Coptic script

Coptic script
Script type
Time period
2nd century A.D. to present (in Coptic liturgy)
DirectionLeft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesCoptic language
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Old Nubian
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Copt (204), ​Coptic
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Coptic script is the script used for writing the Coptic language, the latest stage of Egyptian. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the uncial Greek alphabet, augmented by letters borrowed from the Egyptian Demotic. It was the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language. There are several Coptic alphabets, as the script varies greatly among the various dialects and eras of the Coptic language.


The letters of the Coptic script, not including soou

The Coptic script has a long history going back to the Ptolemaic Kingdom, when the Greek alphabet was used to transcribe Demotic texts, with the aim of recording the correct pronunciation of Demotic. As early as the sixth century BCE and as late as the second century CE, an entire series of pre-Christian religious texts were written in what scholars term Old Coptic, Egyptian language texts written in the Greek alphabet.

In contrast to Old Coptic, seven additional Coptic letters were derived from Demotic, and many of these (though not all) are used in “true” form of Coptic writing. Coptic texts are associated with Christianity, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism.

With the spread of early Christianity in Egypt, knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphs was lost by the late third century, as well as Demotic script slightly later, making way for a writing system more closely associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church. By the fourth century, the Coptic script was "standardized", particularly for the Sahidic dialect. (There are a number of differences between the alphabets as used in the various dialects in Coptic).

Coptic is not generally used today except by the members of the Coptic Orthodox Church to write their religious texts. All the Gnostic codices found at Nag Hammadi used the Coptic script.

The Old Nubian alphabet—used to write Old Nubian, a Nilo-Saharan language—is an uncial variant of the Coptic script, with additional characters borrowed from the Greek and Meroitic scripts.


The Coptic script was the first Egyptian writing system to indicate vowels, making Coptic documents invaluable for the interpretation of earlier Egyptian texts. Some Egyptian syllables had sonorants but no vowels; in Sahidic, these were written in Coptic with a line above the entire syllable. Various scribal schools made limited use of diacritics: some used an apostrophe as a word divider and to mark clitics, a function of determinatives in logographic Egyptian; others used diereses over and to show that these started a new syllable, others a circumflex over any vowel for the same purpose.

The Coptic script's glyphs are largely based on the Greek alphabet, another help in interpreting older Egyptian texts, with 24 letters of Greek origin; 6 or 7 more were retained from Demotic, depending on the dialect (6 in Sahidic, another each in Bohairic and Akhmimic). In addition to the alphabetic letters, the letter ϯ stood for the syllable /te/ or /de/.

As the Coptic script is simply a typeface of the Greek alphabet, with a few added letters, it can be used to write Greek without any transliteration schemes. Latin equivalents would include the Icelandic alphabet (which likewise has added letters), or the Fraktur alphabet (which has distinctive forms). While initially unified with the Greek alphabet by Unicode, a proposal was later accepted to separate it, with the proposal noting that Coptic is never written using modern Greek letter-forms (unlike German, which may be written with Fraktur or Roman Antiqua letter-forms), and that the Coptic letter-forms have closer mutual legibility with the Greek-based letters incorporated into the separately encoded Cyrillic alphabet than with the forms used in modern Greek. Because Coptic lowercases are usually small-caps forms of the capitals, a Greek would have little trouble reading Coptic letters, but Copts would struggle more with many of the Greek letters.


These are the letters that are used for writing the Coptic language. The distinction between capital and lowercase is a modern invention.

Uppercase (image) Lowercase (image) Uppercase (unicode) Lowercase (unicode) Numeric value Letter Name Greek equiv. Translit. Sahidic pron. Bohairic pron. Late Coptic pron. Greco-Bohairic pron.
1 Alpha Α, α A /a/ /æ/, /ɑ/ /ä/

2 Beta Β, β B/V /β/ /β/
(final [b])
(final [b])
/b/, (/v/ before a vowel [except in a name])
3 Gamma Γ, γ G/Gh/NG /k/
(marked Greek words)
/g/, ( /ɣ/ before ⲁ, ⲟ, or ⲱ) /ɣ/, /g/ (before // or /i/), /ŋ/ (before /g/ or /k/)
4 Delta Δ, δ TH/D /t/
(marked Greek words)
(marked Greek words)
/ð/, (/d/ in a name)
5 Eey Ε, ε E /ɛ/, /ə/
(ⲉⲓ = //, /j/)
/ɛ/, /ə/
(ⲓⲉ = /e/)
/æ/, /ɑ/
(ⲓⲉ = /e/)
6 Soou ϛ
Ϛ, ϛ*
(, )


