Kannada script

The Kannada script (IAST: Kannaḍa lipi; obsolete: Kannara, Kanarese or Canarese script) is an abugida of the Brahmic family,[6] used primarily to write the Kannada language, one of the Dravidian languages of South India especially in the state of Karnataka. Kannada script is widely used for writing Sanskrit texts in Karnataka. Several minor languages, such as Tulu, Konkani, Kodava, Havyaka, Sanketi and Beary, also use alphabets based on the Kannada script.[7] The Kannada and Telugu scripts share high mutual intellegibility with each other, and are often considered to be regional variants of single script. Other scripts similar to Kannada script are Sinhala script[8] (which included some elements from the Kadamba script[9]), and Old Peguan script (used in Burma).[10]

Kannada script
ಕನ್ನಡ ಲಿಪಿ
A Stanza from Kavirajamarga which praises the people for their literary skills written in the Kannada script
Script type
Time period
1300 CE present[1]
Related scripts
Parent systems
Proto-Sinaitic script[a]
Child systems
Sister systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Knda, 345 , Kannada
Unicode alias
Unicode range
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
ಕನ್ನಡ ಅಕ್ಷರಮಾಲೆ
ಅವರ್ಗೀಯ ವ್ಯಂಜನಗಳು

The Kannada script (ಅಕ್ಷರಮಾಲೆ akṣaramāle or ವರ್ಣಮಾಲೆ varṇamāle) is a phonemic abugida of forty-nine letters. The character set is almost identical to that of other Brahmic scripts. Consonantal letters imply an inherent vowel. Letters representing consonants are combined to form digraphs (ಒತ್ತಕ್ಷರ ottakṣara) when there is no intervening vowel. Otherwise, each letter corresponds to a syllable.

The letters are classified into three categories: ಸ್ವರ svara (vowels), ವ್ಯಂಜನ vyañjana (consonants), and ಯೋಗವಾಹಕ yōgavāhaka (semiconsonants).

The Kannada words for a letter of the script are ಅಕ್ಷರ akshara, ಅಕ್ಕರ akkara, and ವರ್ಣ varṇa. Each letter has its own form (ಆಕಾರ ākāra) and sound (ಶಬ್ದ śabda), providing the visible and audible representations, respectively. Kannada is written from left to right.[11]


The Bhattiprolu Brahmi script evolved into the Kadamba script by the 5th century, which in turn developed into the Telugu-Kannada script (or 'Old Kannada script') in the 7th century.[12] The Telugu and Kannada scripts then separated by around 1300 C.E.[1]

Over the centuries some changes have been made to the Kannada script. These changes consist of:

  1. Modification of existing glyphs: In the early Kannada script, no orthographic distinction was made between the short mid [e, o] , and long mid [eː, oː] , . However, distinct signs were employed to denote the special consonants viz. the trill [r] the retroflex lateral [ɭ] and the retroflex rhotic [ɺ] found only in South Indian languages, by the 5th century.
  2. Introduction of new characters: Kannada script includes characters like [ç] , [ʂ] , [rɨː] , [lɨ] , [lɨː] , [eʲ] , [oʷ] , [am] ಅಂ, [ah] ಅಃ, and mahāprāṇa characters like [kʰ] , [ɡʱ] , [tʃʰ] , [dʒʱ] , [t̪ʰ] , [d̪ʱ] , [ʈʰ] , [ɖʱ] , [pʰ] , [bʱ] . The introduction was done so that Sanskrit (and loanwords into the Kannada language from the donor language Sanskrit) could be written using the Kannada script. These changes have facilitated the use of the Kannada script for writing many of the literary Indic languages, including Sanskrit.

Vowel letters

There are thirteen (fourteen if the obsolete vowel ೠ is included) vowel letters (ಸ್ವರ svara).

Brahmi script, Kanheri Caves
Letter Diacritic ISO notation Letter Diacritic ISO notation
a ā
ಿ i ī
u ū
ṛ/r̥ (obsolete) ṝ/r̥̄
e ē
o ō

When a vowel follows a consonant, it is written with a diacritic rather than as a separate letter.


The Yōgavāha (part-vowel, part consonant) include two letters:

  1. The anusvara: ಅಂ (aṁ)
  2. The visarga: ಅಃ (aḥ)

Another two Yōgavāha used in Sanskrit, but present in Kannada script, are known as Ardhavisarga:

  1. The Jihvamuliya:
  2. The Upadhmaniya:

Consonant letters

Two categories of consonant letters (ವ್ಯಂಜನ vyan̄jana) are defined in Kannada: the structured consonants and the unstructured consonants.

