by Yekaterina Iassinskaya

In this puzzle you’ll become acquainted with the Amharic language and writing system. Amharic is a Semitic language, related to Hebrew and Arabic. Like these other languages, Amharic has its own very old writing system, based on that of an Ancient language called "Ge'ez." Modern Amharic is spoken by more than 23,000,000 people and is the official language of the Ethiopian Republic. 

Below are some words in Amharic written in a Roman transcription that reflects their pronunciation (the Roman alphabet is the one that English is based on). The letters G, T, K and C represent special sounds of Amharic. These are very different from g, t, k, and c. In most cases the special sounds are pronounced farther back in the mouth than the ordinary ones are.Below the transcriptions, the same words are written in the Amharic script and translated into English.

Here are the Roman transcriptions (in random order) of the following Amharic words:




laba KoKe




piyano Geta

Your first task is to place these transcriptions in the center column of this chart, matching each transcription with its corresponding Amharic word and English translation:

Amharic Word: Transcription: English meaning:
a. "my peach"
b. "master"
c. "his house"
d. "fuzz"
e. "my partridge"
f. "piano"
g. "my stall"
h. "his partridges"
i. "his finger"
j. "my zipper"

Now, your second task is to fill in all the gaps in the following table. You will have to figure out the missing transcriptions yourself. Be sure to draw the Amharic characters carefully!:

Amharic word Roman Transcription English Meaning
k. papaya "papaya"
l. "my fingers"
m. "his peach"
n. zaboCu "his bridles"
q. "his mugs"
r. "newspaper"


Copyright (c) 1998. Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon.

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