Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 4.0, September 2013


No romanization systems for Dzongkha have been put forward at the United Nations conferences on the standardization of geographical names or at sessions of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names.

In 1991 the first phonological romanization for Dzongkha was introduced by the Dzongkha Development Commission. Roman Dzongkha as it was called, was intended to accurately and adequately represent the phonology of the living language and to serve as a standard for representing Dzongkha names and words in the international media. However, the system was not implemented, and later a simplified version of Roman Dzongkha was devised by the same Commission. Bhutan's Ministry of Home Affairs approved the implementation of Roman Dzongkha on May 29, 1997 and made it mandatory for all government institutions to use standardized spellings of geographical names and the guidelines for romanization.

Dzongkha uses an alphasyllabic script (Uchen) which occurs in two main forms. The printed or uncial writing (tshum) is actually the same as is used in Tibetan. But Bhutanese longhand writing (formal version, jotshum, and cursive version, joyi) is unique to Dzongkha, making ample use of ligatures. Below only the printed form of characters is presented, for longhand writing one should refer to Dzongkha language manuals.1 Relationship between script and pronunciation is complex and romanized names cannot be reverted to their original script forms.

System of romanization

The official romanization (1997) is as follows.2

I. Consonant characters

1 ka
2 kha
3 ga
4 nga
5 cha
6 chha
7 ja
8 nya
9 ta
10 tha
11 da
12 na
13 pa
14 pha
15 ba, wa
16 ma
17 tsa
18 tsha
19 dza
20 waA
21 zha
22 za
23 a
24 yaB
25 raC
26 la
27 sha
28 sa
29 ha
30 a

II. Syllable-initial consonant combinations

The list is not complete. Mainly those romanized differently from general rules are given. See also notes to the main table and note 1 at the end.

1 ཀྱ cha, kaA
2 ཁྱ chha, khaA
3 གྱ ja, gyaA
4 པྱ cha, pcha
5 ཕྱ chha, pchha
6 བྱ ja, bja
7 དབྱ ya
8 མྱ nya
9 ཀྲ tra
10 ཁྲ thra
11 གྲ dra
12 ཏྲ tra
13 ཐྲ thra
14 དྲ dra
15 པྲ tra
16 ཕྲ thra
17 བྲ dra
18 ཤྲ shra
19 སྲ sa
20 ཧྲ hra
21 དབ waB
22 ཟླ da
23 ལྷ lha

III. Vowel characters (ཀ stands for any consonant character)

1 a, e/ayA
2 ཀི i
3 ཀུ u, ue/uB
4 ཀེ e
5 ཀོ o, oe/oC

IV. Syllable endings (suffixes)

1 g, k or not romanized
2 ng, or not romanized
3 not romanized, except thed
4 n, or not romanized
5 b, p
6 m
7 not romanized
8 r, or not romanized
9 l, or not romanized
10 not romanized


  1. Dzongkha words are divided into syllables, separated by a special symbol, e.g. ཐིམ་ཕུ Thimphu. A graphical syllable may be composed of several elements, including prefixed, superscript and subscript consonant characters that are used syllable-initially, and suffixed consonant characters (one or more) used syllable-finally. This may result in consonants being stacked up on top of the other, e.g. སྐྱ (transliterated skya). As a rule, prefixed consonants are not romanized: གདུང་ནག Dungna, མགར་ས Gasa. Superscript consonants are not romanized, with the exception of ལྷ lha: ནང་སྐོར Nangkor, སྟང་སི་སྦྱིས Tangsibji. Suffixed consonants are romanized or not romanized based on local pronunciation, e.g. དྲུང་ཁག Drungkhag (subdivision), དབང་ཕྱུག Wangchhuk (personal name), སྟག Ta (tiger), etc. Secondary suffixed consonants are not romanized, although there are some exceptions: བར་མཚམས Bartsham, དྭངས་ཆུ Dangchhu, but གཞལམ་སྒང Zhemgang.
  2. Additional characters that are found mainly in words of Indic provenance, are romanized as follows: ཊ tra, ཋ thra, ཌ dra, ཎ na, ཥ kha, ཀྵ chha.
  3. Pronunciation of Dzongkha names may vary according to local usage and there are several exceptions to the present romanization guidelines.


  1. See e.g. Dzongkha by George van Driem with the collaboration of Karma Tshering of Gaselô. Research School CNWS, School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies. Leiden, The Netherlands 1998.
  2. Adapted from Samples for Geographical names of Bhutan in dzongkha and roman dzongkha with brief Guidelines. Dzongkha Development Commission, Royal Government of Bhutan, June 1997.