The Georgian word for "alphabet" is ანბანი (anbani), after the names of the first two letters of the Georgian alphabets.
The Georgian script makes no distinction between upper and lower case.
Since its adaptation to a written form, the Georgian alphabet has progressed through three forms, that were originally distinct alphabets, even if they have been used together to write the same languages, and these alphabets share the same letter names. However, the last one contains more letters than the two historical ones, even if those extra letters are no longer needed for writing modern Georgian:
Georgia (kingdom of Iberia) was converted to Christianity in the 330s. Scholars believe that the creation of a Georgian alphabet was instrumental in making religious scripture more accessible to the Georgians. This happened in the 4th or 5th century, not long after the conversion. The oldest uncontested example of Georgian writing is an asomtavruli inscription from 430 CE in a church in Bethlehem.
Examples of the earliest alphabet, the asomtavruli (ასომთავრული; "capital letters") also known as mrgvlovani (მრგვლოვანი; "rounded"), are still preserved in monumental inscriptions such as those of the Georgian church in Bethlehem (near Jerusalem, 430) and the church of Bolnisi Sioni near Tbilisi (4th-5th centuries).
Despite its common Georgian name, this rounded alphabet was originally purely unicameral, just like the modern Georgian alphabet.
The earliest recorded account about the origin of the Georgian alphabet belongs to the 5th-century Armenian author Koryun, who attributes its creation to his mentor Saint Mesrop, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet.
However, a unique local form of Aramaic writing known as "Armazuli" existed before that, as demonstrated by the 1940s discovery of a bilingual Greco-Aramaic insciption at Mtskheta, Georgia. It is conceivable that local pre-Christian records did exist, but were subsequently destroyed by zealous Christians. Many found more palatable the idea that the medieval Georgian chronicles actually refer to the introduction of a local form of written Aramaic during the reign of Parnavaz.
Georgian historical tradition attributed the invention of the Georgian alphabet to the semi-mythical Parnavaz I of Iberia in the 3rd century BC. The modern Georgian scholar Levan Chilashvili, on the basis of dating the Nekresi inscription in eastern Georgia to the 1st-2nd century AD, claimed that Parnavaz probably created the script in order to translate the Avesta (sacred Zoroastrian writings) into Georgian. However, a pre-Christian origin for the Georgian script has not been firmly supported by archaeological evidence.
None of above-mentioned traditions seems to have much currency as, in the view of modern scholars, the only convincing explanation for the similarities has to be the same influences rather than the same creator.
|Note that some fonts for modern Georgian are not showing the actual Asomtavruli monumental letter forms for these letters, but are instead showing taller (capitalized) variants of the modern Mkhedruli alphabet (see below).|
This unicameral alphabet is still used today in some section headings and book titles, and sometimes used in a pseudo-bicameral way by varying the glyph sizes for creating capitals. Since it is no longer used for writing Georgian, it has also been reused in a creative way for writing capital letters, along with letters of one of the two other Georgian alphabets.
The forms of the Khutsuri letters may have been derived from the northern Arsacid variant of the Pahlavi (or Middle Iranian) script, which itself was derived from the older Aramaic, although the direction of writing (from left to right), the use of separate symbols for the vowel sounds, the numerical values assigned to the letters in earlier times, and the order of the letters all point to significant Greek influence on the script.
However, the Georgian linguist Tamaz Gamkrelidze argues that the forms of the letters are freely invented in imitation of the Greek model rather than directly based upon earlier forms of the Aramaic alphabet, even though the Georgian phonological inventory is very different from Greek.
Just like the monumental asomtavruli alphabet, this squared alphabet was initially purely unicameral.
However, it has also been used also along with the asomtavruli alphabet (serving as capital letters in religious manuscripts) to form the khutsuri (ხუცური; "church script") bicameral style that is still used sometimes today.
Seven of the original forty mkhedruli letters are now obsolete.
Just like the two other alphabets, the mkhedruli alphabet is purely unicameral. However, certain modern writers have experimented with using the obsolete asomtavruli letters (see above) as capitals.
Just like with the khutsuri script style, it is also sometimes used in a bicameral way along with the monumental asomtavruli (serving as capital letters), however this appears most often results from the confusion introduced by the religious khutsuri style and ignorance rather than the result of a creative design choice. Georgians often consider this as an error, given that some old Mkhedruli letters don't have any mapping to the monumental alphabet. Others are just using the Mkhedruli alphabet alone in a pseudo-bicameral way, by just adapting its letter sizes to create pseudo-capital letters.
|ა||U+10D0||an||A a||A a||А а||А а||/ɑ/|
|ბ||U+10D1||ban||B b||B b||B b||B b||/b/|
|გ||U+10D2||gan||G g||G g||G g||G g||/ɡ/|
|დ||U+10D3||don||D d||D d||D d||D d||/d/|
|ე||U+10D4||en||E e||E e||E e||E e||/ɛ/|
|ვ||U+10D5||vin||V v||V v||V v||V v||/v/|
|ზ||U+10D6||zen||Z z||Z z||Z z||Z z||/z/|
|თ||U+10D7||t'an||T t||T' t'||T' t'||T t||/tʰ/|
|ი||U+10D8||in||I i||I i||I i||I i||/i/|
|კ||U+10D9||kan||K' k'||K k||K k||K' k'||/kʼ/|
|ლ||U+10DA||las||L l||L l||L l||L l||/l/|
|მ||U+10DB||man||M m||M m||M m||M m||/m/|
|ნ||U+10DC||nar||N n||N n||N n||N n||/n/|
|ო||U+10DD||on||O o||O o||O o||O o||/ɔ/|
|პ||U+10DE||par||P' p'||P p||P p||P' p'||/pʼ/|
|ჟ||U+10DF||žan||Zh zh||Ž ž||Zh zh||J j||/ʒ/|
|რ||U+10E0||rae||R r||R r||R r||R r||/r/|
|ს||U+10E1||san||S s||S s||S s||S s||/s/|
|ტ||U+10E2||tar||T' t'||T' t'||T t||T' t'||/tʼ/|
|უ||U+10E3||un||U u||U u||U u||U u||/u/|
|ფ||U+10E4||p'ar||P p||P' p'||P' p'||P p||/pʰ/|
|ქ||U+10E5||kan||K k||K' k'||K' k'||K k||/kʰ/|
|ღ||U+10E6||ḡan||Gh gh||Ḡ ḡ||Gh gh||Ğ ğ||/ɣ/|
|ყ||U+10E7||qar||Q' q'||Q q||Q q||Q q||/qʼ/|
|შ||U+10E8||šin||Sh sh||Š š||Sh sh||Ş ş||/ʃ/|
|ჩ||U+10E9||č'in||Ch ch||Č' č'||Ch' ch'||Ç ç||/tʃ/|
|ც||U+10EA||c'an||Ts ts||C' c'||Ts' ts'||Ts ts||/ts/|
|ძ||U+10EB||jil||Dz dz||J j||Dz dz||Ž ž||/dz/|
|წ||U+10EC||cil||Ts' ts'||C c||Ts ts||Ts' ts'||/tsʼ/|
|ჭ||U+10ED||čar||Ch' ch'||Č č||Ch ch||Ç' ç'||/tʃʼ/|
|ხ||U+10EE||xan||Kh kh||X x||Kh kh||X x||/x/|
|ჯ||U+10EF||ǰan||J j||J̌ ǰ||J j||C c||/dʒ/|
|ჰ||U+10F0||hae||H h||H h||H h||H h||/h/|