The World's Most Popular Writing Scripts

The Latin script is the most common type found in the world.
The Latin script is the most common type found in the world.

Languages from around the world are written by using a number of scripts. These writing scripts can be classified into the following categories: logogram, syllabary, and alphabet. Logograms are written by using one character to represent an entire word or idea. Syllabary is a script that uses symbols to represent the syllables in a word. An alphabet uses separate symbols that represent a specific sound to form a word. This article takes a closer look at some of the most widely used writing scripts in the world.

The Most Popular Writing Scripts in The World

1. Latin

Latin is an alphabet type of script and the most widely used in the world. Around 4.9 billion people or 70% of the global population relies on this alphabet, which generally consists of an average of 26 letters, to write a range of languages. This script originated in present-day Italy and has since spread around the world with the help of several historic events, most notably: the Roman Empire, Christianity, and European colonization. The Latin alphabet is also used as the basis for the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used to express the phonetics of all languages. Some of the major language families that utilize this script include: Germanic, Romance, Polish, Austronesian, and Turkish (among others).

2. Chinese

The second most widely used script in the world is Chinese, also known as hanzi, kanji, or hanja. The characters of this writing script are considered logograms and used in several different languages across Asia, including: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. In fact, an estimated 1.34 billion people around the world use Chinese characters in written communication. This script consists of thousands of characters and is considered the oldest continuously utilized form of writing in the world, with evidence of its use dating back to as early as the Shang Dynasty of 1200 BC.

3. Arabic

Arabic is the third most widely used script in the world. Around 660 million individuals use Arabic script to communicate in a number of languages, including: Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, Punjabi, Persian, Malaysian, and Kurdish (to name a few). Unlike the other previously mentioned scripts, Arabic is written from right to left. This script dates back to around 400 AD, although its first large-scale use was to write the Qu’ran. As Islam spread around the world, it took the Arabic script with it. Over time, more characters and symbols were added to accommodate the needs of other regional languages.

4. Devanagari

Devanagari script is considered an alphasyllabary system of writing. It is used to communicate in around 120 languages, including the following: Nepali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Marathi. Estimates suggest that around 608 million people around the world utilize Devanagari on a regular basis, making it the fourth most widely used script in the world. This script is written and read from left to right and can be easily recognized by its circular-like shapes and straight-lined outlines. It consists of 47 principal characters, 33 of which are consonants and 14 are vowels. Its current form is believed to have originated in the 10th century AD, although some researchers suggest that it was first developed around the 1st century AD.

The chart published below offers a more in-depth look at additional popular writing scripts used around the world today.

The World's Most Popular Writing Scripts

RankName of scriptTypePopulation actively using (in millions)
1Latin LatinAlphabetover 4900
2Chinese 汉字 漢字Logographic1340
3Arabic العربيةAbjad660+
4Devanagari देवनागरीAbugida608+
5Bengali-Assamese বাংলা-অসমীয়াAbugida300
6Cyrillic КириллицаAlphabet250
7Kana かな カナSyllabary120
9Hangul 한글 조선글Alphabet, featural78.7
10Telugu తెలుగుAbugida74
11Tamil தமிழ்Abugida70
12Gujarati ગુજરાતીAbugida48
13Kannada ಕನ್ನಡAbugida45
14Burmese မြန်မာAbugida39
15Malayalam മലയാളംAbugida38
16Thai ไทยAbugida38
18Gurmukhi ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀAbugida22
19Lao ລາວAbugida22
20Odia ଉତ୍କଳAbugida21
21Ge'ez ግዕዝAbugida18
22Sinhala සිංහලAbugida14.4
23Hebrew אלפביתAbjad14
24Armenian ՀայոցAlphabet12
25Khmer ខ្មែរAbugida11.4
26Greek ΕλληνικόAlphabet11
27Lontara Abugida7.6
28Tibetan བོད་Abugida5
29Georgian ქართულიAlphabet4.5
30Modern Yi ꆈꌠSyllabary4
31Mongolian ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯAlphabet2
32Tifinagh Abjad1
33Syriac Abjad0.4
35Inuktitut ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦAbugida0.035
36Cherokee ᏣᎳᎩSyllabary0.02

More in Society