Norwegian Alphabet

Norwegian is a North Germanic language, evolved from the Old Norse, the language of the Vikings   - once spoken in all of Scandinavia. Today, Norwegian is spoken by 5 million people in Norway, as well as some expats and their descendants. It is closely related to Danish and Swedish, and the three languages are mostly mutually understandable. Sámi is also an official language in Norway, but is not related to Norwegian.

There are two official forms of written Norwegian – Bokmål (lit. book tongue) and Nynorsk (lit. new Norwegian), of which Bokmål is used by the majority. The differences between the forms are minor, and Norwegians are educated in both. Discussions around the two rather similar languages occur.

There is no standardised form of spoken Norwegian, and most Norwegians use their dialect in all situations. Nynorsk functions as a sort of least common denominator for all the dialects, and is the form used in this course.

Norwegians are well aware that their language is small on a world scale, so most people speak foreign languages, predominantly English. They will value any attempt by foreigners to learn their language, and your efforts will be appreciated – many Norwegians will find it heart-warming that you try to learn the language, and you will quickly find friends this way.

As with all other languages, the best way to learn Norwegian is to dive into the language: Live in Norway for a while, and use the language as much as you possibly can, even when it makes your head ache and your tongue curl. This course is simply a starting point, and you decide how much work to put into it.

Further reading

There are some resources for Norwegian learners, eg. Ressurssidene (in Norwegian) and Lexin (quite useful, also has visual dictionary sheets for novices) are examples. Nynorsksenteret has piled up a lot of links, among others a grammar course.

Norwegian Alphabet


Norwegian pronunciation is fairly straightforward once you get the hang of the compound letters, and remember that single vowels are always a single, non-diphtongised sound, as in most continental European languages. The Norwegian alphabet has 29 letters – those in the English alphabet, plus three vowels: Æ, Ø and Å. The pronunciation of each is covered below.

Norwegian Alphabet

Norwegian letter

English sound

Aa

as in the word «car», never as English «table» or «bad»

Bb

as in the word «bed»

Cc

Seldom used in native words, follows foreign pronunciation.

Dd

as in the word «dad»

Ee

as the first «e» in the word «elevated», can be long or short.

Ff

as in the word «far»

Gg

as in the word «good». Exception: as the «j» sound in the word «year» when placed before vowels i, y or diphtongs ei, øy

Hh

as in the word «help»

Ii

as in the word «pea», can be long or short. Never as in the word «I».

Jj

as in the first sound in the word «year».

Kk

as in English. Exception: as compound «kj» (cf. below) when placed before vowels i, y or diphtongs ei, øy

Ll

as in English

Mm

as in English

Nn

as in English

Oo

short vowel as in the word «hop», long vowel as in the word «Ohm».

Pp

as in English

Qq

Seldom used in native words, mostly pronounced as «k»

Rr

Rolling R as in Scottish, never mute as in English «car». Dialectal variations occur, eg. «R» as in French or German.

Ss

almost as in English, but tongue touches teeth

Tt

almost as in English, but tongue touches teeth

Uu

short vowel as in the word «look», long vowel as in the word «cool»

Vv

as in English

Ww

Seldom used in native words, mostly as in English

Xx

Seldom used in native words, mostly as in English

Yy

resembles the «y» in the word «Yiddish»

Zz

Seldom used in native words, mostly as in English

Ææ

short vowel as in the word «hat», long vowel as in the word «have»

Øø

short vowel as in the word «cut», long vowel as in the word «girl»

Åå

short vowel as in the word «lock», long vowel as in the word «corps»


Compound letters

Compound letters are mostly pronounced as in English, but there are some idiosyncracies. Also, diphtongs are always expressed by two following vowels.

Norwegian Alphabet

Compound

English sound

sj, skj, sk

All three pronounced as «sh» in English «share». Dialectal variations occur.

kj

resembles «ch» in Scottish «loch», with tongue slightly more forward

au

resembles the diphtong in the word «now», dialectal variations occur

ei

as in the word «lay», but the first sound is really an «æ»

øy

Closest resemblance is as in English «boy». No real English equivalent, try simply joining the individual short vowels.

ai

as in the word «lie», but shorter


I hope the content of this page was useful to you, and that you learned some Norwegian Alphabet, consonants and vowels. Try to memorize them to be able to use them in your daily conversation. Make sure to check our Learn Norwegian page, which contains several lessons that might help you in your learning process.