Mongolian (draft)
Traditional Mongolian

Updated 16 April, 2022

This page brings together basic information about the Mongolian (Hudum) script and its use for the Mongolian language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Mongolian using Unicode.


Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details. Source
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ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠪᠦᠷ ᠲᠥᠷᠥᠵᠦ ᠮᠡᠨᠳᠡᠯᠡᠬᠦ ᠡᠷᠬᠡ ᠴᠢᠯᠥᠭᠡ ᠲᠡᠢ᠂ ᠠᠳᠠᠯᠢᠬᠠᠨ ᠨᠡᠷ᠎ᠡ ᠲᠥᠷᠥ ᠲᠡᠢ᠂ ᠢᠵᠢᠯ ᠡᠷᠬᠡ ᠲᠡᠢ ᠪᠠᠢᠠᠭ᠃ ᠣᠶᠤᠨ ᠤᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ᠂ ᠨᠠᠨᠳᠢᠨ ᠴᠢᠨᠠᠷ ᠵᠠᠶᠠᠭᠠᠰᠠᠨ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠬᠡᠭᠴᠢ ᠥᠭᠡᠷ᠎ᠡ ᠬᠣᠭᠣᠷᠣᠨᠳᠣ᠎ᠨ ᠠᠬᠠᠨ ᠳᠡᠭᠦᠦ ᠢᠨ ᠦᠵᠢᠯ ᠰᠠᠨᠠᠭᠠ ᠥᠠᠷ ᠬᠠᠷᠢᠴᠠᠬᠥ ᠤᠴᠢᠷ ᠲᠠᠢ᠃

Usage & history

The Mongolian script is used for writing the Mongolian language. In the Mongolian People's Republic (Outer Mongolia), the traditional script was replaced by a Cyrillic orthography since the early 1940s, but revived in the 1990s, so that both scripts are now used in tandem. The script is also used within the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China and elsewhere in China.

The traditional writing for Mongolian is known as Hudum Mongol bichig, and was adapted from the Old Uighur alphabet during the reign of Genghis Khan in the 13th century.

There are four other scripts which are derived from and closely related to Mongolian. These are the Galik, Todo (or "clear script"), Manchu and Sibe scripts.

Sources: Scriptsource, Wikipedia.

Basic features

The Mongolian script is an alphabet, ie. a writing system in which both consonants and vowels are indicated. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Halh Mongolian orthography.

Modern Mongolian can be written using a subset of the letters available in the Mongolian Unicode block. The remainder are used for writing Todo, Sibe, and Manchu, or for writing foriegn words, especially in Tibetan and Sanskrit.

Mongolian text runs top to bottom in vertical lines and (unusually) the lines flow left to right.

The script is cursive, ie. letters in a word are joined. All letters join both on the left and right.

Words are separated by spaces, but also contain narrow spaces that precede suffixes and may produce shaping differences to the surrounding letters. These are part of the word, and the parts on either side should not be separated.

It has 16 basic consonant letters and 11 more for representing foreign sounds.

There are 8 vowel letters, including one for foreign sounds.

The script is monocameral.

There is a set of Mongolian digits.

Character index



Basic consonants


Extended consonants




Combining marks


Variation selectors








CLDR additions


Separator & other

Items to show in lists


The basic unit of text is a word, however words can contain prefixes and suffixes. Some of the suffixes are separated from the root of the word by a small gap, but they are still considered to be part of the word.

Vowel harmony

Vowel harmony is an important aspect of the Mongolian language – words contain only masculine+neuter vowels, or only feminine+neuter vowels. The masculine vowels are:


The feminine vowels are:


The following vowel is neutral, and can appear in words with either masculine or feminine vowels.

Grammatical suffixes also have masculine and feminine versions.

