Armenian Alphabet—A to Z

Lia A. Avetissian, Yerevan, February 2013

The Armenian alphabet is based on the principle that "every sound has its symbol." The 36 letters of our alphabet reflect the Armenian phonetics, but are arranged in an order different from the Greek and Latin alphabets. As well, in the Armenian alphabet the starting letters Ա (A) and Բ (B) are followed by Գ (G) and not by Ս (C); the letter Ե (E) is followed by Զ (Z) instead of "F", which was not in the Mesrop Mashtots alphabet.

Lia A. Avetissian, Yerevan, February 2013

The Armenian alphabet is based on the principle that "every sound has its symbol." The 36 letters of our alphabet reflect the Armenian phonetics, but are arranged in an order different from the Greek and Latin alphabets. As well, in the Armenian alphabet the starting letters Ա (A) and Բ (B) are followed by Գ (G) and not by Ս (C); the letter Ե (E) is followed by Զ (Z) instead of "F", which was not in the Mesrop Mashtots alphabet.Mashtots invented not just the "wrong" alphabet, but also built the 36 letters into a matrix of four columns by nine rows and applied a numeric code to each letter. The 24-letter Greek alphabet is also arranged in four rows by six columns. But do these columns mean anything or show anything in the lexicography of the Greek language? No. What about the Latin’s succession with its 25 letters? Does it work in any field except as in simple numerology? The answer is the same.

Meanwhile, the Armenian letters–arranged into four columns and nine rows–have both a numeric code assigned to each letter, from 1 to 36 (Ա, Բ, Գ, ․․․ Ւ, Փ, Ք = 1, 2, 3, ․․․ 34, 35, 36) and also represent numerical values: for single digits (starting with Ա), tens (starting with Ժ), hundreds (beginning with Ճ) and thousands beginning with Ռ, ending with Ք that symbolizes 9,000. Hence, the maximum numerical value represented by the Armenian letters is 9,999. The next numerical value, 10,000, has a unique word, Բիւր (byur).  However, this is a simplistic and primitive level of the knowledge hidden in the Armenian alphabet.

If we follow the groundwork of modern Armenian scientists, we see that the sequence of Mashtots’ letters is a strictly logical system. And through its decoding we may obtain information about the remote past of human beings, the world, and even the universe. Moreover, such details as the anatomy of humans, up to the number of their joints, the structure of the cerebral hemispheres, and even the regulatory rhythmic pulsations seem all to have been encoded in it. But this is information which scientists uncovered after 13 to 15 centuries had elapsed.   

Edward Ayanyan, a Yerevan-based journalist and a researcher, put together the numeric codes of the Armenian letters in the Armenian names of metals and got exactly the numbers that correspond to the atomic number (the number of protons and electrons) in the periodic table of elements (see "With Metal in the Voice", YEREVAN Magazine, September 2007—in Russian). A bright and talented scientist, US-based Vahan A. Setyan did his own research in this field. Last year he published his findings in “Enigma of the Armenian Alphabet: Letters, Protons and Paradoxes” (2012, USA) and came to the same conclusion.

Here are their samples with my comments: Gold Ոսկի (voski) has a digital code equal to 79. Lead Արճիճ (artchitch) has a digital code 82. The word silver (Armenian Արծաթ (artz/at) is a compound of two roots. The first root is Արծ (Artz-“lightener”). See արծել artzel), meaning to etch engravings on metal; to highlight; արծարծել (artzartzel) means to elucidate or unravel significance). The heavenly symbol of Armenian kingdoms–Արծիւ (Artziv) for eagle is also a compound word based on the same root Արծ (Artz). The second root in Armenian name of the silver is the famous -աթ (-at) that is known as a suffix designating its cosmic nature (see the words կաթիլ – katil (drop), or Երկաթ (yerkat), Iron in Armenian, which translates to “heavenly metal”). Thus, the digital codes of these metals as: 

  Gold → Ոսկի (voski)  24+29+15+11 = 79 

  Silver → Արծ[աթ] (artz[at])  1+32+14 = 47

  Lead → Արճիճ (artchitch) 1+32+19+11+19 = 82

Lo and behold, these are the same 79, 47 and 82 we find in the periodic table of the elements in the relative cells for gold, silver and lead, as their respective atomic numbers. Whereby, these Armenian names of the three metals that were known in antiquity also designate the number of electrons and protons in the atoms of the metals, which defines their chemistry! 

