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The Spanish Alphabet

Spanish for Beginners

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Keyboard shows the ñ.

The ñ is the the 15th letter of the Spanish alphabet.

Photo by Eli Duke used under terms of Creative Commons license.

If you know the alphabet in English, French, German or many other languages, you can easily learn it in Spanish.

That is because the Spanish alphabet is very similar to the alphabets of most European languages. According to Real Academia Española, which is considered the arbiter of what's official Spanish, the following letters make up the Spanish alphabet:

  • a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z

In other words, the Spanish alphabet, with 27 letters, is the same as the English alphabet with the addition of the ñ.

The following chart shows the capital letters along with name of each letter:

  • A: a
    B: be
    C: ce
    D: de
    E: e
    F: efe
    G: ge
    H: hache
    I: i
    J: jota
    K: ka
    L: ele
    M: eme
    N ene
    Ñ: eñe
    O: o
    P: pe
    Q: cu
    R: ere (or erre)
    S: ese
    T: te
    U: u
    V: uve
    W: uve doble
    X: equis
    Y: ye
    Z: zeta

It may interest you to know that as recently as 2010, the Spanish alphabet, as recognized by the RAE, included two other letters, ch and ll, which were considered separate letters. They continue to have distinctive pronunciations (just as do "ch" and "sh" in English).

There also have been other changes over the years in the Spanish alphabet as well as disagreements over what's included:

  • The W (sometimes referred to as doble ve) and K, which exist almost exclusively in words of foreign origin, such as kilowatt, haven't always been considered part of the alphabet.
  • Some authorities once considred the RR (erre doble), which isn't pronounced the same as R, as as a separate letter.
  • For many years, when ch was considered a separate letter, it would affect alphabetization, so that the word achatar would be listed after acordar in dictionaries. But the alphabetization rules were changed long before ch was dropped as a letter, so that Spanish dictionaires long have alphabetized words as they were in English (except that the ñ came after the n).
  • The y used to be known as the y griega ("Greek y") to distinguish it from the i or i latina ("Latin i"). You'll still hear that name used and likely will for years to come.

Another change promulgated in 2010 involved the names for b and v, which were pronounced be and ve — in other words, identically, since the b and v are pronounced alike. So various ways of distinguishing between the letters were developed, and chances are you'll still hear them used. For example, sometimes B is referred to as be grande ("big B") and the V as ve chica ("little V").

You will find as you learn Spanish that vowels are often written with accents, as in tablón, and the u is sometimes topped with a dieresis or umlaut, as in vergüenza. However, vowels with such diacritical marks are not considered separate letters as they can be in some other languages.

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