Glyphs vs. phonemes

Unicode encodes separate characters for different sounds for the Mongolian language, regardless of whether the glyph shapes used are identical. For example, the glyph shapes for the 2 characters [U+1823 MONGOLIAN LETTER O] and [U+1824 MONGOLIAN LETTER U] are identical, as are those for [U+1825 MONGOLIAN LETTER OE] and [U+1826 MONGOLIAN LETTER UE]. The two pairs only differ in shape in isolated and initial forms.

ᠣ᠊ ᠊ᠣ᠊ ᠊ᠣ ᠤ᠊ ᠊ᠤ᠊ ᠊ᠤ ᠥ᠊ ᠊ᠥ᠊ ᠊ᠥ ᠦ᠊ ᠊ᠦ᠊ ᠊ᠦ
Initial, medial and final forms for characters representing ɔ, ʊ, o, and u, respectively.

Identical glyphs for different sounds occur across other pairings also. For example, the medial and final shapes for a and n are identical.

ᠠ᠊ ᠊ᠠ᠊ ᠊ᠠ ᠨ᠊ ᠊ᠨ᠊ ᠊ᠨ
Initial, medial and final forms for characters representing a, and n, respectively.

The Unicode Standard provides the following examples of word pairs that cannot be distinguished visually.u,530 (Click on the words to see their actual composition.)

ᠤᠷᠲᠤ ᠣᠷᠳᠤ ᠡᠨᠳᠡ ᠠᠳᠠ
The confusable words ʊrtʊ long, ɔrdʊ camp, ende here, and ada devil in Mongolian.

The result of this encoding method is that it is impossible to accurately copy Mongolian text from a visual source unless you speak the language well enough to recognise the phonetics of the words involved. It also leads to mistakes when Mongolian speakers type text.

Spelling vs. pronunciation

Written Mongolian words use traditional spellings that may not correspond closely to modern pronunciations. For example, if you were to spell out the letters in the following word as written you would get uʤəgulxu, whereas the modern pronunciation is uʤuuləx. ᠤᠵᠡᠭᠦᠯᠬᠦ


These are the sounds of Khalkha Mongolian.

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

Plain vowels

i u ʊ ʊː e ə ə ɔ ɔː a


ui ʊi ɔi ai

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar uvular glottal
stops p t       ɡ ɢ  
palatalised       ɡʲ    
aspirated & palatalised pʲʰ tʲʰ       kʲʰ    
affricates   t͡s   t͡ʃ        
aspirated   t͡sʰ   t͡ʃʰ        
fricatives f   s
ʃ   x    
palatalised     ɮʲ        
nasals m   n     ŋ  
approximants w       j    
palatalised       j    


Click on the characters in the lists for detailed information.

Basic vowels

Eight vowels are used for the Mongolian language.


[U+1827 MONGOLIAN LETTER EE] is used for foreign words. 

As previously mentioned, vowel harmony is an important part of the orthography for the Mongolian language.

Vowels for other languages

In addition to the set of Mongolian vowels, the Mongolian block also includes additional vowel characters for use with Todo, Sibe, Manchu and Ali Gali vowels.






Ali gali



Many Mongolian suffixes are separated from the root or other suffixes by a small gap, eg. ᠭᠠᠵᠠᠷ ᠠ The Unicode Standard provides NNBSP [U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE] for this gap, which is thinner than a normal space, and doesn't provide an opportunity for line-breaking.

Characters following NNBSP may take on special shapes.

Final vowel separation

MVS [U+180E MONGOLIAN VOWEL SEPARATOR] is used where a final [U+1820 MONGOLIAN LETTER A] or [U+1821 MONGOLIAN LETTER E] vowel is separated from the rest of a word.

Unlike characters following NNBSP [U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE], the A or E following a word is not a suffix, but an integral part of the word. Whether a final A or E is joined or separated is a purely lexical decision, and not an instance of varying orthography.

MVS always requires the forward tail form of the following A or E letter. The preceding letter form varies according to the letter, and in some cases whether this is traditional or modern orthography. See fig_mvs.