Of course, there are many metals for which their Armenian names do not work in this manner. Tin Անագ (Anag) and copper Պղինձ (Pghindz), well-known in antiquity, are good examples. But, are we sure the names we now use are correct and not substitutes for much earlier ones? For example, tin known as Անագ (Anag), was also known as Կլաէկ (Klaek) in the past. The word is still alive in many Armenian dialects, including that of Urfa. We even had a verb կլաէկել (klaekel), meaning “to tin”. Looking around, at our neighbors, in Turkish it is still “kalay”, in Georgian is “kalis” (კალის), and our Ossetian brothers are using “къала кæнын” (kyala kænen) – isn’t it something familiar? It is important to mention that the profession of tinsmith, the farriers, and knife grinders, like many kinds of smiths, till the end of the 19th century, was famous as the art and craft of Armenians. Even our linguistic classification of the basic Armenian dialects is supported by the verb “to grid”: (srum em); (kə srem); (srel em); (sreils em); (srem go); (ha srim) and is nonrandom: it reaffirms that in all the regions of Metz Hayk all over 400,000 sq. kilometers where this dialects were still alive before 1915, the profession of the grinder was not only actual, but also specific “Armenian”.   

But let us return to the periodic table and try the following algorithm for Կլաէկ (klaek), as well. Discounting the middle է = 7 as an almost silent letter here and putting together 15 + 12 +1 + 15 we obtain… 43, the atomic number of tin, as it appears in the periodic table! 

How could these coincidences happen? Mashtots, as we know, did not invent words; and all the more, he did not invent the Armenian language. This language is dated by Western linguists as being 8,000-years-old. But, Armenian literacy, even with its short-cut biography, seems to have started (better to say – re-started) in 405 AD. Nonetheless, it possesses a wonderful potential to comprehend the knowledge of chemistry and physiology, anatomy and mathematics and many other disciplines that were belatedly discovered one-and-half millennia after Mashtots.   

Moreover, even if we sum up the letters, or multiply them, or consider a simple numerical sequence, they always find a corresponding system. It turns out that our digitized alphabet is an access code to a multitude of knowledge, and in antiquity, it was enough to have Armenian language literacy to be a competent and knowledgeable person.

All of this indicates that the Armenian alphabet could not simply be the result of work even done by a huge group of brilliant scientists. It turns out that its history is much older than 1,600 years; it is of the same age as the language and the history of Armenian civilization itself. What if, as a link of the perfect "language-letter-numeric code" system, our alphabet explained to us the deep, hidden meaning of the notion of the "Holy Trinity"? The biblical essence which is difficult to grasp even by the most committed Christians? "In the beginning was the Word" (Ի սկզբանէ էր Բանն), and the “Word” is understood by Armenians in two meanings: Word and Idea (=Program?).

Let’s get back to the Armenian alphabet. The letters are anthropomorphic; that is, each one is a metaphor of humans and their civilizational role in various manifestations. 

Let us consider the letter Գ (G). It is the first in the name of our generator of ideas, i.e. the head գլուխ (glukh). It looks very familiar to us as the head of an Armenoid on his shoulders. In Armenian not only the word head, but also the concepts related to intelligence start with this symbol, such as  the secret (գաղ – gagh), knowledge (գիտ – git), scientific discovery (գիւտ – gyut), literacy (գիր – gir), and the resulting book (գիրք –  girk), idea (գաղափար – gaghapar), generalist (գիտակ – gitak) and the inventor (գիւտարար gyutarar or գիւտէնբեր gyutenber). If the latter reminds you of the name of the inventor of the first printing press, you are correct. Because the name of the parents of Hovhannes (Johann) Gutenberg were quite different, and such a name should be his special Armenian designation for his generalist head, which is in Armenian գիտակ գլուխ (gitak glukh)! 

