Swedish alphabet

The Swedish alphabet is a basic element of the Latin writing system used for the Swedish language. The 29 letters of this alphabet are the modern 26-letter basic Latin alphabet (A through Z) plus Å, Ä, and Ö, in that order. It contains 20 consonants and 9 vowels (a e i o u y å ä ö). The Latin alphabet was brought to Sweden along with the massive Christianization of the population, although runes continued in use throughout the first centuries of Christianity. The Latin alphabet was completely accepted by the Middle Ages but runes still occurred, especially in the countryside, until the 18th century.

The pronunciation of the names of the letters (that does not necessarily coincide with the sound it represents) is as follows:


Uncommon letters

The letter Q is rare. Q was common in ordinary words before 1889, when its replacement by K was allowed. Since 1900, only the forms with K are listed in dictionaries. Some proper names kept their Q despite the change to common words: Qvist, Quist, Husqvarna, Quenby, Quinby, Quintus, Quirin and Quirinus. Other uses include some loanwords that retained Q, for example queer, quisling, squash, and quilting; student terms such as gasque and foreign geographic names like Qatar.

The letter W is rare. Before the 19th century, W was interchangeable with V (W was used in Fraktur, V in Antiqua). Official orthographic standards since 1801 use only V for common words. Many family names kept their W despite the change to common words. Foreign words and names bring in uses of W, particularly combinations with webb for (World Wide) Web. Swedish sorting traditionally and officially treated V and W as equivalent, so that users would not have to guess whether the word, or name, they were seeking was spelled with a V or a W. The two letters were often combined in the collating sequence as if they were all V or all W, until 2006 when the 13th edition of Svenska Akademiens ordlista (The Swedish Academy's Orthographic Dictionary) declared a change.[1][2][3][4][5] By 2006, W had grown in usage because of new loanwords, so W officially became a letter, and the V = W sorting rule was deprecated. Pre-2006 books and software generally use the rule. After the rule was deprecated, some books and software continued to apply it. Visual Studio 2010 documentation shows the rule still in effect.

The letter Z is rare, used in names and a few loanwords such as zon (zone). Z was historically pronounced /ts/. By 1700, this had merged with /s/. As a result, Z was replaced by S in 1700. Z was instead used in loanwords for historical /z/. Z is more common than Q or W.

Accented letters

In addition to the basic twenty-six letters, A–Z, the Swedish alphabet includes Å, Ä, and Ö at the end. They are distinct letters in Swedish, and are sorted after Z as shown above. Because they do not mark grammatical variation, as the umlaut can in German orthography, or separate syllables, as does the diaeresis, it is not strictly correct to call them umlauts, despite the lack of a better term in English. The umlauted ü is recognised, but is only used in names of German origin, as well as the loanword müsli. It is otherwise treated as a variant of y and is called a German Y. In Swedish, y is a vowel, and is pronounced as such (/y:/ as in yta). In a few unchanged English loanwords the y is used for the consonant /j/, following English spelling rules, but it is uncommon.

Foreign letters

Though not in the official alphabet, á is a Swedish (old-fashioned) letter. In native Swedish personal names, ü and è and others are also used.

The characters à (which is used only in a few rare non-integrated loanwords such as à, from French) and é (used in some integrated loanwords like idé and armé, and in some surnames such as Rosén or Löfvén) are regarded simply as variants of a and e, respectively.

For foreign names, ç, ë, í, õ, and many others might be used, but are usually converted to c, e, i, o, etc.

Swedish newspapers and magazines have a tendency only to use letters available on the keyboard. à, ë, í, etc. are available on Swedish keyboards with a little effort, but usually not æ and ø (used in Danish and Norwegian), so they are usually substituted by ae or ä, and ö. The news agency TT follows this usage because some newspapers have no technical support for æ and ø,[6] although there is a recommendation to use æ and ø. The letter Æ was used in earlier Swedish script systems, when there was in general more similarity between the Scandinavian languages.

The Swedish population register has traditionally only used the letters a–z, å, ä, ö, ü, é, so immigrants with other Latin letters in their names have had their diacritic marks stripped (and æ/ø converted to ä/ö), although recently more diacritics have been allowed.[7]

The difference between the Danish/Norwegian and the Swedish alphabet is that Danish/Norwegian uses the variant Æ instead of Ä, and the variant Ø instead of Ö. Also, the collating order for these three letters is different: Æ, Ø, Å.

