Tuesday, October 15, 2013

25. Cyrillic script

The Cyrillic script is named after Saint Cyril, a missionary from Byzantium who, along with his brother, Saint Methodius, created the Glagolitic script. Modern Cyrillic alphabets developed from the Early Cyrillic script, which was developed during the 9th century in the First Bulgarian Empire (AD 681-1018) by a decree of Boris I of Bulgaria (Борис I). It is thought that St. Kliment of Ohrid, a disciple of Cyril and Methodius, was responsible for the script. The Early Cyrillic script was based on the Greek uncial script with ligatures and extra letters from the Glagolitic and Old Church Slavonic scripts for sounds not used in Greek.

Early Cyrillic script

Early Cyrillic script


  • Capital and lowercase letters were not distinguished in old manuscripts
  • Yeri (Ы) was originally a ligature of Yer and I (Ъ + I = Ы).
  • Iotation was indicated by ligatures formed with the letter I: Ꙗ (not ancestor of modern Ya, Я, which is derived from Ѧ), Ѥ, Ю (ligature of I and ОУ), Ѩ, Ѭ.
  • Many letters had variant forms and commonly used ligatures, for example И = І = Ї, Ѡ = Ѻ, ѠТ = Ѿ.

Cyrillic numerals

The letters also had numeric values, the order of which cames from the Greek alphabet.
Cyrillic numerals

Modern Cyrillic script

This chart shows most of the Cyrillic letters currently in use, plus ones that are no longer used, with their names.
Modern Cyrillic script

Languages written with the Cyrillic alphabet

The Cyrillic alphabet has been adapted to write more than 50 different languages, mainly in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. In many cases additional letters are used, some of which are adaptations of standard Cyrillic letters, while others are taken from the Greek or Latin alphabets.


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