␣Ჯ␣Ვ␣Ს␣Ზ␣Შ␣Ჟ␣Ღ␣Ხ␣Ჰ␣Მ␣Ნ␣Რ␣Ლ

Vowels

ი␣უ␣ე␣ო␣ა
Ი␣Უ␣Ე␣Ო␣Ა

Khutsuri consonants

ⴔ␣ⴎ␣ⴁ␣ⴇ␣ⴒ␣ⴃ␣ⴕ␣ⴉ␣ⴂ␣ⴗ␣ⴚ␣ⴜ␣ⴛ␣ⴙ␣ⴝ␣ⴟ␣ⴅ␣ⴑ␣ⴆ␣ⴘ␣ⴏ␣ⴞ␣ⴖ␣ⴠ␣ⴋ␣ⴌ␣ⴊ␣ⴐ
Ⴔ␣Ⴎ␣Ⴁ␣Ⴇ␣Ⴒ␣Ⴃ␣Ⴕ␣Ⴉ␣Ⴂ␣Ⴗ␣Ⴚ␣Ⴜ␣Ⴛ␣Ⴙ␣Ⴝ␣Ⴟ␣Ⴅ␣Ⴑ␣Ⴆ␣Ⴘ␣Ⴏ␣Ⴞ␣Ⴖ␣Ⴠ␣Ⴋ␣Ⴌ␣Ⴊ␣Ⴐ

Khutsuri vowels

ⴈ␣ⴓ␣ⴄ␣ⴍ␣ⴀ
Ⴈ␣Ⴓ␣Ⴄ␣Ⴍ␣Ⴀ

Not used for modern Georgian

ჱ␣ჴ␣ჳ␣ჲ␣ჵ
Ჱ␣Ჴ␣Ჳ␣Ჲ␣Ჵ

Not used for modern Khutsuri

Ⴥ␣ⴥ␣ⴡ␣ⴢ␣ⴣ␣ⴤ␣ⴧ␣Ⴡ␣Ⴢ␣Ⴣ␣Ⴤ␣Ⴧ␣Ⴥ␣Ⴭ␣ⴥ␣ⴭ

Punctuation

Show
„␣“␣«␣»

ASCII

(␣)␣,␣.␣:␣;␣?␣!

Symbols

Show
₾␣№

Other

Show

To be investigated

-␣[␣]␣§␣ʼ␣‑␣–␣—␣†␣‡␣′␣″
Items to show in lists

Phonology

These are sounds for the modern Georgian language.

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

Vowel sounds

i u ɛ ɔ a ɑ ɑ

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
alveolar
palatal velar uvular glottal
stops b d       ɡ    
ejective        
aspirated p⁽ʰ⁾ t⁽ʰ⁾       k⁽ʰ⁾    
affricates   d͡z   d͡ʒ        
ejective   t͡sʼ   t͡ʃʼ        
aspirated   t͡s⁽ʰ⁾   t͡ʃ⁽ʰ⁾        
fricative v   s z ʃ ʒ   x ɣ χ h
nasal m   n        
approximant     l        
trill/flap     r    

Tone

Georgian is not a tonal language.

Structure

A feature of the Georgian language is the propensity to cluster consonants, and it does so in 2 ways.

  1. In harmonic clusters, two similar consonants are pronounced with only a single release,wl,#Prosody eg. ბგერა ცხოვრება წყალი
  2. Other clusters of up to 6 (and occasionally more) consonants are also frequent,wl,#Prosody eg. მწვანე მთვრალი მწვრთნელი

Vowels

Vowel summary table

The following table summarises the main vowel to character assigments.

Mkhedruli is on the left; mtavruli on the right.

Vowel summary

Simple:
ი␣ ␣უ
Ი␣ ␣Უ
ე␣ ␣ო
Ე␣ ␣Ო

For additional details see vowel_mappings.