ᠬᠠᠨ᠎ᠠ ᠬᠠᠨᠠ
The same sequence of character with MVS before the last letter (left), and without (right).

Not used for Todo, Manchu or Sibe.


The Mongolian block contains consonant symbols for use with Mongolian, Todo, Sibe, Manchu and Ali Gali. Some of the Mongolian characters are shared with other uses.

Click on the characters in the lists for detailed information.

Basic Mongolian consonants

The Mongolian language has a basic set of 16 consonants.









Other sonorants


QA and GA

In the current Mongolian encoding model, the code points [U+182C MONGOLIAN LETTER QA] and [U+182D MONGOLIAN LETTER GA] each have both masculine and feminine forms. The different forms have different shapes and different pronunciations.

The masculine form is used before a masculine vowel, and vice versa.

  masculine feminine   masculine feminine
initial ᠬᠠ ᠬᠡ   ᠭᠠ ᠭᠡ
medial  ᠊ᠬᠠ  ᠊ᠬᠡ    ᠊ᠭᠠ  ᠊ᠭᠡ
Initial and medial forms for QA and GA followed by masculine then feminine vowels.

The font is expected to automatically select the appropriate glyph form for these velar consonants. This becomes more complicated, however, where these consonants occur without a following vowel (ie. before another consonant, or in final position).

In Sibe and Manchu, the form is selected based on the previous vowel. In Mongolian and Todo, however, the shape depends on the gender of the word, as described in harmony, and this may not be detectable from the previous vowel. The Unicode Standard gives examples of 2 words where it is necessary to look at the beginning of the word to determine the shape at the end of the word.u,534

ᠵᠠᠷᠯᠢᠭ ᠴᠡᠷᠢᠭ
The words ʤarlig order and čerig soldier, showing different forms of the final letter GA.

This puts a significant strain on the capabilities of the font itself and of the font developers, and some fonts do not achieve this correctly. In addition, exceptional circumstances have to be taken into account. In consequence, fonts may need 100 or more rules to handle this.

Repertoire extension

The full set of consonants used for Mongolian includes 11 letters that are normally used for writing foreign sounds.


Consonants for other languages





Manchu & Buryat


Ali gali


Consonant clusters & gemination

Because the script is alphabetic, there are no special mechanisms for representing clusters of consonants without intervening vowels, or doubled consonants.

Combining marks

The Mongolian block contains 3 visible combining characters.


It also contains 3 invisible control characters, also classed by Unicode as combining characters, which can be used to indicate specific alternative forms for letters. See Context-based shaping.


Mongolian often uses european digits, however there is a set of Mongolian digits.


Traditionally, Mongolian digits run horizontally within the vertical lines, but it is common in modern text for them to run down the line instead.u

Inline digits Tate chu yoko digits
Digits arranged so they run down the line (left) and across the line (right).

Text direction

Mongolian script is written vertically, top to bottom, in columns that flow left to right. This is an unusual configuration. (Chinese, Japanese and Korean vertical text columns are read right to left). It derives from the fact that this script descended from a script (Old Uyghur) that was written right to left.

Fullwidth Latin alphabetic and digit characters are seen in traditional Mongolian text, as are fullwidth Chinese characters and punctuation (see mixed_text). When used, the latter are displayed upright. The fullwidth series of Unicode characters may be used as an easy way to achieve this.g5

Mixed Mongolian and Chinese text. (Click on the image to see larger.)

Cyrillic characters may also be seen, used in a way that resembles fullwidth characters, but this is actually a property of the font used to display the characters, since there are no fullwidth cyrillic code points in Unicode. Emoji are also expected to be displayed upright.g5

Non-fullwidth letters and numbers tend to be written sideways.g5 See mixed_text_sideways.

Sideways Latin text and numbers in vertical Mongolian.

Upright digits may be used for list counters. And Mongolian also has the feature referred to in Japanese as tate chu yoko, whereby small sequences of non-fullwidth numbers or punctuation may run horizontally within the vertical flow.g5 See fig_digits_tate_chu_yoko.

