Evolution of the English Alphabet


Version 1:

Version 2:

Version 3:

I made this chart last year as a bonus award on Kickstarter but am now making it available as a free download. Just right click on the above image (or long press on your mobile) and then select save.

UPDATE: I shared this on Twitter and it's my first tweet to reach over 10k RT's! Anyway, here's a few comments based on the feedback I've received:

  • If you want to print it, here's a high-res version: English title | Latin title
  • You're free to use the chart however you like so long as you don't sell it and so long as you give credit to either me (Matt Baker) or this website (UsefulCharts.com). I'm releasing it under a Creative Commons license.
  • Fyi, the above chart was actually just a simplified promo for a much larger chart - a Writing Systems of the World poster. So, if you're concerned about the fact that thorn, wynn, or any other letters are missing, rest assured that they were indeed included on the main chart.
  • If you have questions about why certain letters evolved the way that they did, I actually did a YouTube video on the topic. As for why so many of the letters flipped, it's because they used to be written in both directions. But with the introduction of ink, left to right eventually became standard (less smudging if you're right-handed).
  • The fonts used include ProtoSinaitic (free), Alphabetum (commercial; used for the Ancient Greek/Latin lines) and Google Noto (free; used for Phoenician).
  • "Shouldn't you have titled this 'Evolution of the Latin Alphabet?'" Well, yes, that would have been correct as well. But it's also not incorrect to refer to an "English alphabet". Obviously, many European languages use the same Latin script. But some use a slightly different number of letters. When one is referring to the set of Latin letters used for a particular language, it's ok to refer to that set as the "[language name] alphabet". (Update: I've included a version above with the title "Latin Alphabet" for those who would prefer it.)
  • Many linguists provided feedback throughout the project, including Peter T. Daniels, one of the world's foremost experts on writing systems. You can find the full list of contributors here.
  • I support a charity that does great educational work in rural Sri Lanka. If you're looking for a way to say thanks, consider making a donation. Or, if you purchase any of my other charts (including the Writing Systems of the World poster), a $1 donation will automatically be made.

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  • Emily Canter-Amthor on

    Thanks TONS for this chart! I’d seen a similar one in an English gift shop 22 years ago and regretted not buying it then. this one even better! I use it to teach students before introducing them to Calligraphy.

  • Celest on

    Thanks for your hard work and generous sharing

  • Paul Johanson on

    My good man, I’ve been obsessively watching your YouTube channel. I love this chart – my kid is at school just learning to read and asks difficult questions like “Where does the alphabet come from?” and “Why do we have capital letters?”.

    Can I ask a small favour – could you make a version of this with a white background? That’d make it much easier for me to print on my terrible inkjet printer!

  • Matthew Baker on

    To get a version with a white background, save the image and then upload it using this site:

  • Liesbeth on

    thank you for this, it’s so interesting and beautiful to look at!

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