Vowel letters

ი␣უ␣ე␣ო␣ა
Ი␣Უ␣Ე␣Ო␣Ა

Standalone vowels

Standalone vowels are written using ordinary vowel letters and no special arrangements.

ადამიანი

Vowel absence

tbd

Vowel sounds to characters

This section maps Georgian vowel sounds to common graphemes in the mxedruli and mtavruli orthographies. x represents mxedruli; t represents mtavruli. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, etc.

Plain vowels

Consonants

Consonant summary table

The following table summarises the main consonant to character assigments.

The left column is mkedruli, the right is mtavruli.

Stops
ფ␣პ␣ბ␣თ␣ტ␣დ␣ქ␣კ␣გ␣ყ
Ფ␣Პ␣Ბ␣Თ␣Ტ␣Დ␣Ქ␣Კ␣Გ␣Ყ
Affricates
ც␣წ␣ძ␣ჩ␣ჭ␣ჯ
Ც␣Წ␣Ძ␣Ჩ␣Ჭ␣Ჯ
Fricatives
ვ␣ს␣ზ␣შ␣ჟ␣ღ␣ხ␣ჰ
Ვ␣Ს␣Ზ␣Შ␣Ჟ␣Ღ␣Ხ␣Ჰ
Nasals
მ␣ნ
Მ␣Ნ
Other
რ␣ლ
Რ␣Ლ

For additional details see consonant_mappings.

Consonants

ფ␣პ␣ბ␣თ␣ტ␣დ␣ქ␣კ␣გ␣ყ
Ფ␣Პ␣Ბ␣Თ␣Ტ␣Დ␣Ქ␣Კ␣Გ␣Ყ
ც␣წ␣ძ␣ჩ␣ჭ␣ჯ
Ც␣Წ␣Ძ␣Ჩ␣Ჭ␣Ჯ
ვ␣ს␣ზ␣შ␣ჟ␣ღ␣ხ␣ჰ
Ვ␣Ს␣Ზ␣Შ␣Ჟ␣Ღ␣Ხ␣Ჰ
მ␣ნ
Მ␣Ნ
რ␣ლ
Რ␣Ლ

Onsets

tbd

Finals

tbd

Consonant clusters

Despite the many, complex consonant clusters that appear in words (see structure), Georgian has no special glyphs or shaping rules for consonant clusters. As elsewhere, each phoneme is simply rendered with an individual character.

The following is an example of a word with a large cluster of consonants.

მწვრთნელი

Consonant length

tbd

Consonant sounds to characters

This section maps Georgian consonant sounds to common graphemes in the mxedruli and mtavruli orthographies. x represents mxedruli; t represents mtavruli. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, Sanskrit, etc.

Stops

Affricates

Fricatives

Nasals

Other

Other features

Other letters

Characters for other languages

The following characters are obsolete in the modern Georgian language, but still used in other languages.l They were removed by the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians, founded by Prince Ilia Chavchavadze in 1879 because they were redundantw,#Mkhedruli.

The mkedruli letters are, however, still used for the additive counter style (see lists).

IPA values are for the languages that use them. For previous Georgian pronunciation, click on the character to reveal the notes.

ჱ␣ჴ␣ჳ␣ჲ
Ჱ␣Ჴ␣Ჳ␣Ჲ

The above letters are all used for the Svan language, and the 2nd in the list is used also for Mingrelian and Laz.

The characters below were specifically created for use with other languages (Svan and Mingrelian for the first two, and Laz for the last).

ჷ␣ჸ␣ჶ
Ჷ␣Ჸ␣Ჶ

Archaic characters

One Georgian-only character is no longer used (since the 1879 reform).

ჵ␣Ჵ

The characters below were used for other languages in the past, including Bats, Ossetian and Abkhaz.

ჹ␣ჺ␣ჼ␣ჽ␣ჾ␣ჿ
Ჹ␣Ჺ␣ ␣Ჽ␣Ჾ␣Ჿ

Combining marks

Georgian normally has no combining marks, and there are none in the Unicode Georgian block.

