The German Alphabet

How to pronounce and spell German letters and letter combinations


German and English are both West Germanic languages and their alphabets share a common root. This should be welcome information for anyone learning German!

They both have the same 26 standard cardinal letters, but German has a few extra characters and standard German letter combinations.

This short guide includes all the alphabet basics, plus the fun of the German spelling alphabet. You'd be amazed how often you need it in everyday German-speaking life!


Start here: the German alphabet


Letter
(Buchstabe)
Pronunciation
(Aussprache)
Letter
(Buchstabe)
Pronunciation
(Aussprache)
A AHNENN
B BAYOOH
C TSAY PPEH
D DAY QKOO
E AY RERR
F EFF SESS
G GAY TTAY
H HAH UOO
I EEH VFOW
J YOT WVAY
K KAH XICKS
L ELL Y IPSEELON
M EMM ZTSET

Standard German letter combinations

There are several standard combinations of German letters, each with their own, consistent German pronunciation.

Letter combination Pronunciation
Ei EYE
Eu OY!
Sch SCH
Sp Schpuh
St Scht
Ch CHUH
Au OW

ß – The "Eszett"

German has an additional character, the ß, called the “Eszett” or “sharp S”.

ß Eszett (“s” and “z” combined),
this is simply a double “s”
and is pronounced “Ess”.

Note:

  • There is no capitalized form of ß, instead SS is used.
  • The ß is not found in Swiss German – only the ss is used.

German umlauts

German also has 3 additional characters – ä,ö and ü, called umlauts.

These represent the shifting sounds « ae », « oe » and « ue ». They are not regarded as separate letters of the German alphabet. (More on umlauts here)


The German spelling alphabet

When speaking German you’ll soon realise how important it is to be able to "spell out" words and letter combinations in normal conversation,

E.g. "Ich fahre ein FOW-VAY Golf" ("I drive a VW Golf")

When speaking German on the phone, it’s also common to spell out words - especially names - which might otherwise be misunderstood.

Use the German version of the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet (Buchstabiertafel or Funkalphabet) as follows :

- "Mein Name ist Joanna".
- "Könnten Sie das bitte buchstabieren ?"
- "Gerne. Julius-Otto-Anton-Nordpol-Nordpol-Anton."

Letter ENGLISHGERMAN (Germany)Variations
(A: Austria, CH: Switzerland)
A AlphaAnton....
B BravoBerta....
C CharlieCäsar....
D DeltaDora CH: Daniel
E EchoEmil....
F FoxtrotFriedrich....
G GolfGustav....
H HotelHeinrich....
I IndiaIda....
J JulietJulius CH: Jakob
K KiloKaufmann A: Konrad, CH: Kaiser
L LimaLudwigCH: Leopold
M MikeMartha CH: Marie
N NovemberNordpol CH: Niklaus
O OscarOtto....
P PapaPaula CH: Peter
Q QuebecQuelle CH: Quasi
R RomeoRichard CH: Rosie
S SierraSiegfried(Officially Samuel but seldom used)
CH: Sophie
T TangoTheodor....
U UniformUlrich....
V VictorVictor....
W WhiskeyWilhelm....
X X-rayXanthippe A:Xaver
Y YankeeYpsilon....
Z ZuluZürich (Zeppelin still more
commonly heard in
all D-A-CH countries)


And don’t forget the umlaut and letter combination sounds (although I have to admit that I've never actually heard them used in practice!):

LetterGERMAN (Germany)Variations
(A = Austria, CH = Switzerland)
Ä ÄrgerCH: Äsch
Ö ÖkonomA: Österreich,
CH: Örlikon
Ü ÜbermutA:Übel
Sch Schule …..
ß Eszett Scharfes s

Want to practice spelling out the German alphabet?

Dora-Anton-Nordpol-Konrad-Emil-Friedrich-Übermut-Richard-Siegfried-Ludwig-Emil-Siegfried-Emil-Nordpol.

Have fun!

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