Structured consonants

The structured consonants are classified according to where the tongue touches the palate of the mouth and are classified accordingly into five structured groups. These consonants are shown here with their ISO transcriptions.

Voiceless Voiceless aspirate Voiced Voiced aspirate Nasal
Velars (ka) (kha) (ga) (gha) (ṅa)
Palatals (ca) (cha) (ja) (jha) (ña)
Retroflex (ṭa) (ṭha) (ḍa) (ḍha) (ṇa)
Dentals (ta) (tha) (da) (dha) (na)
Labials (pa) (pha) (ba) (bha) (ma)

Unstructured consonants

The unstructured consonants are consonants that do not fall into any of the above structures:

(ya), (ra), (ṟa; obsolete), (la), (va), (śa), (ṣa), (sa), (ha), (ḷa), (ḻ; obsolete).

Consonant conjuncts

The Kannada script is rich in conjunct consonant clusters, with most consonants having a standard subjoined form and few true ligature clusters. A table of consonant conjuncts follows, although the forms of individual conjuncts may differ according to font.

Consonant conjuncts with ರ (ra)

Of special note is the sequence concerning the letter (ra). Unlike other letters, the conjunct form is written second even if it is pronounced first in the sequence.

For example, the /rnaː/ in the word Karnāṭaka (ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ) is written ರ್ನಾ rather than ರ‍್ನಾ.

Consonant conjuncts with nasal consonants

The nasal consonants (ṅa), (ña), (ṇa), (na), and (ma) are usually written as an anusvara when preceding another consonant rather than a consonant conjunct.

For example, the /ŋg/ in the word Beṅgaḷūru (ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು) is usually written ಂಗ rather than ಙ್ಗ (ಬೆಙ್ಗಳೂರು).

Obsolete Kannada letters

Historical form of representing ನ್ in Kannada script.

Kannada literary works employed the letters (transliterated '' or 'rh') and (transliterated '', 'lh' or 'zh'), whose manner of articulation most plausibly could be akin to those in present-day Malayalam and Tamil. The letters dropped out of use in the 12th and 18th centuries, respectively. Later Kannada works replaced 'rh' and 'lh' with (ra) and (la) respectively.[13]

Another letter (or unclassified vyanjana (consonant)) that has become extinct is 'nh' or 'inn'. Likewise, this has its equivalent in Telugu, where it is called Nakaara pollu. The usage of this consonant was observed until the 1980s in Kannada works from the mostly coastal areas of Karnataka (especially the Dakshina Kannada district). Now, hardly any mainstream works use this consonant. This letter has been replaced by ನ್ (consonant n).

Places of articulation

There are five classifications of passive articulations:

Kaṇṭhya: Velar
Tālavya: Palatal
Mūrdhanya: Retroflex
Dantya: Dental
Ōshtya: Labial

Apart from that, other places are combinations of the above five:

Dantōsthya: Labio-dental (E.g.: v)
Kantatālavya: E.g.: Diphthong e
Kantōsthya: labial-velar (E.g.: Diphthong o)

The attempt of articulation of consonants (Uccāraṇa Prayatna) is of two types,

Bāhya Prayatna: External effort
Spṛṣṭa: Plosive
Īshat Spṛṣṭa: Approximant
Īshat Saṃvṛta: Fricative
Abhyantara Prayatna: Internal effort
Alpaprāna: Unaspirated
Mahāprāna: Aspirated
Śvāsa: Unvoiced
Nāda: Voiced

Articulation of consonants

Articulation of consonants is be logical combination of components in the two prayatnams. The below table gives a view upon articulation of consonants.

Kannada Vyanjana Ucchārana Pattika
Prayatna Niyamāvalī Kanthya Tālavya Mūrdhanya Dantya Dantōṣṭya Ōshtya
Sparśa, Śvāsa Alpaprāna ka (ಕ) ca (ಚ) ṭa (ಟ) ta (ತ) pa (ಪ)
Mahāprāna kha (ಖ) cha (ಛ) ṭha (ಠ) tha (ಥ) pha (ಫ)
Nāda Alpaprāna ga (ಗ) ja (ಜ) ḍa (ಡ) da (ದ) ba (ಬ)
Mahāprāna gha (ಘ) jha (ಝ) ḍha (ಢ) dha (ಧ) bha (ಭ)
Anunāsika Nāda, Alpaprāna,