Certain punctuation marks are upright, and others are rotated.g5 (See inline.)

Many of the conventions seen in actual digital text may be determined more by the available technology than by what the content author wants to achieve.g5

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

In horizontal contexts

When Mongolian excerpts are shown in text that is set horizontally (such as on this page), the Mongolian is sometimes represented as a sequence of single vertical words, eg. ᠮᠣᠩᠤᠯ
, but in other cases it is rotated left and joins horizontally, eg. ᠮᠣᠩᠤᠯ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭ.

Mongolian text written horizontally is read left-to-right. This means that if it contains embedded text from another language, such as English, there is no bidirectional behaviour (as there would be in Arabic-script text).

Note also that it is not possible to produce a page of vertical text by printing it horizontally and then rotating the page, This is because the order of lines in the rotated page will be right-to-left, whereas it should be left-to-right.

Glyph shaping & positioning

This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.

You can experiment with examples using the Mongolian character app.

The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.

Most of the complexity of the Mongolian traditional script has to do with two things: (1) characters are allocated on the basis of phonemic differences, but many characters share identical shapes, and (2) there are many variant forms for a given character, some of which cannot be produced automatically.

Cursive shaping

Similarly to the Arabic script, Mongolian letters within a word tend to be joined cursively along the centre baseline, and the shapes of joined characters can vary significantly in various positions. Unlike Arabic, and many other cursive scripts, there are no characters that only join on one side.

Letters following a Mongolian suffix space may need to be displayed using a joining form, however that is not always the case. It depends on the suffix.

The base shape of a letter can change significantly, depending on the position in a word. On the other hand, a number of letters have adopt identical shapes in the same, or sometimes different joining contexts.

Context-based shaping & positioning

Certain letters ligate with adjacent letters.

In addition to the cursive shaping mentioned just above, individual letters may have context-dependent variant forms, that can be quite different from the standard forms. Where the alternative form can be determined algorithmically, the font should produce the change.

An unusual feature of the Mongolian traditional script is that the shape of a letter may depend on the vowel harmony of the word, and so may be determined at some distance from the character in question.

For unpredictable variants, the Mongolian block has three 'free variation selectors' which can be used to indicate which variant form should be used. The variant selector is used immediately after the character to be changed.


Unfortunately, variation selector usage is still not completely standardised across Mongolian fonts. For a set of tables summarising current standardisation proposals and major font support see Mongolian variant forms.

Font styles


Baselines & inline alignment

The default baseline for Mongolian-script text runs down the centre of the vertical line spacing, as shown in centre_baseline.n,#h_text_decoration

The Mongolian baseline runs down the centre of the vertical line.

When mixed with other languages, the text in those languages should also be centre-aligned along the Mongolian baseline.n,#mixed_arrangement_alphanum

Text segmentation

Grapheme boundaries

A grapheme is a user-perceived unit of text. The Unicode Standard uses generalised rules to define 'grapheme clusters', which approximate the likely grapheme boundaries in a writing system.


Word boundaries

The concept of 'word' is difficult to define in any language (see What is a word?). Here, a word is a vaguely-defined, but recognisable semantic unit that is typically smaller than a phrase and may comprise one or more syllables.

Words are separated by spaces. The gaps before certain suffixes are not considered to be word delimiters. Those gaps are usually created using MVS [U+180E MONGOLIAN VOWEL SEPARATOR] or NNBSP [U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE].

Punctuation & inline features

Phrase & section boundaries








Mongolian uses a mixture of local punctuation and punctuation from Chinese.

