Osmanya alphabet

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The Osmanya alphabet.
Languages Somali language
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Osma, 260
Unicode alias

The Osmanya alphabet (Somali: Cismaanya; Osmanya: 𐒋𐒘𐒈𐒑𐒛𐒒𐒕𐒀), also known as Far Soomaali ("Somali writing") and, in Arabic, as al-kitābah al-ʿuthmānīyah, is a writing script created to transcribe the Somali language. It was invented between 1920 and 1922 by Osman Yusuf Kenadid of the Majeerteen Darod clan, the son of Sultan Yusuf Ali Kenadid and brother of Sultan Ali Yusuf Kenadid of the Sultanate of Hobyo.


While Osmanya gained reasonably wide acceptance in Somalia and quickly produced a considerable body of literature, it proved difficult to spread among the population mainly due to stiff competition from the long-established Arabic script as well as the emerging Somali Latin alphabet developed by the Somali linguist, Shire Jama Ahmed, which was based on the Latin script.

As nationalist sentiments grew and since the Somali language had long lost its ancient script,[1] the adoption of a universally recognized writing script for the Somali language became an important point of discussion. After independence, little progress was made on the issue, as opinion was divided over whether the Arabic or Latin scripts should be used instead.

In October 1972, due to its simplicity, the fact that it lent itself well to writing Somali since it could cope with all of the sounds in the language, and the already widespread existence of machines and typewriters designed for its use,[2][3] the government of Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre unilaterally elected to use only the Latin script for writing Somali instead of the Arabic or Osmanya scripts.[4] Barre's administration subsequently launched a massive literacy campaign designed to ensure its sole adoption. This led to a sharp decline in use of Osmanya.


The direction of reading and writing in Osmanya is from left to right. Letter names are based on the names of letters in Arabic, and the long vowels uu and ii are represented by the letters waaw and yaa, respectively.


Osmanya Name Latin IPA Osmanya Name Latin IPA Osmanya Name Latin IPA
𐒀 alef [ʔ] 𐒁 ba b [b] 𐒂 ta t [t]
𐒃 ja j [tʃ] 𐒄 xa x [ħ] 𐒅 kha kh [χ]
𐒆 deel d [d] 𐒇 ra r [r] 𐒈 sa s [s]
𐒉 shiin sh [ʃ] 𐒊 dha dh [ɖ] 𐒋 cayn c [ʕ]
𐒌 ga g [g] 𐒍 fa f [f] 𐒎 qaaf q [ɢ]
𐒏 kaaf k [k] 𐒐 laan l [l] 𐒑 miin m [m]
𐒒 nuun n [n] 𐒓 waw w [w, ʉː, uː] 𐒔 ha h [h]
𐒕 ya y [j, iː, ɪː] 𐒖 a a [æ, ɑ] 𐒗 e e [e, ɛ]
𐒘 i i [i, ɪ] 𐒙 o o [ɞ, ɔ] 𐒚 u u [ʉ, u]
𐒛 aa [æː, ɑː] 𐒜 ee [eː, ɛː] 𐒝 oo [ɞː, ɔː]


Digit 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Osmanya 𐒠 𐒡 𐒢 𐒣 𐒤 𐒥 𐒦 𐒧 𐒨 𐒩


Osmanya script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.

The Unicode block for Osmanya is U+10480–U+104AF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1048x 𐒀 𐒁 𐒂 𐒃 𐒄 𐒅 𐒆 𐒇 𐒈 𐒉 𐒊 𐒋 𐒌 𐒍 𐒎 𐒏
U+1049x 𐒐 𐒑 𐒒 𐒓 𐒔 𐒕 𐒖 𐒗 𐒘 𐒙 𐒚 𐒛 𐒜 𐒝
U+104Ax 𐒠 𐒡 𐒢 𐒣 𐒤 𐒥 𐒦 𐒧 𐒨 𐒩
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. Ministry of Information and National Guidance, Somalia, The writing of the Somali language, (Ministry of Information and National Guidance: 1974), p.5
  2. Andrew Simpson, Language and National Identity in Africa, (Oxford University Press: 2008), p.288
  3. Economist Intelligence Unit (Great Britain), Middle East annual review, (1975), p.229
  4. Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood Press: 2001), p.73


  • I.M. Lewis (1958) Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21 pp 134–156.

External links