Avyāhata ṅa (ಙ) ña (ಞ) ṇa (ಣ) na (ನ) ma (ಮ)
Antastha ya (ಯ) ra (ರ) la (ಲ) va (ವ)
Ūṣman Śvāsa Mahāprāṇa Visarga śa (ಶ) ṣa (ಷ) sa (ಸ)
Nāda ha (ಹ)

Pronunciation of letters


Writing order


Written Kannada is composed of akshara or kagunita, corresponding to syllables. The letters for consonants combine with diacritics for vowels. The consonant letter without any diacritic, such as ka, has the inherent vowel a . This is called ದೀರ್ಘ dīrgha. A consonant without a vowel is marked with a 'killer' stroke, such as ಕ್ k. This is known as ಹ್ರಸ್ವ hrasva.

DiacriticVowel letterd with vowel diacriticPronunciation
(ಅ, a)/da/
(ಆ, ā)ದಾ/daː/
ಿ(ಇ, i)ದಿ[note 1]/di/
(ಈ, ī)ದೀ/diː/
(ಉ, u)ದು/du/
(ಊ, ū)ದೂ/duː/
(ಋ, r̥)ದೃ/dr̥/
(ೠ, r̥̄)ದೄ/dr̥ː/
(ಎ, e)ದೆ/de/
(ಏ, ē)ದೇ/deː/
(ಐ, ai)ದೈ/dai/
(ಒ, o)ದೊ/do/
(ಓ, ō)ದೋ/doː/
(ಔ, au)ದೌ/dau/
(ಅಂ, aṃ)ದಂ/dã/
(ಅಃ, aḥ)ದಃ/dah/
  1. This diacritic has the form ಿ when combined with other consonant letters.
ಅಂ ಅಃ
ಕಾ ಕಿ ಕೀ ಕು ಕೂ ಕೃ ಕೄ ಕೆ ಕೇ ಕೈ ಕೊ ಕೋ ಕೌ ಕಂ ಕಃ ಕ್
ಖಾ ಖಿ ಖೀ ಖು ಖೂ ಖೃ ಖೄ ಖೆ ಖೇ ಖೈ ಖೊ ಖೋ ಖೌ ಖಂ ಖಃ ಖ್
ಗಾ ಗಿ ಗೀ ಗು ಗೂ ಗೃ ಗೄ ಗೆ ಗೇ ಗೈ ಗೊ ಗೋ ಗೌ ಗಂ ಗಃ ಗ್
ಘಾ ಘಿ ಘೀ ಘು ಘೂ ಘೃ ಘೄ ಘೆ ಘೇ ಘೈ ಘೊ ಘೋ ಘೌ ಘಂ ಘಃ ಘ್
ಙಾ ಙಿ ಙೀ ಙು ಙೂ ಙೃ ಙೄ ಙೆ ಙೇ ಙೈ ಙೊ ಙೋ ಙೌ ಙಂ ಙಃ ಙ್
ಚಾ ಚಿ ಚೀ ಚು ಚೂ ಚೃ ಚೄ ಚೆ ಚೇ ಚೈ ಚೊ ಚೋ ಚೌ ಚಂ ಚಃ ಚ್
ಛಾ ಛಿ ಛೀ ಛು ಛೂ ಛೃ ಛೄ ಛೆ ಛೇ ಛೈ ಛೊ ಛೋ ಛೌ ಛಂ ಛಃ ಛ್
ಜಾ ಜಿ ಜೀ ಜು ಜೂ ಜೃ ಜೄ ಜೆ ಜೇ ಜೈ ಜೊ ಜೋ ಜೌ ಜಂ ಜಃ ಜ್
