Italian Alphabet

The Italian alphabet, or l’alfabeto italiano, uses a variation of the Latin alphabet to write the Italian language.

Italian orthography is almost a phonemic orthography, meaning that there is an almost one-to-one correspondence between letters or letter sequences and sounds. Some exceptions are that “e” and “o’s” stress placement and vowel quality are not notated, and “s” and “z” may or may not be voiced.

The Italian alphabet has 21 letters. There are five vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) and 16 consonants. All 21 letters are shared by the English alphabet but are not pronounced the same. As far as accents, grave (`), acute (´), and circumflex (^) accents may be used to modify vowel letters.

The letters j, k, w, x, and y are not part of the proper alphabet but appear in foreign names, some native words, and loanwords. Loanwords are words adopted or borrowed from one language and incorporated into another without translation.

Letter
Pronunciation
Italian Name
aLike in "Cat"A
bLike in "But"Bi (English: Bee)
cLike in "Chess" if the following letter is e/i, otherwise it's like in "Cake"Ci (English: Chee)
c + hAlways pronounced like a "K"CH
dLike in "Diamond"Di (English: Dee)
eLike in "Elephant" or if a long vowel sound, such as when at the end of a word, "A" like in "they"E
fLike in "Father"Effe (English: EffE)
gLike in "General" if the following letter is e/i, otherwise it's like in "Gun"Gi (English: Gee)
g + hAlways pronounced like in "Gate"GH
hnever pronounced, but if between c (or g) and e/i, it changes their sound (see c,g)Acca
iLike the double "E" sound in "Street", never as "Island", never as "Kid"I (English: Ee)
jOnly on foreign words, usually pronounced (in the few original Italian words spelled with this letter) like y in yacht, e.g. jella (misluck) sounds like "Yell"-"ah"Jay/ ilunga
kOnly on foreign words, pronounced usually like in English.Kappa
lLike in "Left"Elle
mLike in "Metal"Emme
nLike in "Never"Enne
oLike in "Open"O
pLike in "People"Pi (English: Pee)
qalways followed by U, it's like in "Quarterback"Qu (English Ku)
rLike in "Rock" but the sound is different: italians pronounce it by making the tip of the tongue tremble closer to the front teethErre
sLike in "Sing", or like in "reason".Esse
tLike in "Time"Ti (English: Tea)
uLike in "Boot"U (English: oo)
vLike in "Volleyball"Vi/Vu (English Vee)
wOnly on foreign words, pronounced usually like in English.Doppia Vi/ Doppia Vu
xNot common in Italian, but used nowadays often in the prefix "ex-" ("former" in English). It is always pronounced "ks" (as in wax), never "gz"(as in example) even in foreign words. Specifically only appears in foreign words.Ics
yOnly appears in foreign words or in scientific words derived from Ancient Greek. Pronounced like "Yttrium"Ypsilon
zIn most words, it is pronounced ts as in "Cats", e.g. Influenza "Influentsa" (eng. influenza). There is also a voiced pronunciation, dz as in "she adds on". Its pronunciation is always intense, regardless of whether as a single or double letter. When appearing as a single letter, it most commonly has the ts pronunciation (but: in northern Italy, it is always pronounced dz at beginning of a word), as is also always the case when followed by i+vowel, e.g. inizio (beginning) pronounced "in-ee-ts-yoh".Zeta
zza definite "tz" sound - think "pizza". But with exceptions, for example, in the verbs of the -izzare group (english -yze or -ize like realize), e.g. paralizzare (paralyze), "pah-rah-lee-dzah-reh".