Hittite cuneiform

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Hittite cuneiform on a tablet

Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script used in writing the Hittite language. The surviving corpus of Hittite texts is preserved in cuneiform on clay tablets dating to the 2nd millennium BC (roughly spanning the 17th to 12th centuries BC).

Hittite orthography was directly adapted from Old Assyrian cuneiform. The HZL of Rüster and Neu lists 375 cuneiform signs used in Hittite documents (11 of them only appearing in Hurrian and Hattic glosses), compared to some 600 signs in use in Old Assyrian. About half of the signs have syllabic values, the remaining are used as ideograms or logograms to represent the entire word—much as the characters "$", "%" and "&" are used in contemporary English.

Cuneiform signs can be employed in three functions: syllabograms, Akkadograms or Sumerograms. Syllabograms are characters that represent a syllable. Akkadograms and Sumerograms are ideograms originally from the earlier Akkadian or Sumerian orthography respectively, but not intended to be pronounced as in the original language; Sumerograms are mostly ideograms and determiners. Conventionally,

  • Syllabograms are transcribed in italic lowercase
  • Akkadograms in italic uppercase
  • Sumerograms in roman uppercase.

Thus, the sign GI 𒄀 can be used (and transcribed) in three ways, as the Hittite syllable gi (also ge); in the Akkadian spelling QÈ-RU-UB of the preposition "near" as , and as the Sumerian ideogram GI for "tube" also in superscript, GI, when used as a determiner.


The syllabary consists of single vowels, vowels preceded by a consonant (conventionally represented by the letters CV), vowels followed by a consonant (VC), or consonants in both locations (CVC). This system distinguishes the following consonants (notably dropping the Akkadian s series),

b, p, d, t, g, k, ḫ, r, l, m, n, š, z,

combined with the vowels a, e, i, u. Additional ya (=I.A 𒄿𒀀), wa (=PI 𒉿) and wi (=wi5=GEŠTIN 𒃾 "wine") signs are introduced. The contrast of the Assyrian voiced/unvoiced series (k/g, p/b, t/d) is not used to express the voiced/unvoiced contrast in Hittite; they are used somewhat interchangeably in some words, while other words are spelled consistently. The contrast in these cases is not entirely clear, and several interpretations of the underlying phonology have been proposed.

Similarly, the purpose of inserting an additional vowel between syllabograms (often referred to as "plene writing" of vowels) is not clear. Examples of this practice include the -a- in iš-ḫa-a-aš "master" or in la-a-man "name", ú-i-da-a-ar "waters". In some cases, it may indicate an inherited long vowel (lāman, cognate to Latin nōmen; widār, cognate to Greek ὕδωρ hudōr), but it may also have other functions connected with 'word accentuation'.


a 𒀀
e 𒂊
i 𒄿
u 𒌋, ú 𒌑


b- p- d- t- g- k- ḫ- l- m- n- r- š- w- y- z-
-a ba 𒁀 pa 𒉺 da 𒁕 ta 𒋫 ga 𒂵 ka 𒅗 ḫa 𒄩 la 𒆷 ma 𒈠 na 𒈾 ra 𒊏 ša 𒊭 wa 𒉿 ya 𒅀 za 𒍝
-e be 𒁁 ,
di 𒁲
te 𒋼 ge,
gi 𒄀
ki 𒆠
ḫe 𒄭,
ḫé 𒃶
li 𒇷
me 𒈨,
ne 𒉈,
ri 𒊑
še 𒊺 ze 𒍣,
-i bi 𒁉 ti 𒋾 ḫi 𒄭 mi 𒈪 ni 𒉌 ši 𒅆 wi5 𒃾 zi 𒍣
-u bu,
pu 𒁍
du 𒁺 tu 𒌅 gu 𒄖 ku 𒆪 ḫu 𒄷 lu 𒇻 mu 𒈬 nu 𒉡 ru 𒊒 šu 𒋗,
šú 𒋙
zu 𒍪


-b -p -d -t -g -k -ḫ -l -m -n -r -z
a- ab, ap 𒀊 ad, at 𒀜 ag, ak 𒀝 aḫ, eḫ, iḫ, uḫ 𒄴 al 𒀠 am 𒄠 an 𒀭 ar 𒅈 𒀸 az 𒊍
e- eb, ep, ib, ip 𒅁 ed, et, id, it 𒀉 eg, ek, ig, ik 𒅅 el 𒂖 em, im 𒅎 en 𒂗 er, ir 𒅕 𒌍, 𒐁 ez, iz 𒄑
i- il 𒅋 in 𒅔 𒅖
u- ub, up 𒌒 ud, ut 𒌓 ug, uk 𒊌 ul 𒌌 Cuneiform UL.png um 𒌝 un 𒌦 ur 𒌨, úr 𒌫 𒍑 uz 𒊻