The same letter stands in front of our ancient technological terms: գազ – gas (cubic meter), գամ – gam (metal crutch, nail), գաջ – gaj (alabaster), գլան – glan (plunger) and others.

Գ (G) also stands at the start of the word that describes the container of all these treasure of ideas – the skull, which in Armenian is գանգ (gang). Might be, the marine troops of criminals were called “gangs” because of the skulls designed on their flags? It is interesting to investigate, as beginning with the middle Ages the main aim of their muggings was the rich Armenian commercial navy overseas. However, they were met with good resistance, as the daring of our brave spirits also begins with this magic G: գար – gar (“Brave up to the odd” – synonymous of ծուռ – tzur, such as Sanasar and his heroic generations were. The names Edgar and Garik or Garnik also come from this root, but we will talk about it much later). There is a short step from the heroic eccentricity to the absolute bedlam in one’s head. That’s why the word “crazy” also starts with this letter, it’s գիժ – gizh, or a compound խելագար – khelagar.  

The Armenian alphabet is a hierarchical system, where each letter is not just in sequence, but also participates in the differentiation of knowledge, skills or definitions. All the 144,000 root words of this ancient, but still alive language are easy to distribute according to this principle. 

This alphabet system is built on a scale of values in descending order, starting with the Divine Essence (the first letter) going down the scale to the last one – Ք (Q).

That is why the first letter Ա (A) symbolizes the Divine Spark of human talent, the Արարիչ  Ararich (Creator) and the chief God of the ancient Armenians, whose name is Ար Ar. He was known also as Ան (An). We still use “An” in our daily language, but indicate it as a negative prefix. For example, when we say Աննկատ – Annkat (invisible) it also means “visible [only] to God”… but not to you. Or Անտեր – Anter (a person; people without any support; something (goods; property) belonging to nobody) can be understood as “a person with [only] God’s support” or something (goods; property) belonging to [only] God. The second amazing fact related to the “An” is the meaning of sun in English. It can be understood as Grabarian z/An, and its true translation is “the God” (z = the). Don’t forget that we were Arians, i.e. Sun-worshippers before Christianity. That’s why reading Արեվ – Arev (the Sun) in Russian, but from right to left, we find Вера (Vera), which means “Belief” in that language! And we have lots of such samples in many languages. 

The letter Ա looks like a tiny little man, lifting up his hands to heaven in a deep bow. This first letter of the alphabet is also the first letter of Armenian words designating heavenly bodies, starting with the sun (Արեգակ – Aregak), stars (Աստղ – Astgh), meteorites (Ասուպ – Asup) and ending with the sunrise (Այգ – Ayg). Consider that the Garden of Eden and Armenia itself were famous to ancient Christian theologians as Այգեստան (Aygestan) – a place where the sun rose for the first time after Creation and has a meaning “Home of the Sunrise” – Այգ[ը]զտան –Ayg[ə]ztan. Yes, you are right: Armenia and the Orient (or Arients) were synonyms for a very long time.  

Also the basic fundamental words denoting root (Արմատ – Armat), nation (Ազգ – Azg), person (Անձ – Andz), his aspiration for Freedom (Ազատ – Azat), the Gospel (Աւետ – Avet), legends (Առասպել – Araspel), the non-random symbols of our kingdoms like the lion (Առիւծ -Aryutz) and eagle (Արծիւ –  Artziv) begin with this letter Ա. Moreover, with the same Ա letter begins the words for creativity Արարում (Ararum), Arts Արուեստ (Arvest) and crafts Արհեստ (Arhest); that is everything we usually classify as "given by God" (Աստուածատուր).

That is why we should not be surprised that the main objects of receptors sitting in our eyes Աչք (Achq), ears Ականջ (Akanj), hands Ափ (Ap) and teeth Ատամ (Atam) also belong to the Ա (A) club. 