ಝಾ ಝಿ ಝೀ ಝು ಝೂ ಝೃ ಝೄ ಝೆ ಝೇ ಝೈ ಝೊ ಝೋ ಝೌ ಝಂ ಝಃ ಝ್
ಞಾ ಞಿ ಞೀ ಞು ಞೂ ಞೃ ಞೄ ಞೆ ಞೇ ಞೈ ಞೊ ಞೋ ಞೌ ಞಂ ಞಃ ಞ್
ಟಾ ಟಿ ಟೀ ಟು ಟೂ ಟೃ ಟೄ ಟೆ ಟೇ ಟೈ ಟೊ ಟೋ ಟೌ ಟಂ ಟಃ ಟ್
ಠಾ ಠಿ ಠೀ ಠು ಠೂ ಠೃ ಠೄ ಠೆ ಠೇ ಠೈ ಠೊ ಠೋ ಠೌ ಠಂ ಠಃ ಠ್
ಡಾ ಡಿ ಡೀ ಡು ಡೂ ಡೃ ಡೄ ಡೆ ಡೇ ಡೈ ಡೊ ಡೋ ಡೌ ಡಂ ಡಃ ಡ್
ಢಾ ಢಿ ಢೀ ಢು ಢೂ ಢೃ ಢೄ ಢೆ ಢೇ ಢೈ ಢೊ ಢೋ ಢೌ ಢಂ ಢಃ ಢ್
ಣಾ ಣಿ ಣೀ ಣು ಣೂ ಣೃ ಣೄ ಣೆ ಣೇ ಣೈ ಣೊ ಣೋ ಣೌ ಣಂ ಣಃ ಣ್
ತಾ ತಿ ತೀ ತು ತೂ ತೃ ತೄ ತೆ ತೇ ತೈ ತೊ ತೋ ತೌ ತಂ ತಃ ತ್
ಥಾ ಥಿ ಥೀ ಥು ಥೂ ಥೃ ಥೄ ಥೆ ಥೇ ಥೈ ಥೊ ಥೋ ಥೌ ಥಂ ಥಃ ಥ್
ದಾ ದಿ ದೀ ದು ದೂ ದೃ ದೄ ದೆ ದೇ ದೈ ದೊ ದೋ ದೌ ದಂ ದಃ ದ್
ಧಾ ಧಿ ಧೀ ಧು ಧೂ ಧೃ ಧೄ ಧೆ ಧೇ ಧೈ ಧೊ ಧೋ ಧೌ ಧಂ ಧಃ ಧ್
ನಾ ನಿ ನೀ ನು ನೂ ನೃ ನೄ ನೆ ನೇ ನೈ ನೊ ನೋ ನೌ ನಂ ನಃ ನ್
ಪಾ ಪಿ ಪೀ ಪು ಪೂ ಪೃ ಪೄ ಪೆ ಪೇ ಪೈ ಪೊ ಪೋ ಪೌ ಪಂ ಪಃ ಪ್
ಫಾ ಫಿ ಫೀ ಫು ಫೂ ಫೃ ಫೄ ಫೆ ಫೇ ಫೈ ಫೊ ಫೋ ಫೌ ಫಂ ಫಃ ಫ್
ಬಾ ಬಿ ಬೀ ಬು ಬೂ ಬೃ ಬೄ ಬೆ ಬೇ ಬೈ ಬೊ ಬೋ ಬೌ ಬಂ ಬಃ ಬ್
ಭಾ ಭಿ ಭೀ ಭು ಭೂ ಭೃ ಭೄ ಭೆ ಭೇ ಭೈ ಭೊ ಭೋ ಭೌ ಭಂ ಭಃ ಭ್
ಮಾ ಮಿ ಮೀ ಮು ಮೂ ಮೃ ಮೄ ಮೆ ಮೇ ಮೈ ಮೊ ಮೋ ಮೌ ಮಂ ಮಃ ಮ್
ಯಾ ಯಿ ಯೀ ಯು ಯೂ ಯೃ ಯೄ ಯೆ ಯೇ ಯೈ ಯೊ ಯೋ ಯೌ ಯಂ ಯಃ ಯ್
ರಾ ರಿ ರೀ ರು ರೂ ರೃ ರೄ ರೆ ರೇ ರೈ ರೊ ರೋ ರೌ ರಂ ರಃ ರ್
ಱಾ ಱಿ ಱೀ ಱು ಱೂ ಱೃ ಱೄ ಱೆ ಱೇ ಱೈ ಱೊ ಱೋ ಱೌ ಱಂ ಱಃ ಱ್
ಲಾ ಲಿ ಲೀ ಲು ಲೂ ಲೃ ಲೄ ಲೆ ಲೇ ಲೈ ಲೊ ಲೋ ಲೌ ಲಂ ಲಃ ಲ್
ವಾ ವಿ ವೀ ವು ವೂ ವೃ ವೄ ವೆ ವೇ ವೈ ವೊ ವೋ ವೌ ವಂ ವಃ ವ್
ಶಾ ಶಿ ಶೀ ಶು ಶೂ ಶೃ ಶೄ ಶೆ ಶೇ ಶೈ ಶೊ ಶೋ ಶೌ ಶಂ ಶಃ ಶ್
ಷಾ ಷಿ ಷೀ ಷು ಷೂ ಷೃ ಷೄ ಷೆ ಷೇ ಷೈ ಷೊ ಷೋ ಷೌ ಷಂ ಷಃ ಷ್
ಸಾ ಸಿ ಸೀ ಸು ಸೂ ಸೃ ಸೄ ಸೆ ಸೇ ಸೈ ಸೊ ಸೋ ಸೌ ಸಂ ಸಃ ಸ್
ಹಾ ಹಿ ಹೀ ಹು ಹೂ ಹೃ ಹೄ ಹೆ ಹೇ ಹೈ ಹೊ ಹೋ ಹೌ ಹಂ ಹಃ ಹ್
ಳಾ ಳಿ ಳೀ ಳು ಳೂ ಳೃ ಳೄ ಳೆ ಳೇ ಳೈ ಳೊ ಳೋ ಳೌ ಳಂ ಳಃ ಳ್
ೞಾ ೞಿ ೞೀ ೞು ೞೂ ೞೃ ೞೄ ೞೆ ೞೇ ೞೈ ೞೊ ೞೋ ೞೌ ೞಂ ೞಃ ೞ್

