German Alphabets : An overview

German alphabets2

German A to Z

German has often been viewed by non-Germans as a harsh sounding language. That may be due in part to the more guttural pronunciation of certain German alphabet sounds and diphthongs and perhaps even a still lingering effect of old WWII movie stereotypes. Once non-German speakers familiarize themselves with German’s different sounds, however, another kind of poetic beauty will unfold before them that has been revered worldwide in the works of many German greats, such as Goethe, Schiller through prose and song.

The German Alphabet is a vital part of the language, which is spoken by more than 130 million people in 38 countries of the world, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, and 33 other countries. The alphabet consists of the same 26 letters as English alphabet, plus some extra ones. German pronunciation of letters is in many places the same as English, as well as how to write them, however there are some unique letters and different ways of pronouncing some other letters.

German Alphabet

Aa as in the word “ask” and never as in the word “able”
Bb same as in English
Cc usually in “sch” “ch” or “ck” rarely out of these letters.
Dd same as in English
Ee as in “elevated”
Ff same as in English
Gg like in the word “God”, never pronounced as in the word “gym”.
Hh same as in English.
Ii as in the word “ink” never as in the word “island”
Jj similar to the letter “y” in “yacht”
Kk same as in English
Ll same as in English
Mm same as in English
Nn same as in English, most of the German letters are just like English.
Oo same as in English “Old” never as in “Hot” which is pronounced somehow like {hat}
Pp same as in English
Qq same as in English but rare.
Rr same as in English but slightly like as in “gh” as in the French “Merci”
Ss sounds like “z”.
Tt same as in English but not as sharp. 
Uu sounds like “oo” or “uu”, never as in the word “up” or “university” 
Vv sounds like “f”
Ww sounds like “v”
Xx same as in English although rare.
Yy same as in English although rare.
Zz sounds like “ts”

Additional German letters:

Ä /ä, Ö/ ö, Ü / ü. ß (called scharfes s)

Ä /ä sounds more like “e”

Ö/ ö sounds more like “oe”

Ü / ü sounds more like “ue”

ß sounds like “ss”

Compound letters:

Sch: sounds like “sh”

Ch: sounds sometimes like “sh” or like “kh”.

St: sounds like “sht” at the beginning, and like “st” at the end of a word.

German alphabets

Unique Characteristics of the German Alphabet

  • More than 26 letters in the alphabet – German has a so-called extended Latin alphabet
  • The extra letters are ä, ö, ü and ß
  • The pronunciation of some of these letters do not exist in the English language
  • Several letters are pronounced more from the back of the throat: g, ch, r (though in Austria the r is trilled).
  • The W in German sounds like the V in English
  • The V in German sounds like the F in English
  • Most of the time the S in German sounds like Z in English when placed at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel.
  • The letter ß will never appear at the beginning of a word.

Das Deutsche Alphabet (The German Alphabet)

Click on the following letters to hear them pronounced. (Audio saved as .wav files.)
Buchstabe/ Letter Aussprache des Buchstabenamens/ Pronunciation of letter name Aussprache des Buchstaben – wie in/ Sound of Letter – as in Beispiele/ Examples
A a ah astronaut der Adler (eagle), Januar  (January)
B b approximate: bay baby der Bruder (brother), aber (but)
C c approximate: tsay creative, Celcius (soft c sound in German sounds like ts) der Chor, der Christkindlmarkt(south German term for der Weihnachtsmarkt/ Christmas market), Celcius
D d approximate: day dollar Dienstag (Tuesday), oder (or)
E e approximate: ay elegant essen (to eat), zuerst(first)
F f eff effort der Freund (friend), offen (open)
G g approximate: gay gorgeous gut (good), gemein(mean)
H h haa hammer der Hammer, dieMühle (mill)
I i eeh Igor der Igel (porcupine), der Imbiss (snack), sieben (seven)
J j yot yellow das Jahr (year), jeder (each)
K k kah camel das Kamel, der Kuchen (cake)
L l ell love die Leute (people), das Land (land)
M m em man der Mann, die Ameise
N n en nice nicht (not), die Münze (coin)
O o oh oven Ostern (Easter),rot(red)
P p approximate: pay party die Polizei (police), der Apfel
Q q koo coral das Quadrat (square), die Quelle (source) Note: All German words start with qu (kw – sound)
R r approximate: er rich der Rücken (the back), der Stern (star)
S s es zoo, shine, mouse summen (to hum), schön (pretty, nice), die Maus
T t approximate: tay tyrant der Tyrann, acht(eight)
U u ooh ou sound in you die Universität(university), der Mund(mouth)
V v fow father der Vogel (bird), dieNerven (nerves)
W w approximate: vay van die Wange (cheek), dasSchwein (pig, wieviel (how much)
X x ix sounds like kz das Xylofon/ Xylophon, die Hexe (witch) Note: There are hardly any German words that start with X
Y y uep-si-lohn yellow die Yucca, der Yeti Note: There are hardly any German words that start with Y.
Z z tset sounds like ts die Zeitung(newspaper), der Zigeuner (gypsy)
Umlaut + ß
Aussprache des Buchstaben/ Pronunciation of Letter Beispiele/ Examples
ä sounds similar to the e in melon ähnlich (similar), gähnen (to yawn)
ö sounds similar to the i in girl Österreich (Austria), der Löwe (lion)
ü no equivalent nor approximate sound in English über (over),müde(tired)
ß(esszet) double s sound heiß (hot),die Straße(street
Learn more specifics of several German letters and their dipthongs in this guide for beginners, German Pronunciation and Alphabet  or if you are starting to feel comfortable with German pronunciation put yourself to the test with these Zungenbrecher (tongue twisters).

Scroll to Top