Estonian alphabet is based on Latin alphabet. The official Estonian alphabet consists of 27 letters.

A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, Š, Z, Ž, T, U, V, Õ, Ä, Ö and Ü.

So-called "foreign letters" ('võõrtähed) F, Š, Z and Ž occur only in loanwords and foreign proper names. They do not occur in native Estonian words, but are officially part of the Estonian alphabet. Occasionally though, the so-called "foreign letters" are excluded from the alphabet, which in this case this makes the Estonian alphabet consist of only 23 letters.

Additionally, the following letters C, Q, W, X and Y occur only in loanwords. They do not occur in Estonian words and are also not officially part of the Estonian alphabet, therefore they are also usually excluded from the alphabet. Including these following letters, makes the Estonian alphabet consist of 32 letters.



Estonian has "borrowed" many words from other languages. Many of them have been altered more or less in the process of nativization.


  • baar, pubi – bar, pub
  • buss – bus
  • dieet – diet
  • elevant – elephant
  • paber – paper
  • pank – bank
  • raadio – radio
  • süsteem – system
  • šampoon – shampoo
  • tee – tea
  • televisioon – television
  • tšekk – cheque
  • turist – tourist



Figure out what these Estonian words are in English.

  1. projekt
  2. faks
  3. galerii
  4. skandaal
  5. idioot
  6. klassik
  7. koopia
  8. pomm
  9. kaart
  10. füüsika




Writing IPA Rough pronunciation guide
a [ɑ] like the "a" in "car"
e [e] like the "e" in "net"
i [i] like the "i" in "pink"
o [o] like the "o" in "sock"
u [u] like the "u" in "put"
õ [ɤ] somewhat like the "o" in "roses"
ä [æ] like the "a" in "cat"
ö [ø] just like the German ö in "Österreich" or "u" in "burn"
ü [y] just like the German ü in "über"

There are three vowel lengths in Estonian: short, long and over-long. Short vowels are marked with one letter, but both long and over-long vowels are marked with two letters, for example:

  • tore [tore] "nice", toore [to:re] "raw material", toore [to::re] "raw (".

So, as you may see, vowel length is sometimes crucial to understand the meaning of a word correctly.



Diphthongs sound like the sounds of two letters pronounced quickly after each other. Try to pronounce them:

ae ai ao au
ea ei eo eu
ia io iu
oa oe oi ou
ua ue ui uo
õa õe õi õo õu
äe äi äo äu
öa öe öi
üa üe üi üo


  • Consonants "b", "d", "g" are usually pronounced voiceless in Estonian, similar to "p", "t", "k".
  • "Š" is pronounced like "sh" in English and "ž" like "zh".
  • Consonant "j" sounds like "y" in "yoghurt".
  • "N", "t", "s", "l" may sound palatalized, which is not indicated in writing, but changes the meaning of a word, for example: palk [palk] "salary", palk [palʲk] "log".

Three different lengths are possible with consonants too:

  • short peni "hound", long penni "penny (", over-long penni "penny (".

But with stops it works like this:

  • short kabi "hoof", long kapi "cupboard (", over-long kappi "cupboard ("
  • short kade "jealous", long kate "cover", over-long katte "cover ("
  • short lage "bare", long lake "slop", over-long lakke "to the ceiling"