First of all, let me say that it's a moot point what the Finnish alphabet really is. Presented here is the alphabet as used for native words. The official alphabet in use is the same as Swedish. (Swedish is the second official language of Finland).

The 'Native' Finnish alphabet is borrowed heavily from Roman:

The meaning of front and back vowels is covered in vowel harmony.

21 letters in dictionary order: adeghijklmnoprstuvyäö


  • d was introduced in the 18th or 19th Century.
  • b,g appear in foreign loan-words, and are pronounced as their lending language.
  • z, named tseta, appears in foreign loan-words, and is pronounced 'ts' similarly to German.
  • Due to the Finns' lack of aspiration, p, k and t may sound similar to b, g and d to English ears.
  • Consonants and vowels may be long, and this is denoted by simply writing the letter twice. (eg. Hyvää päivää = Good day)
  • The Finnish word for Alphabet is Aakoset - the plural of Aakonen.

(Thanks to sakke, gn0sis, vuo and omegas for info.)

Some overlap with stupot's writeup due to historical reasons, but maybe the extra details make this worthwhile...

Finnish uses exactly the same alphabet as Swedish, namely:

English speakers will note that this is looks very familiar, except for the extra vowels ä, ö and å at the end. So, if you have to look up something in a Finnish phone book or dictionary, the order is exactly the same as in English (except that phonebooks do not distinguish between v and w, for reasons explained below).

Now, the actual phonology of the language is a bit more difficult. The following letters are found in native Finnish words:

...with the following caveats:
  • d was added somewhat artificially, some dialects still use t instead
  • g only occurs in the cluster ng, which is actually a single sound, the velar nasal ŋ
The remaining letters
come from various sources:
  • c has been used interchangably with k, but modern Finnish uses it only for loanwords
  • b, f, q, x and z (and g outside ng) are found only in loanwords
  • w has been used interchangably with v, but is only retained in personal names; this is why phonebooks do not distinguish between Virtanen and Wirtanen
  • å is used exclusively for spelling some Swedish names
And courtesy of Gritchka the ever pedantic, a historical footnote: in accordance with the "one phoneme, one grapheme" principle used to systemize modern Finnish spelling, there was a school that thought the sound "sh" (as in shell) should be written as š (s-hacek). However, this sound is only found in a few rare loan words and the combination s + h does not exist in Finnish, so there is no real need for it; the sound is these days almost always written with the two letters "sh".

As for long/short vowels and consonants, the full story is rather complex and too long to be explained here. Finnish orthography really deserves its own node...

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