Question marks and exclamation marks are fullwidth, upright characters (ee an example). Mongolian punctuation is horizontally centred in each vertical line.n,#punctuation_rules

Parentheses & brackets

  start end







Parentheses and brackets may be fullwidth or may not be. They are rotated.g5


  start end

Quotation marks are often fullwidth but may not be. Quotation marks are rotated, as in Chinese.g5



Other inline ranges

Underlines run down the right side of vertical lines of Mongolian text. Lines down the left side are equivalent to overline in English text.n,#h_text_decoration

The side of the vertical line for underlines doesn't change for embedded Latin text. Since Latin text runs down the page, this makes the underline run across the top of the Latin letters. See the red line in text_decoration_mixed.n,#h_text_decoration

Underline in Mongolian text with embedded Latin content.

There are a number of different styles of underlining in use, as shown in underline_styles.g10

Various underline styles in Mongolian text. (Click on the picture to see larger.)

If an underline is styled so that it leaves a gap below spaces that separate words, the underline should not also leave gaps below the narrow spaces used to separate some suffixes from the word root. The desired outcome is that shown here, however implementations may vary.g9

Underlining with gaps doesn't leave a gap between roots and suffixes.

Text spacing


Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

[U+1801 MONGOLIAN ELLIPSIS] is used for ellipsis.

Inline notes & annotations

Like Chinese and Japanese, Mongolian text uses ruby annotations to express the pronunciation of words for beginners or in ambiguous situations. This is useful in Mongolian because many characters look identical in cursive text.

Annotations are typically written in the Latin script, and run down the right side of the line.g1

Ruby in Mongolian text.

Other punctuation

[U+180A MONGOLIAN NIRUGU] is used to extend the baseline.

Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

Line-breaking normally occurs at word boundaries (indicated by spaces).

Lines should not break, however, on gaps between words and their suffixes when separated by NNBSP [U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE], or where MVS [U+180E MONGOLIAN VOWEL SEPARATOR] is used.n,#mongolian_space

As for most writing systems, there are restrictions around which characters are allowed to start or end a line (eg. question marks and colons should not be used at the beginning of a line, and opening brackets should not be used at the end of a line).n,#punctuation_rules

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


When Traditional Mongolian (and Todo) is hyphenated, the visual marker used is [U+1806 MONGOLIAN TODO SOFT HYPHEN], which is placed at the beginning of the second line.u,545

Text alignment & justification

To justify the text on a line, the spaces between words are adjusted.

When Chinese characters are embedded in Mongolian text and justification applied, space is not added between the Chinese characters (as it would be in a Chinese document).n,#mixed_arrangement_cjk

Space is added around embedded Chinese text during justification, not between.

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 Mongolian orthography uses ASCII and native numeric styles. It also uses fixed styles based on circled numbers.


The mongolian numeric style is decimal-based and uses these digits.rmcs





The circled-decimal fixed style uses these numbers. It is only able to count to 50.


The dotted-decimal fixed style uses these numbers. It is only able to count to 20.


The Baiti and Noto fonts show the first 20 counters for the circled style lie on their side, instead of upright. The Mongolian White font fixes this, but doesn't appear to handle dotted digits above 9.

As list counters, these digits are generally used upright, as shown in fig_circled_counters. g5

Upright, circled numbers as list counters.

However, counters may also run down the page (see fig_rotated_counters).g5

List counters rotated. (Click on the image to see larger.)

Styling initials


Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to Mongolian and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.

General page layout & progression

Generally, book binding is on the left, and pages are turned towards the left, unlike books set vertically in Chinese or Japanese.n,#h_binding

Mongolian books are bound on the left, and pages turn to the left.

Columns run horizontally, rather than vertically as in Western typography.n,#h_columns

Columns run horizontally. (Click on the image to see larger.)

It is common for the default orientation of pages to be landscape, rather than portrait.n,#h_paper_direction

Forms & user interaction

Form controls on Web pages should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise, compared to the form controls for Western languages.n,#h_input

Page numbering, running headers, etc

Page numbers should be displayed on the upper or lower side of the page.n,#h_page_numbering

Online resources

  1. President of Mongolia Website
  2. Archival records from Preservation of unique and historic newspapers printed in traditional Mongolian script between 1936-1945 (EAP890), British Library