The Bulgarian alphabet

Learning the Bulgarian alphabet

(a rewarding challenge)

The letters of the alphabet

Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet which has 30 letters: Аа, Бб, Вв, Гг, Дд, Ее, Жж, Зз, Ии, Йй, Кк, Лл, Мм, Нн, Оо, Пп, Рр, Сс, Тт, Уу, Фф, Хх, Цц, Чч, Шш, Щщ, Ъъ, ь, Юю, Яя.

The table below shows the names of the letters. As in English, the names are different from the sounds each letter stands for. The names of the letters include the sound ъ, which is not pronounced in connected speech. It is used only when reciting the alphabet or spelling out a word. The approximate English sound equivalents represent the pronunciation in connected speech.

The names and the sounds the letters stand for

Bulgarian letterName of the letterEnglish equivalent
Аааa as in bath
Бббъb as in bee
Вввъv as in velvet
Гггъg as in get
Дддъd as in den
Еееe as in bet
Жжжъthe same as the last sound of mirage
Зззъz as in zip
Иииi as in inn
Ййи краткоthe same as the first sound in yes (cannot be pronounced on its own)
Кккъk as in kite
Лллъl as in line
Мммъm as in mother
Нннъn as in nine
Оооo as in top
Пппъp as in pet
Ррръr as in red (but trilled – vibrating, the tongue touches the palate)
Сссъs as in soup
Тттъt as in ten
Уууu as in book
Фффъf as in fashion
Хххъh but sounds more like the Scottish loch
Цццъsimilar to the first sound in tsunami
Чччъch as in chair
Шшшъsh as in ship
Щщштъsh followed by t as in shtick
Ъъер голям (ъ)u as in turn
ьер малъкmarks softness (not pronounced on its own)
Ююйуthe first sound in youth
Яяйаthe first sound in yarn

Typography considerations

The script looks quite different when different fonts are used.

Here is a selection of Bulgarian fonts that shows how different some of the letters can look (handwriting is even more challenging):

Keyboard layout

Most operating systems nowadays offer a few Bulgarian keyboard layouts out of the box:

The easiest keyboard layout, at least for foreigners used to the QWERTY layout, is BULGARIAN PHONETIC TRADITIONAL which maps most Cyrillic letters onto the equivalent Latin character (with a few exceptions), thus: Аа=Aa, Бб=Bb, Вв=Ww, Гг=Gg, Дд=Dd, Ее=Ee, Жж=VV, Зз=Zz, Ии=Ii, Йй=Jj, Кк=Kk, Лл=Ll, Мм=Mm, Нн=Nn, Oo=Оо, Пп=Pp, Рр=Rr, Сс=Ss, Тт=Tt, Уу=Uu, Фф=Ff, Хх=Hh, Цц=CC, Чч=`, Шш=[, Щщ=], Ъъ=Yy, ь=Xx, Юю=\, Яя=Qq. Besides the familiarity, another key advantage is that it can be used regardless of whether the physical keyboard has the Bulgarian letter labels on the buttons.

Some historical notes

The first Bulgarian alphabet was the Glagolitic alphabet:

(снимка от: Harry, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is the famous Bashchanska plocha, dating from c. 1100 AD, the oldest found use of the Glagolitic script:

The Glagolitic was introduced in Bulgaria in the 9th century, and is thought to have been created by the two Byzantine theologians Cyril and Methodius to facilitate the Christianization of the Slavic peoples.

The Cyrillic alphabet, which superseded the Glagolitic, was later developed by their disciples from the Preslav literary school:

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