7 Zeta Ζ, ζ Z /s/
(marked Greek words)
(marked Greek words)
8 Eta Η, η EE // /e/ /æ/, /ɑ/, /ɪ/ //
9 Theta Θ, θ Th/T /th/ // /t/ /θ/
10 Iota Ι, ι I/J/Y //, /j/ /i/, /j/, /ə/
(ⲓⲉ = /e/)
/ɪ/, /j/
(ⲓⲉ = /e/)
/i/, /j/ (before vowels), /ɪ/ (after vowels to form diphthongs)
20 Kappa Κ, κ K /k/ //, /k/ /k/
30 Lola Λ, λ L /l/
40 Mey Μ, μ M /m/
50 Ney Ν, ν N /n/
60 Exi Ξ, ξ X /ks/
(only in Greek loanwords)
/ks/, [ks] (usually following a consonant, or sometimes when starting a word)
70 O Ο, ο O /ɔ/ (ⲟⲩ = //, /w/) /o/ (ⲟⲩ = /u/, /w/) // (ⲟⲩ = /u/)
80 Pi Π, π P /p/ /b/ /p/
100 Roo Ρ, ρ R /ɾ/~/r/
200 Seema Σ, σ, ς S/C /s/
300 Tau Τ, τ T/D /t/ //, /t/ /d/
(final [t])
400 Upsilon Υ, υ U/V/Y /w/ (ⲟⲩ = //, /w/) /ɪ/, /w/ (ⲟⲩ = /u/, /w/) /i/, /w/ (between "" and another vowel except ""), /v/ (after /ɑ/ ( or // ()), /u/ (digraph "ⲟⲩ")
500 Phi Φ, φ F /ph/ // /b/~/f/ /f/
600 Chi Χ, χ K/Sh/Kh /kh/ // /k/
/k/ (if the word is Coptic in origin), /x/ (if the word is Greek in origin), /ç/ (if the word is Greek in origin but before // or /i/)
700 Epsi Ψ, ψ PS [bs]
(only in Greek loanwords)
[ps], [ps] (usually following a consonant)
800 Oou Ω, ω O/W // /o/ // /o̞ː/
Ϣ ϣ Shai (none) Sh /ʃ/
Ϥ ϥ 90 Fai ϙ
(numerical value)
F /f/
Ϧ (Ⳉ) ϧ (ⳉ)
Khai (none) Kh/Q NA /x/
Ϩ ϩ Hori (none) H /h/
Ϫ ϫ
Janja (none) G/J /t͡ʃ/ /t͡ʃʼ/, /t͡ʃ/ /ɟ/ /g/, // (before // or /i/)
Ϭ ϭ
Cheema (none) C/Ch // /t͡ʃʰ/ /ʃ/ //, [] (usually following a consonant)
Ϯ ϯ
Ti (none) Ti /t/ /i/, /ti/, /tə/ /di/ /ti/
900 Sampi Ϡ,ϡ
(numerical value)
  1. ^ seemed to have retained a [β] intervocalically in Late Coptic.
  2. ^ Akhmimic dialect uses the letter for /x/. No name is recorded.
  3. ^ a b Ϫ and ϭ seemed to have merged in Late Coptic into one phoneme, /ʃ/, with [ɟ] intervocalically.
  4. ^ When part of the digraph ϯⲉ, it is pronounced [de] in Bohairic.

Letters derived from Demotic

In Old Coptic, there were a large number of Demotic Egyptian characters, including some logograms. They were soon reduced to half a dozen, for sounds not covered by the Greek alphabet. The following letters remained:

Hieroglyph   Hieratic   Demotic   Coptic Translit. Late Coptic pron.


Coptic numerals are an alphabetic numeral system in which numbers are indicated with letters of the alphabet, such as for 500. The numerical value of the letters is based on Greek numerals. Sometimes numerical use is distinguished from text with a continuous overline above the letters, as with Greek and Cyrillic numerals.


In Unicode, most Coptic letters formerly shared codepoints with similar Greek letters, but a disunification was accepted for version 4.1, which appeared in 2005. The new Coptic block is U+2C80 to U+2CFF. Most fonts contained in mainstream operating systems use a distinctive Byzantine style for this block. The Greek block includes seven Coptic letters (U+03E2–U+03EF highlighted below) derived from Demotic, and these need to be included in any complete implementation of Coptic.