We feel shame without use of any receptors; it is something that belongs to the well-developed soul. However, the word “shame”, being a basic element of our culture, also starts with Ա – Ամօթ (Amot).

But talking about all these basic values we didn’t mention the most important persons that were representing the Creator, Ararich, on the Earth. They were the Armenian kings of the first dynasties and were known as Արքա (Arqa). After extirpation of these sacral dynasties we have

got just Թագավոր (Tagavor), the Bearer of the Crown. The lowercase letter of Armenian A, Ա is “ա” and looks like a crown on the monarchs’ head. There are several pictographs on Geghama Mountains in Armenia, where you can see an engraved image of a man with “ա” on his head and  the letter Ա is above him. It seems strange if you do not know that Արքա (Arqa) is the plural form of Ար (Ar), Creator, so these patriarchs had to be smaller than Him and could be many in different Armenian kingdoms. But of course they were higher in this hierarchy than half mortal- half- god – the Cesar, who is understood very well in Armenian as Կեսար: half-Ar. 

This letter is a leader of the Armenian alphabet; not only because it stands at the starting position. It’s impossible not to notice that a considerably imposing number of Armenian words start with Ա (A) – such that all the first volumes of the four-volume Armenian vocabulary, by our linguistic masters — Hrachya Acharian and Stepan Malkhasiants–are devoted to the words beginning with Ա.

***

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on Armenian civilization and language. I want to express my thanks to Jirair Tutunjian, the editor of Keghart.com, who encouraged me to submit my previous articles to this site a few months ago at our   Yerevan meeting.

 

 

6 comments
  1. Mysteries of the Armenian Alphabet

    Are all of the 36 original characters of the Armenian alphabet still in use in Eastern Armenian? I have, may be, an erroneous impression that not all of them are in force since Soviet diction of our language came into effect.

    I have remained under the impression that our alphabet is religiously inspired.  I have been told that it starts with Ա (A) for God (Աստուած – Asdo'wadz) and ends in Ք for Christ (Քրիստոս-Qrisdo's). Its seventh letter is  է (e’) signifying divine Being. The letter is prominently displayed above the Armenian Apostolic Church alter. Some even have even attributed the 36 original letters to the sum of total of Jesus’s age when he died and his three years of ministry. The alphabet’s Mendeleev -ian properties are news to me.

    On a further note, the 144,000 root Armenian words reminded me of the Witnesses of Jehovah who claim that is the number of those who will inherit the Heaven. For a Jehovah Witness the 144,000 Armenian root words may have a divine mystery as well.

  2. Some details

    Dear Vahe,

    I. About the Sounds of the Letters.
    It is in the Eastern Armenian language that we use all the sounds represented by all the letters of the Armenian alphabet, where we have three quintuples of letters, each voicing a unique consonant sound that also preserves our heritage found in Գրաբար (Grabar—Classical Armenian):

    a) The first quintuple consists of single consonants: Հ (H); Լ (L); Մ (M); Ն (N); Յ (Y or soft H).

    b) The second quintuple has pairs of adjacent consonants: Զ-Ս (Z-S); Ղ-Խ (Gh – Kh); Վ-Ֆ (V-F); Ռ-Ր (Rr-R); Ժ-Շ (Zh- Sh).

    c) The third quintuple contains a triad of related consonants: Բ-Պ-Փ (B-frontal lip-P- soft P); Գ-Կ-Ք (G-soft K-Q); Դ-Տ-Թ (D- rigid-T-soft T); Ջ-Ճ-Չ (J-Tch-Ch); Ձ-Ծ-Ց (Dz-Tz-Ts). 

    Unfortunately, under the influence of Arabic, Turkish and various Western languages, in the Western Armenian language the pronunciation disappeared from the first or middle consonants in the triads of the third quintuple; this happened also in the truly Armenian names of persons and places. In Western Armenian we are accustomed to hear Baruyrs, Dikrans, Giragoses and even Keghart etc., instead of Paruyrs, Tigrans, Kirakoses and other wonderful Armenian names, and Geghard, while each of those names represents its own specific sacral idea.

