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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  • Claudia Irene Ortiz Adán on

    Hermosa aportación, apasionante tema. Gracias por poner a disposición los gráficos.

  • Andres on

    What about the Ñ letter ?

    Thank you and Congrats.

  • Sam Roberts on

    I may be wrong, but given the evolution depicted in the chart, dyslexia doesn’t seem like a problem anymore.

  • Sixtus on

    I think that the correct title is English Alphabet. There is no modern Latin alphabet, just alphabets based on the Latin alphabet. In German (my native language) we have 4 additional letters which are Ä, Ö, Ü, and ẞ (ä, ö, ü, ß) and all these letters form the German alphabet. It’s not Latin, only based on Latin.

  • Bieeanshee on

    This is beautiful. I was originally going to see if I could get the Latin Alphabet printed prettily for my wall, but now I think I need that whole, beautiful Writing Systems poster too. Thank you for making them available!

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