Handwritten Cursive Alphabet

The Swedish traditional handwritten alphabet is the same as the ordinary latin cursive alphabet, but the letters Ö and Ä are written by connecting the dots with a curved line ~, hence looking like Õ and Ã. In texted handwriting the dots should be clearly separated, but writers frequently replace them with a line: Ō, Ā.

Sound–spelling correspondences

Letter Pronunciation (IPA) Notes
Long Short
a /ɑː/ /a/
e /eː/ /ɛ/ Some speakers distinguish two short sounds: /ɛ/ and /e/. The former sound is usually spelled ä, but some words exceptionally have e, among them words with ej, numerals, proper names and their derivations, and loanwords. Before 1889, e for /ɛ/ and /ɛː/ was also used for many other words, in particular words with je now spelled .

The sound /eː/ at the end of loanwords and in the last syllable of Swedish surnames is represented by é.

i /iː/ /ɪ/
o /uː/,


/ɔ/, /ʊ/ The phoneme /ʊ/ is relatively infrequent; short o more often represents /ɔ/. Long o usually represents /uː/ in native words.
u /ʉː/ /ɵ/
y /yː/ /ʏ/
å /oː/ /ɔ/ Most words with /ɔ/ and some words with /oː/ are spelled with o.
ä /ɛː/ /ɛ/ Some words with /ɛ/ are spelled with e.
ö /øː/ /œ/ The short ö is, in some dialects, pronounced as /ɵ/.

Short vowels are followed by two or more consonants; long vowels are followed by a single consonant, by a vowel or are word-final.

Grapheme Sound (IPA) Notes
b /b/
c /k/, /s/ /s/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /k/. The letter c alone is used only in loanwords (usually in the /s/ value) and proper names, but ck is a normal representation for /k/ after a short vowel (as in English and German).
ch /ɧ/, /ɕ/ In loanwords. The conjunction 'och' (and) is pronounced /ɔk/ or /ɔ/.
d /d/
dj /j/
f /f/
g /ɡ/, /j/ /j/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /ɡ/
gj /j/
gn /ɡn/, /ŋn/ /ɡn/ word-initially; /ŋn/ elsewhere
h /h/
hj /j/
j /j/
k /k/, /ɕ/ /ɕ/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /k/
kj /ɕ/
l /l/
lj /j/
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/, /ŋɡ/
p /p/
r /r/ Is pronounced as /ɾ/ in some words.
s /s/
sj /ɧ/
sk /sk/, /ɧ/ /ɧ/ before front vowels e i y ä ö, otherwise /sk/
skj /ɧ/
stj /ɧ/
t /t/
tj /ɕ/
v /v/ Before 1906, fv, hv and final f were also used for /v/. Now these spellings are used in some proper names.
w /v/ Rarely used (loanwords, proper names). In loanwords from English may be pronounced /w/.
x /ks/
z /s/ Used in loanwords and proper names.

The combinations rd rl rn rs rt are pronounced [ɖ ɭ ɳ ʂ ʈ] respectively.

Spellings for the sje-phoneme /ɧ/

Due to several phonetic combinations coalescing over recent centuries, the spelling of the Swedish sje-sound is very eclectic. Some estimates claim that there are over 50 possible different spellings of the sound, though this figure is disputed. Garlén (1988) gives a list of 22 spellings (ch, che, g, ge, gi, ige, j, je, sc, sch, sh, shi, si, sj, sk, skj, ssi, ssj, stg, sti, stj, ti), but many of them are confined to only a few words, often loanwords, and all of them can correspond to other sounds or sound sequences as well. Some spellings of the sje-sound are as follows:

  • ch in most French loanwords, but in final position often respelled sch. English loanwords with this spelling usually use the tje-sound
  • g in words mainly from French, for example generös (generous) and gentil (generous, posh, stylish)
  • ge mostly in the end of the word in many French loanwords, like garage, prestige
  • gi in for example religiös (religious)
  • j in French loanwords, for example jalusi (jalousie window)
  • sc in fascinera (fascinate)
  • sch in all positions in many German loanwords, like schack ("chess")
  • sh in all positions in many English loanwords
  • sj in native Swedish words, before both front (e, i, y, ä, ö) and back vowels (a, o, u, å)
  • sk in native Swedish words before the front vowels e, i, y, ä, ö
  • skj in five words only, four of which are enumerated in the phrase I bara skjortan skjuter han skjutsen in i skjulet. (In just his shirt he pushes the vehicle into the shed.) The fifth word is skjuva (shear). It is also used in an old word skjura (Eurasian magpie) and dialectic derivations of the same
  • stg in three words only: västgöte, östgöte, gästgiveri. These are not common and are often pronounced as /stj/. All of them are compound words: väst+göte (person from Västergötland) öst+göte (person from Östergötland) and gäst+giveri (inn)
  • sti occurs only in the place-name Kristianstad and in the pronunciation of the name Christian when used about Danish kings
  • stj in five words only, all enumerated in the phrase Det är lättare att stjäla en stjälk än att stjälpa en stjärna med stjärten. (It is easier to steal a stalk than to overturn a star with your behind.)
  • -tion, -sion, -ssion (pronounced /ɧon/) in many words of Latin origin; in a few of these words, the sje-sound is preceded by a /t/ (e.g. nation, rationell), also in some adjective derivations (pretentiös, infektiös)
  • xj for the sequence /kɧ/ occurs only in the place-name Växjö

