Dutch alphabet

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The Dutch alphabet in 1560, still including the long s

The modern Dutch alphabet consists of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet and is used for the Dutch language. Five (or six) letters are vowels and 21 (or 20) letters are consonants. The letter E is the most frequently used letter in the Dutch alphabet, usually representing a schwa sound. The least frequently used letters are Q and X.

Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The digraph IJ is not considered a letter or part of the Dutch alphabet by the Dutch Language Union or Genootschap Onze Taal, although its rules for capitalization and, sometimes, collation differ from that of the other digraphs in the Dutch language, more closely resembling those of a letter.1 In some contexts IJ is substituted for Y as the 25th letter of the alphabet or (more rarely) added before Y, extending the alphabet to 27 letters.2

On vowels, stress marks may be used, for instance: "je móét dat doen" ("you must do that"). Such vowels are not considered separate letters and are treated as if there were no marks present.

In loanwords from languages written in Latin script, diacritical marks are usually preserved (café, façade, übermensch). However, ligatures like ß, æ, and œ become ss, ae, and oe respectively.

Until the nineteenth century, the ſ or long s was also used for words in the Dutch language, but was then replaced with the regular s. The ligature æ was sometimes used (for example in the name Æneas Mackay), but today the letters ae would replace it.


A poster showing the letters of the alphabet as used for the teaching of handwriting in the Netherlands. The final three letter pairs read "Xx IJij Zz".
The letters i and j together (1), the digraph ij (2) and the letter y (4) can all be found in Dutch words; only the letter y with a trema (3) is not used in Dutch

The digraph IJ behaves like a separate letter for capitalisation. In alphabetically ordered lists, IJ may intermix with Y (usual for telephone directories) or come between ii and ik (common in dictionaries).

In Dutch primary education the (more common) digraph IJ often replaces the (less common) Y as the 25th letter of the alphabet.

Vowels and trema

The vowels are:

A – E – I – O – U – and IJ when it is counted as a separate letter.

Y is sometimes, but not always, a vowel.3

When a vowel is followed by another vowel, this combination usually represents a long vowel (aa, ee, eu, ie, oe, oo, uu)4 or a diphthong (ai, au, ei, ou, ui, aai, eeu, ieu, oei, ooi).5

When one of these letter combinations should not be pronounced together (phonological hiatus), a trema is placed upon the first vowel of the next syllable. A trema is not used if the letters do not normally form a combination. For instance, a trema is added in ruïne (ruin) because otherwise ui would be pronounced as a diphthong. It is also added in beëdigen (to swear in) because otherwhise ee would form a long vowel. It is not added in beamen (to confirm) because ea can only be pronounced as e + a and not in any other way.6 In words that are still considered completely foreign, and keep their original spelling, no trema is added even if the combination of vowels would produce a diphthong or a long vowel. For instance, museum is not written museüm.

When the vowels are not immediately adjacent (e.g. when the word is split by a hyphen at the end of a line) there is no ambiguity so the trema is not added.

A trema can be seen on any vowel except for ij and y, because combinations of vowels preceded or followed by either of these are never ambiguous.

Unlike in some other languages, a vowel with a trema stays the same letter: ä, ë, ï, ö and ü do not have separate places in the alphabet.

Letter names

Letter Letter name Pronunciation
A [aː] /aː/ or /ɑ/
B [beː] /b/7
C [seː] /k/ or /s/
D [deː] /d/7
E [eː] /eː/, /ɛ/ or /ə/
F [ɛf] /f/
G [ɣeː]8 Netherlands: /ɣ/,7 Flanders: /ʝ/79
H [ɦaː] /ɦ/
I [i] /i/, /ɪ/, /ə/ or /j/10
J [jeː] /j/
K [kaː] /k/
L [ɛɫ] /l/11
M [ɛm] /m/
N [ɛn] /n/
O [oː] /o/ or /ɔ/
P [peː] /p/
Q12 [ky] /k/
R [ɛɾ] /r/13
S [ɛs] /s/
T [teː] /t/
U [y] /y/, /ʏ/ or /ʋ/14
V [veː] /v/7
W [ʋeː] Netherlands: /ʋ/,15 Flanders and Suriname: /w/
X12 [ɪks] /ks/
Y12 [ɛɪ]16 /ɛɪ/, /ɪ/, /iː/ or /j/
Z [zɛt] /z/

