Guide to the Star Wars’ Alphabet Aurebesh
You’re watching a Star Wars movie or one of the animated TV shows, and something catches your eye. It’s written text, probably displayed on a sign or some kind of electronic screen.
But it’s not like any text you’ve seen before, and it’s certainly not English. The main language spoken in Star Wars may sound like English, but it’s actually called Basic, although sometimes it’s referred to as Galactic Standard. Either way, it’s English they’re speaking.
So their language sounds like ours, but their written words don’t look like ours. Aurebesh, the written form of Basic, traces its roots back to 1993 and the publication of role-playing game companion volume from West End Games. It was created by author Stephen Crane, who’d seen some sci-fi glyphs on a screen in Return of the Jedi and decided to make up an alphabet based on it. Another book in 1996 expanded Aurebesh to include punctuation marks.
1999 was the first time Aurebesh was officially canonized by Lucasfilm when it appeared in The Phantom Menace. (Written text in original trilogy films were later changed to Aurebesh in special edition releases.) Since then, it’s been seen in, Rebels, novels, comic books, video games, and more.
Crane’s original version of Aurebesh included eight additional phonemes that combined two existing letters into a single character, for sounds such as “ch,” “ng,” and “th.” But these are not officially recognized by Lucasfilm (at least not yet), so I’m not including them.
So the next time you see words written on a Star Wars product, or on a screen in a movie or TV episode, here’s how to translate so you can read what it says. Maybe you’ll learn them so well you’ll be able to impress your geeky friends by reading Aurebesh without the need for a translation cipher like this one.
The only tip I can give you is to think of what an English letter looks like when it falls over on its side. Many (but not all) Aurebesh letters appear to be inspired by this way of thinking.
Aurebesh’s “A” looks an awful lot like a stylized “K,” doesn’t it?
It’s called “Aurek,” which I assume is also how you pronounce it.
In some of Crane’s letter designs, it’s easy to see how he turned an English letter into an Aurebesh character. There’s a certain resemblance or shared logic between them, such as the sideways characters I mentioned earlier.
Then there are letters like this one, which looks nothing whatsoever like its English equivalent. The letter “C” is pronounced “Cresh,” and it looks more like the pulse of a stereo speaker.
It looks like a “V” and a “T,” right? This is “Esk,” the Basic version of “E.” It looks nothing like an “E.”
Go home, “A,” you’re drunk. This rather Oriental looking character is actually “Forn,” or as we know it, “F.”
Did somebody start drawing a trapezoid but fell asleep before they finished? Nope, this is “Grek,” the Star Wars version of “G.” It looks a lot like a letter “G” fallen on its side.
Who’s #1? I am. Sorry, couldn’t resist. The “I” in Aurebesh, pronounced “Isk,” looks exactly like the English number 1.
No, not the ocean-bound tiny crustaceans. “Krill” is the letter “K,” though you’d certainly never know it from its complete lack of resemblance.
First “Mern,” now “Nern.” Mern and Nern. C’mon, that’s fun to say. Nern looks like a backward “N” with one curved edge.
“Peth” could easily be a stylized lower-case “U” in a fancy typeface. But it’s really Aurebesh’s “P.”
I really hope this is pronounced “Keck,” because that would be awesome. “Qek” is the letter “Q.”
“I” looked like a “1.” Now “R” looks like a “7.” Weird. This is actually “Resh,” the Aurebesh version of “R.” Never would’ve guessed, eh?
I’m sorry, but “Senth,” the Aurebesh letter “S,” looks like a broken printer’s tile. I don’t get the design of it at all.
Clearly, this is a letter “Y.” In English. In Aurebesh, this is “Vev,” the “V” character. It seems odd to me, too.
You look at this and see a rectangle. Residents of the Star Wars galaxy see “Wesk,” the letter “W.”
Imagine a single line extending from the middle bottom of “Yirt” and you have a “Y.” Probably not a coincidence.
Numbers and Punctuation
No numbers have ever been officially recognized in Aurebesh; most fonts you’ll find typically use a stylized version of our English numerals.
But punctuation gets used quite frequently. To the left, you can see a selection of the most commonly-used punctuation marks. A comma is a small line, for example, while a period is two of the same. And since Star Wars uses “Credits” as its currency, the dollar sign gets substituted here with a credits sign (which is basically a “Resh” with two little lines added).
The version of the “Aurebesh” font used here was created by graphic designer David Occhino.