A Cyrillization is a system for rendering words of a language that normally uses a writing system other than the Cyrillic alphabet into a (version of) Cyrillic alphabet. A Cyrillization scheme needs to be applied, for example, to transcribe names of German, Chinese, or American people and places for use in Russian or Bulgarian newspapers and books.

Cyrillization is analogous to Romanization, when words from a non-Latin-alphabet-using language are rendered in the Latin alphabet for use e.g. in English, German, or French literature.

Just like with various Romanization schemes, each Cyrillization system has its own set of rules, depending on:

  • The source language or writing system (English, French, Arabic, Hindi, Kazakh in Latin alphabet, Chinese, Japanese, etc.),
  • The destination language or writing system (Russian, Bulgarian, Kazakh in Cyrillic, etc),
  • the goals of the systems:
  • Linguistic and/or political inclinations of the designers of the system (see, for example, the use - or not use - of the letter Ґ for rendering the "G" of foreign words in the Ukrainian).

When the source language uses a fairly phonetic spelling system, a Cyrillization scheme may often be adopted that almost amounts to a transliteration, i.e. using a mapping scheme that simply maps each letter of the source alphabet to some letter of the destination alphabet, sometimes augmented by position-based rules. Among such schemes are several schemes universally accepted in Russia:

Similarly simple schemes are widely used to render Spanish, Italian, etc. words into Russian etc.

When the source language uses a not particularly phonetic writing system, its words are typically rendered in Russian or other Cyrillic-based languages using an approximate phonetic transliteration system, which aims to allow the Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, etc. readers to approximate the sound of the source language as much as it is possible within the constraints of the destination language and its alphabet. Among the examples is the Practical transcription of English into Russian (Правила англо-русской практической транскрипции), which aims to render English words in Russian based on their sounds and Transliteration of foreign words by a cyrillic alphabet (Транслітерація іншомовних слів кирилицею) in case with Ukrainan. While this scheme is mostly accepted by a majority of Russian authors and publishers, transcription variants are not uncommon.

A transliteration system for the (Bulgarian) Cyrillization of English has been designed by the Bulgarian linguist Andrey Danchev.

Similarly phonetic schemes are widely adopted for Cyrillization of French.

See also


  • A. Danchev, Bulgarian transcription of English names, Narodna Prosveta, Sofia, 1982 (in Bulgarian)
  • R.S. Gilyrevsky (Гиляревский Р. С.), editor: "Practical Transcription of Personal and Family Names" (Практическая транскрипция фамильно-именных групп.) Moscow, Fizmatliz, 2004. ISBN 5-9221-0480-2. — (covers 6 European languages, as well as Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, and Japanese)
    • same, 2nd edition; Moscow, Nauka, 2006, 526. ISBN 5-02-033718-8. (11 European languages, as well as Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, Hindi, Vietnames, Korean, and Japanese)
  • R.S. Gilyrevsky (Гиляревский Р. С.), B.A. Starostin (Старостин Б. А.) "Foreign Names in the Russian Text: A Handbook" (Иностранные имена и названия в русском тексте: Справочник). 3rd edition. Moscow, Vysshaya Shkola, 1985.
  • D.I. Ermolovich (Ермолович Д. И.) "Personal Names at the Junction of Languages and Cultures" (Имена собственные на стыке языков и культур). Moscow, R. Valent, 2001. ISBN 5-93439-046-5. (23 languages)
  • D.I. Ermolovich (Ермолович Д. И.) "Personal Names: Theory and Practice of Interlanguage Transmission at the Junction of Languages and Cultures" (Имена собственные: теория и практика межъязыковой передачи на стыке языков и культур. Moscow, R. Valent, 2005. ISBN 5-93439-153-4.
  • R.A. Lidin (Лидин Р. А). "Foreign family names and personal names. Spelling and pronunciation. Practical transcription into Russian: Dictionary Handbook" (Иностранные фамилии и личные имена. Написание и произношение. Практическая транскрипция на русский язык: Словарь-справочник) Moscow, Vneshsigma, 1998. ISBN 5-86290-378-0.

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