See also


  1. "Svenska Akademiens ordbok – Trettonde upplagan av SAOL" (in Swedish). Swedish Academy. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011. Trettonde upplagan inför slutligen något så ovanligt som ytterligare en självständig bokstav, nämligen w (”dubbel-v”) som inte längre sorteras in under enkelt v utan – som i många andra språk, även nordiska – blir en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven v.
  2. Svenska Akademien (April 10, 2006). Sven-Goran Malmgren (eds.). Svenska Akademiens ordlista över svenska språket (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedts Akademiska Förlag. pp. IX. ISBN 978-91-7227-419-8. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011. Trettonde upplagan inför slutligen något så ovanligt som ytterligare en självständig bokstav, nämligen w (”dubbel-v”) som inte längre sorteras in under enkelt v utan – som i många andra språk, även nordiska – blir en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven v.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  3. Boldemann, Marcus (April 21, 2006). "Alfabetet blir längre – växer med W". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011. Alfabetet består inte längre av 28 bokstäver, utan 29. Det betyder att ett stort antal läroböcker måste skrivas om. Att det blivit så här beror på att Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL) i sin nya upplaga särskiljer W från enkelt V. Äntligen – för det är internationell praxis.
  4. "Veckans språkråd". Veckans språkråd 2006 v. 28 (in Swedish). Språkrådet Swedish Language Council. July 10, 2006. Archived from the original on October 16, 2016. Retrieved June 21, 2011. Om särsortering av v och w slår igenom i fler sammanhang, t.ex. i ordböcker, innebär det att det svenska alfabetet kan sägas ha 29 bokstäver, inte som tidigare bara 28. Behöver man ange denna uppgift, bör man tills vidare ge en förklaring i stil med: "det svenska alfabetet har 29 bokstäver (om man räknar w som en bokstav med egen plats i alfabetet)". Har man inte plats för sådana nyanserade tillägg, är det säkrast att uppge antalet till 29.
  5. Aniansson, Eva (January 11, 2010). "3 mars 2011 — bokstaven 'W' 6 år: HURRA!". E-mail: Subject: Bokstaven W (in Swedish). linkli.st. Archived from the original on October 21, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011. Den rimligaste ’födelsedagen’ är nog 3 mars 2005. Då fattade nämligen Svenska Akademiens sitt beslut att föra in W som bokstav i alfabetet. Den direkta anledningen var, som du själv påpekar, att den kommande upplagan av SAOL skulle sära på V och W. Själva bokstaven har ju funnits i långliga tider, men det var alltså i SAOL13, som kom ut våren 2006, närmare bestämt den 10 april 2006, som Akademiens ordlista för första gången hade W som ’en bokstav med egen placering efter bokstaven V’.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 6, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. http://www.ratsit.se Archived 2016-02-06 at the Wayback Machine has a copy of the national population and tax register and there all diacritics including æ,ç,ñ,ø are stripped except that å,ä,ö,ü,é are kept, except for a few people. There are for example 580 people named Francois and 20 named François.


  • Garlén, Claes (1988), Svenskans fonologi i kontrastiv och typologisk belysning, Lund: Studentlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-28151-X
  • Granberry, Julian (1991), Essential Swedish Grammar, New York: Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-26953-1, OCLC 23692877
  • Viberg, Åke; Ballardini, Kerstin; Stjärnlöf, Sune (1991), Swedish Essentials of Grammar, Chicago: Passport Books, ISBN 0-8442-8539-0
  • Holmes, Philip; Hinchliffe, Ian (2000), Essential Swedish Grammar, London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-16048-0
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