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definitions - transliteration

transliteration (n.)

1.a transcription from one alphabet to another

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Merriam Webster

TransliterationTrans*lit`er*a"tion (?), n. The act or product of transliterating, or of expressing words of a language by means of the characters of another alphabet.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - transliteration


-ALA-LC transliteration • BGN/PCGN transliteration • Belarusian transliteration • Bikdash Arabic Transliteration Rules • Buckwalter transliteration • Devanagari transliteration • Double transliteration • Google Indic Transliteration • Greek transliteration • Hans Wehr transliteration • Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script • International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration • Roman transliteration • Runic transliteration and transcription • Scholarly transliteration • Scientific transliteration • Standard Arabic Technical Transliteration System • Standard Korean Alphabet Transliteration System • Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian • Transliteration of Belarusian • Transliteration of Bulgarian • Transliteration of Libyan placenames • Transliteration of Ukrainian • Transliteration of Ukrainian into English • Transliteration of Ukrainian to English • Ukrainian transliteration • Wylie transliteration

analogical dictionary




Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another. For instance, the Greek expression "Ελληνική Δημοκρατία" (meaning "Hellenic Republic") can be transliterated as "Hellēnikē Dēmokratia" by substituting Latin letters for Greek letters. Or "Ελληνική Δημοκρατία" should be transliterated as "Ellēnikē Dēmokratia" without the letter 'h', which is found only in the English rendition of the name, the common equivalent of Greece since: Ελλας → Ellas → Hellas (in English renderings). By modern pronunciation rules, the phrase could be written "Ellinikí Dimokratía".

Transliteration can form an essential part of transcription which converts text from one writing system into another. Transliteration is not concerned with representing the phonemics of the original: it only strives to represent the characters accurately.



From an information-theoretical point of view, systematic transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another, word by word, or ideally letter by letter. Transliteration attempts to use a one-to-one correspondence and be exact, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words. Ideally, reverse transliteration is possible.

Transliteration is opposed to transcription, which specifically maps the sounds of one language to the best matching script of another language. Still, most systems of transliteration map the letters of the source script to letters pronounced similarly in the goal script, for some specific pair of source and goal language. If the relations between letters and sounds are similar in both languages, a transliteration may be (almost) the same as a transcription. In practice, there are also some mixed transliteration/transcription systems that transliterate a part of the original script and transcribe the rest.

The transliteration discussed above can be regarded as transliteration in the narrow sense. In a broader sense, the word transliteration may include both transliteration in the narrow sense and transcription.

Transliteration of single words is often an informal non-systematic process; many variants of the same word are often used. For example the Hebrew word מַצָּה is rendered in English, according to the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, as matzo, matzah, matso, motsa, motso, maẓẓo, matza, matzho, matzoh, mazzah, motza, and mozza.


For example, the Greek language is written in the 24-letter Greek alphabet, which overlaps with, but differs from, the 26-letter Latin alphabet in which English is written. Etymologies in English dictionaries often identify Greek words as ancestors of words used in English. Consequently, most such dictionaries transliterate the Greek words into Roman letters.

In everyday use, words from languages using different characters are often transliterated phonetically to represent the sound, as in the example above, matzo. A common example of non-systematic transliteration is the phrase book used by visitors to countries with different languages, even if written in the same characters; for example Spanish "¿Hay alguien que hable inglés?" ("Is there someone [here] who speaks English?") may be rendered as "ai AHL-gyehn keh AH-bleh een-GLEHS?".

  Difference from transcription

In Modern Greek usage (and since the Roman Imperial period), the letters <η> <ι> <υ> and the letter combinations <ει> <oι> <υι> may be pronounced [i]. When so pronounced, a modern transcription renders them all as <i>, but a transliteration still distinguishes them, for example by transliterating to <ē> <i> <y> and <ei> <oi> <yi>. (As the original Greek pronunciation of <η> is believed to have been [ɛː], the following example uses the character appropriate for an ancient Greek transliteration or transcription <ē>, an <e> with a macron.) On the other hand, <ευ> is sometimes pronounced [ev] and sometimes [ef], depending on the following sound. A transcription distinguishes them, but this is no requirement for a transliteration. Note that the letter 'h' in both the transcription and transliteration forms should logically be omitted.

Greek word Transliteration Transcription English translation
Ελληνική Δημοκρατία Hellēnikē Dēmokratia Helliniki Dhimokratia Hellenic Republic
Ελευθερία Eleutheria Eleftheria Freedom
Ευαγγέλιο Euaggelio Evangelio Gospel
των υιών tōn uiōn ton ion the sons

  Partial transliteration

There is also another type of transliteration that is not full, but partial or quasi. A source word can be transliterated by first identifying all the applicable prefix and suffix segments based on the letters in the source word. All of these segments, in combination constitute a list of potential partial transliterations. So a partial transliteration can include only prefix or only suffix segments. A partial transliteration will also include some unmapped letters of the source word, namely those letters between the end of the prefix and the beginning of the suffix. The partial transliteration can be “filled in” by applying additional segment maps. Applying the segment maps can produce additional transliterations if more than one segment mapping applies to a particular combination of characters in the source word.[1]

Some examples or "partial transliterations" are words like "bishop" from the Greek word "episkopoi" and the word "deacon" which is partially transliterated from the Greek word "diakonos".


A simple example of difficulties in transliteration is the voiceless uvular plosive used in Arabic and other languages. It is pronounced approximately like English [k], except that the tongue makes contact not on the soft palate but on the uvula. Pronunciation varies between different languages, and different dialects of the same language. The consonant is sometimes transliterated into "g", sometimes "k", and sometimes "q" in English.[2] Another example is the Russian letter "Х" (kha), pronounced similarly to the letter "j" in Spanish. It is pronounced as the voiceless velar fricative /x/, like the Scottish pronunciation of ⟨ch⟩ in "loch". This sound is not present in most forms of English, and is often transliterated as "kh", as in Nikita Khrushchev. Many languages have phonemic sounds, such as click consonants, which are quite unlike any phoneme in the language into which they are being transliterated.

Some languages and scripts present particular difficulties to transcribers. These are discussed on separate pages.


  See also


  1. ^ Machine Learning For Transliteration - Transliteration
  2. ^ Language log

"Translation" citation 15: ^ Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil", pp. 85–86. "Roger Bacon wrote that if a translation is to be true, the translator must know both languages, as well as the science that he is to translate"

  External links




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