    Apparently, you mean not about both Armenian literary languages, but the grammar difference that was imposed in 1927 under the Soviet general political decision “to develop and make easier the grammar of the Armenian language.” This brought stupid changes in the classical Mesropian orthography of the Eastern Armenian in Soviet Armenia; while the Armenians of Iran, for example, continued their correct way of writing in Eastern Armenian. However, the only sign that was lost in this “new-time” orthography was the letter «ւ» (vyune), and instead, two “new letters” were created as «ու» and «եւ» that were not letters at all. By the way, there is a struggle now between our true intellectuals and the Soviet-minded officials on this problem, and I am certain we will see Armenian youth soon writing in the classical way of our orthography, which is much more logical and reveals the roots of the words exactly. 

    II. About the Order of the Letters.

    Of course, our alphabet is a vivid expression of dialectical rules. I would call it an art work of the Creation of the World and its hierarchical system of values. It starts with Արարիչ (Ararich) and the illustrations of ideas, which I’ve described in this article, and finishes with Ք (Q) – a reflection of Քաոս – qaos (Chaos), Քայքայում – qayqayum (Destruction), with all the forms of its reflections. It is easy for me to affirm, that in fact the Armenian alphabet is much older that the Greek or another ones. And one of the talking-points is an ancient expression «from Alfa to Omega», that means “From the Beginning till the End” in all the languages («From A to Z» in English; «от А до Я» in Russian etc.) in the figurative sense. But having this expression means either outlining the development of the idea of Creation evolving to Destruction in each subsequent following letter of the Armenian alphabet, or just making a loaned translation into a foreign language with its own alphabetical system. This base language is the Armenian. Also, the age of this alphabet is much older than the founding of Christianity. Moreover, I am certain that the real, correct orthography of the name of Jesus is Կրիստոց (Cristots) coming from կրել [խաչը] – krel (carry [his cross]). And not քերել – qerel (tо scrape off) something so much important, that it was immortalized in His name.  But this is a too long of a story to tell it here.

    III. About the Biblical Revelations.

    I am also certain that the Seventh Chapter of John the Apostle’s Revelation is dedicated to the divine Armenian language, its basic composition, its 144,000 root words and 6 classical phonetic vowels, whereby 24 major languages emerged from this ancient protolanguage, giving birth to 24 dialects (or new languages) from it. I am also sure that neither Jehovah with his witnesses, nor Jesus’ brides or other sects had anything to do with this Revelation or sensibility. In general, reading Gospel texts as an ancient document and using the Armenian language as an embodiment of common sense, I am filled with optimism, because Apocalypses are nothing more than Ապագա իղձս – My Dreams about the Future. And I share it with all the readers of Keghart.com.

  3. Armenian Alphabet—A to Z

    Once again Yerevan-based Lia Avetissian has given us a fresh outlook into the genesis and development of Armenian civilization.  In her latest article, “Armenian Alphabet—A to Z” (see: http://www.keghart.com/Avetissian-Alphabet), we see a mere sampling of the powerful searchlight the author has turned on to unravel and decode the secrets safeguarded in the Armenian Alphabet, as one of the oldest in human history.  On just two letters—Գ (G) and Ա (A)—the author grants us six very revealing pages, based on her analysis, which may aptly be called archeological linguistics, including the symbology hidden in the Armenian letter-icons.  Indeed, the full mosaic will be completed when we may see the author’s continuing analysis on the remaining 34 letters of Mashtots’ alphabet.  At least, Lia Avetissian gives us the hint that this would be revealed in her forthcoming volume on Armenian Language & Civilization.  At this rate, we may only surmise that some 30% of her book may cover the “Armenian Alphabet—A to Z”, or more appropriately,  «Ա to Ք»; while the rest of the volume would expand on her earlier three-part article on the Hidden Language of Civilization (see: http://www.keghart.com/Avetissian-Linguist for Part-I and http://www.keghart.com/Avetissian-LinguistII for Part-II and Part-III.)