Spelling alphabet

When necessary, Dutch speakers may use a conventional spelling alphabet for spelling words aloud (with slight variations from speaker to speaker):17

Anton Bernhard Cornelis Dirk Eduard Ferdinand Gerard Hendrik Izaak Johan/Jacob Karel Lodewijk/Leo Maria Nico Otto Pieter Quirinus/Quinten Richard/Rudolf Simon Theodoor Utrecht Victor Willem Xantippe IJmuiden/IJsbrand Ypsilon Zacharias

The NATO phonetic alphabet is also used, and sometimes the two are even mixed.

See also


  • Donaldson, Bruce (1997). Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-15418-9. 
  1. ^ Genootschap Onze Taal. IJ: plaats in alfabet. "In de klas hebben veel mensen geleerd het alfabet op te dreunen als "(...) x, ij, z", maar dat is eigenlijk onjuist; het zou "(...) x, i-grec (of ypsilon), z" moeten zijn. [...] De ij wordt wél als één geheel behandeld aan het begin van de zin en aan het begin van een eigennaam. [...] Bij andere lettercombinaties gebeurt dit niet."
  2. ^ Taalunie. "IJ - alfabetiseren". "De ij bestaat dus historisch gezien uit twee letters, maar wordt tegenwoordig vaak als één letter opgevat. [...] Daarom is weleens geopperd de ij als 27e letter aan ons alfabet toe te voegen, vóór de y. In sommige naslagwerken is de ij inderdaad als aparte letter opgenomen, onder meer in de Winkler Prins-encyclopedie. Dit is echter niet algemeen aanvaard."
  3. ^ Depending on its pronunciation. See also Genootschap Onze Taal. "Griekse ij, i-grec, ypsilon: klinker of medeklinker?" (Dutch)
  4. ^ In older spelling (before ca. 1870), "aa" was often spelled "ae"
  5. ^ In older spellings or in names eij, uij (ij being the digraph IJ), ey and uy can occur as alternate ways of writing ei and ui. These combinations should also be considered diphthongs.
  6. ^ In native Dutch words. In non-native words it can be pronounced differently: the Dunglish word beamer (video projector) is pronounced as it would be in English.
  7. ^ a b c d e Since the Dutch language does not have voiced obstruents in the syllable coda, whenever such a consonant would occur at the end of a syllable, it undergoes final-obstruent devoicing which replaces it with its unvoiced counterpart. For example, the word paard ('horse') is pronounced [paːrt]; inflectional affixes show that this final [t] is actually a /d/ that has been devoiced so that paarden ('horses') is pronounced [paːrdən], with no devoicing. In spelling, b and d are retained even when representing devoiced obstruents, but v and z are replaced by f and s respectively, making the devoicing orthographically explicit.
  8. ^ Standard Dutch pronunciation guide by P.C. Paardekooper
  9. ^ The /ʝ/ pronunciation is also used in the south of the Netherlands (provinces Noord-Brabant, Limburg and southern Gelderland)
  10. ^ When following a long vowel or a diphthong, e.g. in words like haai ('shark') or roeien ('to row').
  11. ^ Except in Belgian Dutch, /l/ is pronounced [ɫ] in the syllable coda.
  12. ^ a b c The letters q, x, and y occur mostly in words borrowed from other languages, but may also appear in words and names that reflect older spelling conventions. Q is almost always followed by u (that is, qu), because nearly every word with a qu is borrowed from French or Latin.
  13. ^ In some dialects, /r/ is pronounced [ɹ] in the syllable coda.
  14. ^ In the combination qu.
  15. ^ /ʋ/ is pronounced [w] at the end of a word; this occurs rarely and almost always preceded by a u as in lauw or nieuw.
  16. ^ Normally, y is generally called /ɛɪ/. However, when used in common speech and/or the need arises to distinguish the letter from ij, it is most often referred to as Griekse ij (sometimes written Griekse Y [1])('Greek Y'); i-grec, a French word having a similar meaning; or ypsilon.
  17. ^ Donaldson (1997), p. 15

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