  • Ḫ: ḫal 𒄬 ; ḫab/p 𒆸 ; ḫaš 𒋻; ḫad/t 𒉺 (=pa, PA "sceptre); ḫul (=ḪUL "evil"); ḫub/p 𒄽; ḫar/ḫur 𒄯 (ḪAR "ring", ḪUR "thick", MUR "lung")
  • K/G: gal 𒃲 (=GAL "great"); kal,gal9 𒆗; kam/gám 𒄰 (=TU7 "soup"); k/gán 𒃷 (=GÁN "field"); kab/p,gáb/p 𒆏 (=KAB "left"); kar (=KAR "find"); k/gàr 𒃼; k/gaš 𒁉 (=bi, KAŠ "beer"); k/gad/t 𒃰 (=GAD "linen"); gaz 𒄤 (=GAZ "kill"); kib/p ; k/gir 𒄫; kiš 𒆧 (=KIŠ "world"); kid/t9 𒃰 (=gad); kal 𒆗 (=KAL "strong"); kul 𒆰 (=KUL "offspring"); kúl,gul 𒄢 (=GUL "break"); k/gum 𒄣; kur 𒆳 (=KUR "land"); kùr/gur 𒄥
  • L: lal 𒇲 (=LAL "bind"); lam 𒇴; lig/k 𒌨 (=ur); liš 𒇺 (=LIŠ "spoon"); luḫ 𒈛 (=LUḪ "minister"); lum 𒈝
  • M: maḫ 𒈤 (=MAḪ "great"); man (=MAN "20"); mar 𒈥; maš 𒈦 (=MAŠ "half"); meš (="90") ; mil/mel 𒅖 (=iš); miš 𒈩 ; mur 𒄯 (=ḫur); mut (=MUD "blood")
  • N: nam 𒉆 (=NAM "district"); nab/p 𒀮; nir 𒉪; niš (=man)
  • P/B: p/bal 𒁄; pár/bar 𒈦 (=maš); paš ; pád/t,píd/t 𒁁; p/bíl 𒉋 (=GIBIL "new"); pir ; p/biš,pùš 𒄫 (=gir); p/bur
  • R: rad/t 𒋥; riš 𒊕 (=šag)
  • Š: šaḫ 𒋚 (=ŠUBUR "pig"); šag/k 𒊕 (=SAG "head"); šal 𒊩 (=MUNUS "woman"); šam 𒌑 (=ú); šàm ; šab/p ; šar 𒊬 (=SAR "plant"); šìp ; šir 𒋓 (=ŠIR "testicles"); šum 𒋳; šur 𒋩
  • T/D: t/daḫ, túḫ 𒈭; tág/k,dag/k 𒁖; t/dal 𒊑 (=ri); tám/dam 𒁮 (=DAM "wife"); t/dan 𒆗 (=kal); tab/p,dáb/p 𒋰 (=TAB "2") ; tar 𒋻; t/dáš,t/diš 𒁹 ("1") ; tàš 𒀾; tin/tén 𒁷; t/dim 𒁴 ; dir (=DIR "red") ; tir/ter 𒌁 (=TIR "forest") ; tíš  ; túl 𒇥; t/dum 𒌈; t/dub/p 𒁾 (=DUB "clay tablet") ; túr/dur 𒄙 (=DUR "strip")
  • Z: zul 𒂄; zum 𒍮


Determiners are Sumerograms that are not pronounced but indicate the class or nature of a noun for clarity, e.g. in URUḪa-at-tu-ša (𒌷𒄩𒀜𒌅𒊭); the URU is a determiner marking the name of a city, and the pronunciation is simply /hattusa/. Sumerograms proper on the other hand are ideograms intended to be pronounced in Hittite.

  • m, I ("1", DIŠ) 𒁹, male personal names
  • DIDLI 𒀸 (suffixed), plural or collective
  • DIDLI ḪI.A 𒀸𒄭𒀀 (suffixed), plural
  • DINGIR (D) 𒀭 "deity"
  • DUG 𒂁 "vessel"
  • É 𒂍 "house"
  • GAD 𒃰 "linen, cloth"
  • GI 𒄀 "tube; reed"
  • GIŠ 𒄑 "wood"
  • GUD 𒄞 "bovid"
  • ḪI.A 𒄭𒀀(suffixed), plural
  • ḪUR.SAG 𒄯𒊕 "mountain"
  • ÍD "river"
  • IM 𒅎 "clay"
  • ITU 𒌚 "month"
  • KAM 𒄰 (suffixed), numerals
  • KI 𒆠 (suffixed), in some placenames
  • KU6 𒄩 "fish"
  • KUR 𒆳 "land"
  • KUŠ 𒋢 "hide, fur"
  • 𒇽 "man"
  • MEŠ 𒈨𒌍 (suffixed), plural
  • MEŠ ḪI.A 𒈨𒌍𒄭𒀀 (suffixed), plural
  • MUL 𒀯 "star"
  • MUNUS (f) 𒊩 "woman", female personal name
  • MUŠ 𒈲 "serpent"
  • MUŠEN 𒄷 (suffixed) "bird"
  • NA4 "stone"
  • NINDA 𒃻 "bread"
  • PÚ "source"
  • SAR 𒊬 (suffixed) "plant"
  • SI 𒋛 "horn"
  • SÍG 𒋠 "wool"
  • TU7 𒄰 "soup"
  • TÚG 𒌆 "garment"
  • Ú 𒌑 "plant"
  • URU 𒌷 "city"
  • URUDU 𒍐 "copper"
  • UZU 𒍜 "meat"


  • E. Forrer, Die Keilschrift von Boghazköi, Leipzig (1922)
  • J. Friedrich, Hethitisches Keilschrift-Lesebuch, Heidelberg (1960)
  • Chr. Rüster, E. Neu, Hethitisches Zeichenlexikon (HZL), Wiesbaden (1989)
  • Gillian R. Hart, Some Observations on Plene-Writing in Hittite, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1980)
  • Gordin, Shai. Hittite Scribal Circles: Scholarly Tradition and Writing Habits, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz (2015)

External links

  • FreeIdgSerif includes Unicode cuneiform for Hittite (GFDL, branched off FreeSerif)
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