The formations shown boldface above are seldom used in the normal course of the language.


The decimal numerals in the script are:

Kannada numeralsEnglish numerals
sonne (ಸೊನ್ನೆ)0zero
ondu (ಒಂದು)1one
eraḍu (ಎರಡು)2two
mūru (ಮೂರು)3three
nālku (ನಾಲ್ಕು)4four
aidu (ಐದು)5five
āru (ಆರು)6six
ēḷu (ಏಳು)7seven
enṭu (ಎಂಟು)8eight
oṃbattu (ಒಂಬತ್ತು)9nine
೧೦hattu (ಹತ್ತು)10ten


Several transliteration schemes/tools are used to type Kannada characters using a standard keyboard. These include Baraha[14] (based on ITRANS), Pada Software[15] and several internet tools like Google transliteration, Quillpad[16] (predictive transliterator). Nudi, the Government of Karnataka's standard for Kannada Input, is a phonetic layout loosely based on transliteration.

Due to its resemblance to an eye and an eyebrow, the Kannada letter ṭha is used in the "look of disapproval" (displayed as "ಠ_ಠ"), a popular emoticon used to convey disapproval or contempt.[17] Similarly, the akshara ರೃ rr̥a has been used in emoticons to represent a monocle, while tha has been used to represent a tearing eye.


Kannada script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Kannada is U+0C80–U+0CFF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
U+0CBx ಿ
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also

  • Pyu script
  • Goykanadi
  • Bhattiprolu script
  • Kannada Braille
  • Kannada grammar
  • Kannada literature
  • Kannada poetry
  • Lari
  • Official script
  • Telugu script
  • Grantha script
  • ISO 15919


  1. Indian Epigraphy: a guide to the study of inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan languages, by Richard Solomon, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.41, ISBN 0-19-509984-2
  2. Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography, R. Malatesha Joshi, Catherine McBride(2019),p.29
  3. Salomon 1999, p. 35
  4. https://karnatakaitihasaacademy.org/evolution-of-kannada-script/
  5. Ghantkar, Gajanana (1993). History of Goa through Gõykanadi script (in English, Konkani, Marathi, and Kannada). pp. Page x.
  6. Campbell, George L. (6 November 1997). Handbook of scripts and alphabets (1st ed.). Routledge, New York. pp. 84–5. ISBN 978-0-415-13715-7. OCLC 34473667.
  7. Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. pp. 804, 805. ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5.
  8. "Romanization, Sinhala (Sinhalese) Script" (PDF). KAMALAKAR. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  9. "Ancient scripts, hala". Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  10. "Telugu & Sinhalese script similarities". Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  11. A Grammar of the Kannada Language. F. Kittel (1993), p. 5
  12. Diringer, David (1948). Alphabet a key to the history of mankind. p. 381.
  13. Rice, Edward. P (1921), "A History of Kannada Literature", Oxford University Press, 1921: 14–15
  14. "Baraha – Free Indian Language Software". baraha.com.
  15. "Pada Software – For Indic Scripts". pada.pro.
  16. "QuillPad – Typing in Kannada has never been easier". Quillpad.in. Archived from the original on 4 November 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2008.
  17. "Browser Extension of the Week: Look of Disapproval". Maximum PC. Retrieved 24 April 2013.

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