It is, however, possible to find a combining accent character used with Laz for certain vowels.

Numbers

Georgian uses the standard western digits.

[U+2116 NUMERO SIGN] is used to indicate numbers. 

The Georgian currency symbol, [U+20BE LARI SIGN] is found in the Currency Symbols block.

Text direction

Georgian text runs left to right in horizontal lines.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Georgian orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

You can experiment with examples using the All Georgian character app, the Modern Georgian character app, or the Khutsuri character app.

Context-based shaping & positioning

Georgian letters don't interact, so no special shaping is needed.

There are no combining marks.

Graphemes

Grapheme clusters

tbd

Punctuation & inline features

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries

,␣:␣;␣.␣?␣!␣჻

Georgian uses ASCII punctuation.

phrase

, [U+002C COMMA]

; [U+003B SEMICOLON]

: [U+003A COLON]

sentence

. [U+002E FULL STOP]

? [U+003F QUESTION MARK]

! [U+0021 EXCLAMATION MARK]

paragraph [U+10FB GEORGIAN PARAGRAPH SEPARATOR]

[U+10FB GEORGIAN PARAGRAPH SEPARATOR] was formerly used to indicate the end of a paragraph, but is not common in modern Georgian. When used, it appeared at the end of the last line in the paragraph.

Bracketed text

(␣)

Georgian commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.

  start end
standard

( [U+0028 LEFT PARENTHESIS]

) [U+0029 RIGHT PARENTHESIS]

Quotations & citations

„␣“␣«␣»

Amharic texts typically use quotation marks as the default, and guillemets for embedded quotations.

  start end
initial

[U+201E DOUBLE LOW-9 QUOTATION MARK]

[U+201C LEFT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]
nested

« [U+00AB LEFT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK]

» [U+00BB RIGHT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK]

According to CLDR, the default quote marks for Georgian are [U+201E DOUBLE LOW-9 QUOTATION MARK] at the start, and [U+201C LEFT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK] at the end.

When an additional quote is embedded within the first, the quote marks are « [U+00AB LEFT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK] and » [U+00BB RIGHT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK].

The following example shows quotation marks used to offset terms.

თავრული სტილი არასოდეს გამოიყენება როგორც ე.წ. „დიდი ასოები“.

Emphasis

Modern Georgian tends to use mtavruli characters for a word or phrase to show emphasis or highlight it. The mtavruli characters are used like ALL-CAPS and applied to whole words or phrases, and never just the first letter in a word.

Other punctuation

CLDR lists the following additional punctuation marks.

§␣†␣‡␣′␣″␣‘␣‚

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

The primary line-break opportunities for Georgian text are the spaces between words.

In-word line-breaking

Georgian uses hyphenation to fit text to lines better.

An example of hyphenation in Georgian.

Line-edge rules

As in almost all writing systems, certain punctuation characters should not appear at the end or the start of a line. The Unicode line-break properties help applications decide whether a character should appear at the start or end of a line.

Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Georgian orthography.

The following list gives examples of typical behaviours for some of the characters used in modern Georgian. Context may affect the behaviour of some of these and other characters.

Click/tap on the characters to show what they are.

  • „ « (   should not be the last character on a line.
  • “ » ) . , ; ! ? %   should not begin a new line.
  •   should be kept with any preceding number, even if separated by a space or parenthesis.
  •   should be kept with any following number, even if separated by a space or parenthesis.

Baselines, line height, etc.

Georgian uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.

Georgian has no vowel and tone marks to appear above or below base characters, which reduces the complexity of the line content.

To give an approximate idea, fig_baselines compares Latin and Georgian glyphs from Noto fonts. The metrics of the Georgian letters are the same as those of the Latin, including x-height, descenders, ascenders, and cap-height.

