Quechua Alphabet

(Note: For remarks regarding the three vs five vowel debate, please see the about page.)

The Quechua alphabet consists of 3 vowels, 2 semi-consonants, and 25 consonants.

Three vowels: a, i, u
Two semi-consonants: w, y
Twenty-five consonants:

ch chh ch' f h
k kh k' l ll m
n ñ p ph p' q
qh q' r s sh t
th t'

Borrowed letters (used only in loan words): b, d, rr, g


This isn’t a comprehensive pronunciation guide. I’ve tried to cover most of the sounds in Quechua, but there are likely a few that have escaped my attention.

Below is the entire Quechua alphabet with an example word in English and Spanish that highlights the pronunciation of the Quechua letter. For some letters, it is very helpful to be familiar with the pronunciation of Spanish letters.

The pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling varies between different Quechua dialects. I learned the Cuzco dialect, and hence that is what is used throughout this website.


semi- consonants


aspirated consonants

Aspirated, or vocalized, consonants have an extra buff of breath after the consonant sound. We have this in English, however, we do not have a separate letter for it, because it is not necessary to distinguish between words with different meanings.

Say pit out loud and hold your hand about six inches in front of your mouth. You’ll feel the puff of breath that accompanies the p of pit, because it’s automatically aspirated in English.

With your hand still about six inches in front of your mouth, now say spit out loud. Notice that there’s no puff of breath this time, since P is not aspirated in English when there’s an s in front of it.

Quechua examples:

glottalized consonants

The character denotes a glottal stop, which is a distinctive short popping or explosion sound.

To pronounce a glottalized consonant, close off your air as if you’re lifting something heavy, pronounce the consonant sound, then continue breathing out.

A sequence of consonant plus glottal stop is pronounced as a single unit. The glottal stop starts at the same time as you begin the consonant, and then you release both together.

Glottalization makes a difference in the meaning of words. Glottalization may be the only thing that’s different between words that are otherwise identical.

Also, they’re fun to pronounce.

aspirated and glottalized consonant examples

Simple Aspirated Glottalized
chay chhayna ch'aki
kay khipu k'aspi
qan qhapaq q'iwi
pay phiwi p'acha
tayta thuta t'anta

semi-consonant vowel pairs

The semi-consonants precede be a vowel have unique sounds:

the q-rule

In Quechua, there is a special pronunciation rule for a q followed by a u or i.

Corollary of the q-rule: