The Pali Alphabet 
and its Pronunciation


a,   ā,   i,   ī,   u,   ū,   e,   o [1]


k,   kh,   g,   gh,   ṅ;
c,   ch,   j,   jh,   ñ;
ṭ,   ṭh,   ḍ,   ḍh,   ṇ; [2]
t,   th,   d,   dh,   n; [3]
p,   ph,   b,   bh,   m;
y,   r,   l,   v,   s,   h,   ḷ,   ṃ

Pronunciation of vowels
a as o in pop (beginning or in the middle of a word) [4]
a as u in but (at the end of a word) [4]
ā " a " art [4]
i " i " pin
ī " ee " seed
u " u " put
ū " u " rule
e " a " fate
o " o " note
Pronunciation of consonants
b as b in bib
c " ch " rich
d       (Mexican día) [3]
" d " bad
g " g " go
h " h " hut
j " j " judge
k " k " key
l " l " wealth [5]
as l in felt
m " m " him
" ng " sing
n " n " tenth [3]
" n " hint [2]
" n " sink
ñ " ny " canyon
p " p " lip
r " r " rat
s " s " sit
t       Mexican “latino” [3]
" t " cat [2]
v " w " warm
y " y " yes
Consonants followed by h
bh as bh in abhor [6]
ch " ch-h " witch-hazel
ḍh " d-h " red-hot
gh " g-h " pig-headed
jh " dge-h " sledge-hammer
kh " ckh " blockhead
ph " ph " uphill
ṭh " t-h " cat-head 
Doubled consonants or two consonants together
gg as g g in big gun [7]
ll " ll l " fall leaves
ṭṭ " t t " hot tomato
tv " tw " twin



  1. Indic languages in general (and Pali in particular) distinguish between short and long vowels not by pitch or stress or a change of pronunciation, but rather by lengthening the vowel sound itself, viz:
    a, ā = Ah, Ahhhhh (as in father or art)
    i, ī = Ee, Eeeeee (as in feet)
    u, ū = Oo, Oooooo. (as in boot or rule)

    The vowels e and o are always long.

  2. ḍ, ḷ, ṇ, ṭ are palatal consonants, pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.
  3. d, l, n, and t are lengua-dental consonants, pronounced with the tongue touching the teeth. The sound is rare in English.
  4. All three ways of pronouncing the vowel a can be heard in the name of the Buddha’s attendent and cousin, Ānanda: “Ahhh–nahn–duh.”
  5. l and ḷ: there is virtually no difference between these sounds; l is pronounced with the tongue close to or touching the teeth; ḷ with the tongue touching the roof of mouth. 
  6. h is always aspirated, even when a consonant preceeds it.
  7. Both consonants are pronounced, often with a “stoppage of sound” between them.