About Katakana

Katakana (カタカナ)

Katakana is one of three characters used in the Japanese language.

Katakana is a phonetic alphabet - each letter represents the sound of a syllable (like English ABC). Letter itself has no meaning.

Katakana and Hiragana represent exactly the same set of sounds.

Katakana is used mostly for foreign loan words.

You can download/print Katakana chart (PDF) of all Katakana letters.

Origin

Katakana
Original Kanji

Katakana was developed in the 8th century by simplifying the form of Kanji symbols.

Many Katakana letters look exactly the same as a part of its original Kanji.

Some of Hiragana and Katakana letters were made from the same Kanji symbol.

Many of Katakana letters look exactly the same as a part of its original Kanji.

Number of Letters

In modern Japanese, there are 46 basic Katakana letters.

In addition to these 46 basic letters called gojūon, there are modified forms to describe more sounds - 20 dakuon, 5 handakuon, 36 yōon, 1 sokuon and 6 additional letters.

FAQ: What are the letters with a bar on top (ā ū ē ō)?

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Gojūon (五十音)

a
column
i
column
u
column
e
column
o
column
a
row
ア イ ウ エ オ
a i u e o
ka
row
カ キ ク ケ コ
ka ki ku ke ko
sa
row
サ シ ス セ ソ
sa shi su se so
ta
row
タ チ ツ テ ト
ta chi tsu te to
na
row
ナ ニ ヌ ネ ノ
na ni nu ne no
ha
row
ハ ヒ フ ヘ ホ
ha hi fu he ho
ma
row
マ ミ ム メ モ
ma mi mu me mo
ya
row
ヤ イ ユ エ ヨ
ya (i) yu (e) yo
ra
row
ラ リ ル レ ロ
ra ri ru re ro
wa
row
ワ イ ウ エ ヲ
wa (i) (u) (e) o
ン
n

Gojūon-zu (五十音図)

Traditionally, sounds of basic syllables are organized in the form of a table (5 x 10). This table is called gojūon-zu (literally means table of 50 sounds).

To describe these sounds, Katakana and Hiragana alphabets are used.

Letters イ, ウ and エ appear more than once in the table. These 5 duplicates (colored in gray) are usually skipped or ignored.

Another syllable ン is included. It doesn't belong to any row or column.

In total, 46 letters (45+1) are counted as gojūon (50 sounds).

Structure of the Table

The structure is exactly the same as the Hiragana table.

The first row - ア[a], イ[i], ウ[u], エ[e] and オ[o] are five vowels of the Japanese language.

Letters in the same column contain the same vowel.

Letters in the same row are considered to contain the same consonant.

Letters オ[o] and ヲ[o] represent the same sound. Letter ヲ is rarely used.

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Dakuon (濁音)

a
column
i
column
u
column
e
column
o
column
ga
row
ガ ギ グ ゲ ゴ
ga gi gu ge go
za
row
ザ ジ ズ ゼ ゾ
za ji zu ze zo
da
row
ダ ヂ ヅ デ ド
da ji zu de do
ba
row
バ ビ ブ ベ ボ
ba bi bu be bo

Dakuon literally means turbid or murky sound. It is the voiced sound of カ[ka], サ[sa], タ[ta] and ハ[ha]-row syllables.

Dakuon is indicated with two small dots.

Pronunciation of ジ[ji] and ヂ[ji], ズ[zu] and ヅ[zu] are the same.

Letters ヂ and ヅ are rarely used.

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Handakuon (半濁音)

a
column
i
column
u
column
e
column
o
column
pa
row
パ ピ プ ペ ポ
pa pi pu pe po

Handakuon literally means half-turbid or half-murky sound.

Handakuon is indicated with a small circle.

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Yōon (拗音)

キャ キュ キョ
kya kyu kyo
シャ シュ ショ
sha shu sho
チャ チュ チョ
cha chu cho
ニャ ニュ ニョ
nya nyu nyo
ヒャ ヒュ ヒョ
hya hyu hyo
ミャ ミュ ミョ
mya myu myo
リャ リュ リョ
rya ryu ryo
ギャ ギュ ギョ
gya gyu gyo
ジャ ジュ ジョ
ja ju jo
ヂャ ヂュ ヂョ
ja ju jo
ビャ ビュ ビョ
bya byu byo
ピャ ピュ ピョ
pya pyu pyo

Yōon is a combination of the consonant of i-column syllables and ya, yu or yo. For example, k + ya = kya.

Yōon is described by i-column letters associated with ャ(small ya), ュ(small yu) or ョ(small yo). For example, キ + ャ = キャ[kya].

Pronunciation of ジャ[ja], ジュ[ju], ジョ[jo] and ヂャ[ja], ヂュ[ju], ヂョ[jo] are the same.

Letters ヂャ, ヂュ, ヂョ are rarely used.

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Sokuon (促音)

ッ
pause

Sokuon is a pause (no sound) between two syllables.

Sokuon is described by ッ(small ツ[tsu]).

Examples
サッカー[sakkā] メッセージ[messēji] ポケット[poketto] カップ[kappu]
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Additional Letters

ァ ィ ゥ ェ ォ ヴ

These additional letters are invented in modern era to describe the sound of foreign languages.

Examples
ファ[fa] ティ[ti] ドゥ[du] ウェ[we] フォ[fo]

ァ, ィ, ゥ, ェ and ォ(small ア[a] イ[i] ウ[u] エ[e] オ[o]) are attached after particular letters.

Examples
ヴァ[va] ヴィ[vi] [vu] ヴェ[ve] ヴォ[vo]

ヴ is used for [v] sound.

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Long Vowels

ー
ā ii ū ē ō

Long vowels are indicated with ー(horizontal bar).

Examples
カーテン[kāten] ビール[biiru] ユーロ[yūro] ケーキ[kēki] コート[kōto]
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Printable Katakana Chart

Item File Type Size
Katakana Chart PDF 342 KB

Click the link listed above. PDF file will be displayed (1 page).

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Learning Katakana

Learning Katakana is easy. It takes about 3-20 days in general.

Common order of character study is Hiragana first, Katakana next, and then Kanji.

See Learning Tips page for more details.

Katakana Master Drill

Free online study program for learning how to read, write and type the Katakana alphabet fast and easy.

The program includes random-order drill exercise, audio recordings, handwriting practice and more.

See Katakana Master Drill page for more details.

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Related Topics

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