HhqxბქვშლᲗᲚ2₾ HhqxბქვშლᲗᲚ2₾
Font metrics for Latin text compared with Georgian glyphs in the Noto Serif Georgian (top) and Noto Sans Georgian (bottom) fonts.

fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Segoe UI and BGP 2017 DejaVu Serif fonts.

HhqxბქვშლᲗᲚ2₾ HhqxბქვშლᲗᲚ2₾
Latin font metrics compared with Thai glyphs in the Segoe UI (top) and BGP 2017 DejaVu Serif (bottom) fonts.

Counters, lists, etc.

You can experiment with counter styles using the Counter styles converter. Patterns for using these styles in CSS can be found in Ready-made Counter Styles, and we use the names of those patterns here to refer to the various styles.

The modern Georgian orthography uses an additive style.

Additive

The georgian additive style uses these letters. It is specified for a range between 1 and 19,999. It uses mkhedruli characters, several of which are archaic in written text.

ჵ␣ჰ␣ჯ␣ჴ␣ხ␣ჭ␣წ␣ძ␣ც␣ჩ␣შ␣ყ␣ღ␣ქ␣ფ␣ჳ␣ტ␣ს␣რ␣ჟ␣პ␣ო␣ჲ␣ნ␣მ␣ლ␣კ␣ი␣თ␣ჱ␣ზ␣ვ␣ე␣დ␣გ␣ბ␣ა

Examples:

ა␣ბ␣გ␣დ␣ია␣კბ␣ლგ␣მდ␣რია␣სკბ␣ტლგ␣ჳმდ

Prefixes and suffixes

The default list style uses a full stop + space as a suffix.

Examples:

ჵ. ჰ. ჯ. ჴ. ხ.
Separator for Georgian list counters.

Page & book layout

Ecclesiastical/archaic Georgian

All the character lists in this section show asomtavruli to the left and nuskhuri to the right.

Georgian language characters

The following characters are used for the Georgian language.

Vowels

Ⴈ␣Ⴓ␣Ⴄ␣Ⴍ␣Ⴀ
ⴈ␣ⴓ␣ⴄ␣ⴍ␣ⴀ

Stops

Ⴔ␣Ⴎ␣Ⴁ␣Ⴇ␣Ⴒ␣Ⴃ␣Ⴕ␣Ⴉ␣Ⴂ␣Ⴗ
ⴔ␣ⴎ␣ⴁ␣ⴇ␣ⴒ␣ⴃ␣ⴕ␣ⴉ␣ⴂ␣ⴗ

Affricates

Ⴚ␣Ⴜ␣Ⴛ␣Ⴙ␣Ⴝ␣Ⴟ
ⴚ␣ⴜ␣ⴛ␣ⴙ␣ⴝ␣ⴟ

Fricatives

Ⴅ␣Ⴑ␣Ⴆ␣Ⴘ␣Ⴏ␣Ⴞ␣Ⴖ␣Ⴠ
ⴅ␣ⴑ␣ⴆ␣ⴘ␣ⴏ␣ⴞ␣ⴖ␣ⴠ

Nasals

Ⴋ␣Ⴌ
ⴋ␣ⴌ

Liquids

Ⴊ␣Ⴐ
ⴊ␣ⴐ

Characters for other languages

The first 3 characters are obsolete in the Georgian language, but are still used in Svan, Mingrelian, and Laz languages.l The last character in the list was created specifically for use with Svan.

ⴡ␣ⴢ␣ⴣ␣ⴤ␣ⴧ
Ⴡ␣Ⴢ␣Ⴣ␣Ⴤ␣Ⴧ

Archaic characters

The following characters are archaic. The first pair was used for Georgian, and the second for Ossetian.

Ⴥ␣Ⴭ
ⴥ␣ⴭ

Punctuation, etc.

Khutsuri punctuation has evolved over the centuries. It uses a variety of dots to separate phrases, clauses, and paragraphs.w,#Punctuation

Numbers were traditionally represented using letters.

References