    At this time all we may ask Ms. Avetissian is: when will your book’s manuscript be ready, who will be your publisher, and how devoted readers may in fact subscribe to the printing of this crucial volume by guaranteeing their copy with a prepayment for this marvelous book?

    Zaven Guiragossian, PhD

  4. Էստրադային

    Ms. Lia,
    I would appreciate if you would educate me about the root of the Armenian word Էստրադային (estradayen).

    I believe the word has come about in 1960s and refers to contemporary Armenian song or music.

    Also, I would appreciate if you would let me know what word in English conveys the meaning of the word Էստրադային, other than the explanatory comment mentioned above.

    Thank you.
    Vahe

  5. My Future Books

    Dear Dr. Zaven Guiragossian:

    Thank you very much for your comment and the question. I am sorry for my late answer as I had not visited this page at Keghart.com for some time. I was pleased to see your question and the number of readers for my three articles which now totals almost 9,000. I appreciate all of you for the interest toward our language, literacy and civilization.

    I am glad to inform you that my new book “ARMENIA: the Taste of Hospitality” will be published in St. Petersburg at the end of April. Unfortunately, it is written in Russian. You know, there are almost three-million Armenians in that country who read mostly in Russian, like you do in English in North America. Russian-Armenians also are eager to know much more about our history, traditions and famous Armenians, such as Tchaikovsky, Leonardo da Vinci, Verdi and other greats. It helps them to remain Armenians and to raise their children as representatives of the great nation that lives surrounded by another great nation.

    There are chapters in this book about our best kings like Abgar and his uncle Tigran the Great. Also, there is a chapter about Armenian power overseas from the very beginning of navigation (Նաւը Navi and all the terminology in this area of activity were and still are pure Armenian) till the swallowing and destruction of the Armenian companies by the East-India Company and the other Western  restricting alignments in the 18th century.

    There are lots of Armenian cookbooks in the world published in different languages, but in this one I  introduce the Armenian source of the cookery that are claimed by others as being Georgian, Middle Eastern or Turkish. The deep knowledge of Armenian language and the grammar of the many other ones, their literature, history and mode of life, help me to understand and describe that this cookery could be born only in the palaces of the Armenian kings. By the way, we consider kitchen as the equivalent of Խոհանոց (khohanots), while in an earlier age, kitchen was called Հացատուն (hatsatoun)–a house for bread, and khoh/anots was a place of thoughts. Why? Because our kings and princes preferred to negotiate and reach important decisions while eating and drinking with their officials – just as you do at your business lunches now: we did always do so in Armenia. In short, this book is something like an encyclopedia of Armenian culture and history – also full of jokes, toasts and poetry.

    Now I am writing a book in English about our language, history and civilization; as I have found amazing phenomena and developments on these subjects, and wonder what our historians did before. My recent three articles, which appeared at Keghart.com , were just the tip of the “iceberg” that the new book will present. I hope to finish work on the book by the end of this summer. You asked who is the publisher and when will it be printed? I wonder too…

  6. Estrada=Eshafaud

    Dear Mr. Apelian,

    “Estrada” means a "small performance form for starring”, including dance, song, acrobatic shows, etc. In the Soviet era we used to call էստրադային (estradayin) the new songs based on our national musical traditions. Composers Arno Babajanian, Alexey Hekimian and poets, Aramayis Sahakian and Silva Kaputikian were very successful in this field. I hope, you remember many of those creations.

    “Estrado” (in Spanish) has the same meaning as “Eshafaud” in French: a small platform, slightly higher than the ground, created for some specific show (including the cutting off heads during the French Revolution). But the etymology of the words is quite different: although it is basically Armenian in both cases. “Estrado” is զ/Դրածը (Əz/dratzƏ). It means “fixed down”, meanwhile “Eshafaud” (Էշավոտ) means “big legs”– the the platforms that Armenian builders craft and use for fixing details for heights or for the painting of ceilings. As you can notice, it is also fixed up like the “Spanish” construction.

     

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