The Igbo Network




































nym Nwz

(nye ńkụzị)

gbo today, has no alphabets of its own. It is written, like English, with 36 Latin alphabets made up of the following eight vowels (nine in some dialects) and 28 consonants:


a b ch d e f

g gb gh gw h i

j k kp kw l

m n nw ny o

p r s sh t

u v w y z


The easiest way to master the alphabets is to memorize them the way Igbos do, that is, not in traditional alphabetical order as above, but in the following groups of give characters:


a b gb d e

f g gh h i

j k l m n

o p kp

r s sh t u

v w y z ch

gw kw nw ny


The latter, as you can see, is indeed easier to memorize than the former. As a matter of fact, it is indicative of one of the well-known characteristics of Igbos. As a people, they often have a peculiar way of doing their things. And they have no one way of doing anything under the sun because their world is a world of dualities rather than absolutes. For example, while it may be convenient to count from one to ten sequentially, they believe that it is sometimes desirable or even preferable to do so in a disjointed fashion, as evidenced by the two groups of alphabets.


Once you have mastered the above 34 characters fairly well, and are able to recite them effortlessly, you will just have to remember the two variant forms of “i” and “u”, namely “ị” (with a dot underneath) and “ụ” (also with a dot underneath). The purpose of the dots will be explained later. For now, just know that they distinguish the latter from the former.


Let us now look at the pronunciation of the characters, that is, the way they sound when pronounced by native speakers of the Igbo language. Generally speaking, sounds and letters in gbo, as in English, do not always correspond; however, there are more consistent spelling patterns in gbo than in English. In other words, gbo words are almost always written the way they are pronounced. The following comparison to English vowels and consonants are only rough approximations. The key to an authentic native pronunciation lies in mimicry of a native speaker. Here is the way they sound:




a animal ka kwụkwọ “handwriting”

e elephant ny “friend”

i ink te ja “clay pot”

i equality ịbịa “to come”

o oath kwu onu “word of mouth”

o aunt/umbrella ọkụkọ “chicken”

u universe du mmiri “water pot”

u no exact equivalent ụdar “kind of fruit”




b baby or bell ụb go “richness”

gb no exact equivalent gb luigwe”thunder

d day demede “writing”

f finger fụlịfụlị “soft and tender”

g girl gmgmgm “perambulation”

gh no exact equivalent gha mghịgha “turn in bed”

h height hụ nyi “kind of fruit”

j jail njem “journey”

k kite kụ ńkwụ “palm kernel”

l light lel! “see”

m man mbra m “village square”

n nail n “and”

n singing ra “garden egg”

p prison pọtọpọtọ “mud”

kp no exact equivalent kpa nselka “handbag”

r red r “pride”

s sand ọsọ ńdụ “race for life”

sh shock/sheet shịshị “six pence”

t teacher tgholu “nine”

v voice ụvụrụ sh “brain”

w week wr! “take”

y year yịy “crawfish”

z zebra ze grigiri “stampede”

ch church ch b “thought”

gw no exact equivalent gwmgwmgwmconumdrum

kw queen nkwọ “market day”

nw wine nwnne “brother/sister”

ny Russian “no” nw nwnyị “female child”


If you have gbo parents, gbo brothers and sisters, gbo relatives, gbo friends, or live near gbo native speakers, ask them to pronounce the above alphabets for you. We, as a people, are always approachable and favourably disposed to help learners of our language in any way we can. Please feel free to ask them for help. You will make their day.


In lesson II, we will examine other interesting aspects and peculiarities of the gbo language. In the meantime, memorize the above alphabets and practice pronouncing them as often as you can. Again, thank you for your interest in gbo language and culture, and remember to visit our website again for subsequent lessons.




If you can, please do the following assignments before our next gbo lesson.

1.      What Latin alphabets used in English language do you find missing from the 36 characters used by gbo?

2.      How would you abbreviate the following names?


a.      Nwannebụhe

b.      Ńnbụk

c.       Chkwukre

d.      Gwmokwu


3.      Find out from your gbo parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends the composition, pronunciation, and meaning of the following gbo words:


a.      nyi mmiri

b.      uri kwụkwọ

c.       zu uk

d.      nye ńkụzị

e.      ńdi gbo

f.        mmai mmiri

g.      ụlọ mkpọrọ

h.      z nwnyị

i.         ka hụ





Powered by ACENetwork

Igbo Foundation | Igbo Heritage Foundation | Ikenga Think Tank