The Ugaritic alphabet is a cuneiform abjad (alphabet without vowels), used from around 1500 BCE for the Ugaritic language, an extinct Northwest Semitic language discovered in Ugarit, Syria, in 1928. It has 31 letters. Other languages (particularly Hurrian) were occasionally written in it in the Ugarit area, although not elsewhere.
Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provide the earliest evidence of both the Levantine and South Semitic orders of the alphabet, which gave rise to the alphabetic orders of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets on the one hand, and of the Ge'ez alphabet on the other.
The script was written from left to right.
At the time the Ugaritic alphabet was in use (ca. 1500-1300 BCE), Ugarit was in the very centre of the literate world, which by then included Egypt, Anatolia, Cyprus, Crete, and Mesopotamia / Elam. Ugaritic combined the most advanced features of the previously known hieroglyphic and cuneiform systems, both of which had been developing toward more syllabic and less logographic writing systems, into an abjad.
Scholars have searched in vain for graphic prototypes of the Ugaritic letters in Mesopotamian cuneiform. Recently, some have speculated that Ugaritic might represent some form of the Proto-Semitic alphabet, the letter forms distorted as an adaptation to writing on clay with a stylus. There may also have been a degree of influence from the poorly-understood Byblos syllabary that is sometimes called "pseudo-hieroglyphic".
It has been suggested that the two basic shapes in cuneiform, a linear wedge, as in 𐎂, and a corner wedge, as in 𐎓, may correspond to lines and circles in the linear Semitic alphabets: the three Semitic letters with circles, preserved in the Greek Θ, O and Latin Q, are all made with corner wedges in Ugaritic: 𐎉 Tet, 𐎓 Ain, and 𐎖 Qopa. Other letters look similar as well: 𐎅 Ho resembles its assumed Greek cognate E, while 𐎆 Wo, 𐎔 Pu, and 𐎘 Thanna are similar to Greek Y, Π, and Σ turned on their sides.
Jared Diamond believes the alphabet was consciously designed, citing as evidence the possibility that the letters with the fewest strokes may have been the most frequent.