Greek and Coptic
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+037x Ͱ ͱ Ͳ ͳ ʹ ͵ Ͷ ͷ ͺ ͻ ͼ ͽ ; Ϳ
U+038x ΄ ΅ Ά · Έ Ή Ί Ό Ύ Ώ
U+039x ΐ Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο
U+03Ax Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω Ϊ Ϋ ά έ ή ί
U+03Bx ΰ α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο
U+03Cx π ρ ς σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω ϊ ϋ ό ύ ώ Ϗ
U+03Dx ϐ ϑ ϒ ϓ ϔ ϕ ϖ ϗ Ϙ ϙ Ϛ ϛ Ϝ ϝ Ϟ ϟ
U+03Ex Ϡ ϡ Ϣ ϣ Ϥ ϥ Ϧ ϧ Ϩ ϩ Ϫ ϫ Ϭ ϭ Ϯ ϯ
U+03Fx ϰ ϱ ϲ ϳ ϴ ϵ ϶ Ϸ ϸ Ϲ Ϻ ϻ ϼ Ͻ Ͼ Ͽ
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+2CBx ⲿ
U+2CFx ⳿
1. ^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Coptic Epact Numbers
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+102Ex 𐋠 𐋡 𐋢 𐋣 𐋤 𐋥 𐋦 𐋧 𐋨 𐋩 𐋪 𐋫 𐋬 𐋭 𐋮 𐋯
U+102Fx 𐋰 𐋱 𐋲 𐋳 𐋴 𐋵 𐋶 𐋷 𐋸 𐋹 𐋺 𐋻
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Diacritics and punctuation

These are also included in the Unicode specification.


  • Latin alphabet punctuation (comma, period, question mark, semicolon, colon, hyphen) uses the regular Unicode codepoints for punctuation
  • Dicolon: standard colon U+003A
  • Middle dot: U+00B7
  • En dash: U+2013
  • Em dash: U+2014
  • Slanted double hyphen: U+2E17

Combining diacritics

These are codepoints applied after that of the character they modify.

  • Combining overstroke: U+0305 (= supralinear stroke)
  • Combining character-joining overstroke (from middle of one character to middle of the next): U+035E
  • Combining dot under a letter: U+0323
  • Combining dot over a letter: U+0307
  • Combining overstroke: U+0323
  • Combining dot below: U+0323
  • Combining acute accent: U+0301
  • Combining grave accent: U+0300
  • Combining circumflex accent (caret shaped): U+0302
  • Combining circumflex (curved shape) or inverted breve above: U+0311
  • Combining circumflex as wide inverted breve above joining two letters: U+0361
  • Combining diaeresis: U+0308

Macrons and overlines

Coptic uses U+0304 ◌̄ COMBINING MACRON to indicate syllabic consonants, for example ⲛ̄.

Coptic abbreviations use U+0305 ◌̅ COMBINING OVERLINE to draw a continuous line across the remaining letters of an abbreviated word. It extends from the left edge of the first letter to the right edge of the last letter. For example, ⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲁ̅, a common abbreviation for ⲡⲛⲉⲩⲙⲁ 'spirit'.

A different kind of overline uses U+FE24 ◌︤ COMBINING MACRON LEFT HALF, U+FE26 ◌︦ COMBINING CONJOINING MACRON, and U+FE25 ◌︥ COMBINING MACRON RIGHT HALF to distinguish the spelling of certain common words or to highlight proper names of divinities and heroes. For this the line begins in the middle of the first letter and continues to the middle of the last letter. A few examples: ⲣ︤ⲙ︥, ϥ︤ⲛ︦ⲧ︥, ⲡ︤ϩ︦ⲣ︦ⲃ︥.

Sometimes numerical use of letters is indicated with a continuous line above them using U+0305 ◌̅ COMBINING OVERLINE as in ⲁ͵ⲱ̅ⲡ̅ⲏ̅ for 1,888 (where "ⲁ͵" is 1,000 and "ⲱ̅ⲡ̅ⲏ̅" is 888). Multiples of 1,000 can be indicated by a continuous double line above using U+033F ◌̿ COMBINING DOUBLE OVERLINE as in ⲁ̿ for 1,000.

See also

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