Danish and Norwegian alphabet

The Danish and Norwegian alphabet is based upon the Latin alphabet and has consisted of the following 29 letters since 1917 (Norwegian) and 1955 (Danish), although Danish did not officially recognize the W as a separate letter until 1980.

Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z æ ø å
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(Listen to a Danish speaker recite the alphabet in Danish.)

The letters c, q, w, x and z are not used in the spelling of indigenous words. They are rarely used in Norwegian, where loan words routinely have their orthography adapted to the native sound system. Conversely, Danish has a greater tendency to preserve the original spelling of loan words. In particular, a 'c' that represents /s/ is almost never normalized to 's' in Danish, as would most often happen in Norwegian. Many words originally derived from Latin roots retain 'c' in their Danish spelling.

The "foreign" letters also sometimes appear in the spelling of otherwise-indigenous family names. For example, many of the Danish families that use the surname Skov (literally: "Forest") spell it Schou.



Norwegian (especially the Nynorsk variant) also uses several letters with diacritic signs: é, è, ê, ó, ò, â, and ô. The diacritic signs are not compulsory[1], but can be added to clarify the meaning of words (homonyms) which otherwise would be identical. One example is ein gut/en gutt (a boy) versus éin gut/én gutt (one boy). Loanwords may be spelled with other diacritics, most notably ü, á and à, following the conventions of the original language. The Norwegian vowels æ, ø and å never take diacritics.

The diacritic signs in use include the acute accent, grave accent and the circumflex. A common example of how the diacritics change the meaning of a word, is for:

  • for (preposition. For or to)
  • fór (verb. Went, in the sense went quickly)
  • fòr (noun. Furrow, only Nynorsk)
  • fôr (noun. Fodder)

Note that ü is not considered a variant of u, and words like gründer are spelt in one way only.


Standard Danish orthography has no compulsory diacritics, but allows the use of an acute accent for disambiguation. Most often, an accent on e marks a stressed syllable in one of a pair of homographs that have different stresses, for example en dreng (a boy) versus én dreng (one boy) or alle (every/everyone) versus allé (avenue).

Less often, any vowel except 'å' may be accented to indicate stress on a word, either to clarify the meaning of the sentence, or to ease the reading otherwise. For example: jeg stód op ("I was standing"), versus jeg stod óp ("I got out of bed"); hunden gør (det) ("the dog does (it)"), versus hunden gǿr ("the dog barks"). Most often, however, such distinctions are made using typographical emphasis (italics, underlining) or simply left to the reader to infer from the context, and the use of accents in such cases may appear dated.


The letter Å (HTML å) was introduced in Norwegian in 1917, replacing Aa. Similarly, the letter Å was introduced in Danish in 1948, but the final decision on its place in the alphabet was not made. The initial proposal was to place it first, before A. Its place as the last letter of the alphabet, as in Norwegian, was decided in 1955[2]. The former digraph Aa still occurs in personal names, and in Danish geographical names. In Norway, geographical names tend to follow the current orthography, meaning that the letter å will be used. Family names may not follow modern orthography, and as such retain the digraph aa where å would be used today. Aa remains in use as a transliteration, if the letter is not available for technical reasons. Aa is treated like Å in alphabetical sorting, not like two adjacent letters A, meaning that while a is the first letter of the alphabet, aa is the last. This rule does not apply to non-Scandinavian names, so a modern atlas would list the German city of Aachen under A but list the Danish town of Aabenraa under Å.

The difference between the Dano-Norwegian and the Swedish alphabet is that Swedish uses the variant Ä instead of Æ, and the variant Ö instead of Ø — similar to German. Also, the collating order for these three letters is different: Å, Ä, Ö.

In current Danish and Norwegian, W is recognized as a separate letter from V. In Danish, the transition was made in 1980; before that, the W was merely considered to be a variation of the letter V and words using it were alphabetized accordingly (e.g.: "Wales, Vallø, Washington, Wedellsborg, Vendsyssel"). A common Danish children's song about the alphabet still states that the alphabet has 28 letters; the last line reads otte-og-tyve skal der stå, i.e. "that makes twenty-eight". However, today the letter "w" is considered an official letter.

Computing standards

In computing, several different coding standards have existed for this alphabet:

See also


  1. Norwegian language council: The use of accents (in Norwegian)
  2. Einar Lundeby: "Bolle-å-ens plass i det danske alfabet" [The placing of Å in the Danish alphabet] in Språknytt, 1995/4. http://www.sprakrad.no/Toppmeny/Publikasjoner/Spraaknytt/Arkivet/Spraaknytt_1995/Spraaknytt-1995-4/Bolle-aa-ens_plass_i_det_dans/