Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 4.0, March 2016


The United Nations recommended system was approved in 1972 (II/11) and amended in 1977 (III/12), based on a report prepared by D. N. Sharma. The tables and their corrections were published in volume II of the conference reports1,2.

There is no evidence of the use of the system either in India or in international cartographic products.

Malayalam (Malayāḷam) uses an alphasyllabic script whereby each character represents a syllable rather than one sound. Vowels and diphthongs are marked in two ways: as independent characters (used syllable-initially) and in an abbreviated form, to denote vowels after consonants. The romanization table is unambiguous but now outdated because since the 1970's a new orthography has been introduced and the use of many character combinations and ligatures has been simplified. Nevertheless the user of the romanization table would have to recognize many ligatures not given in the original table. The system is mostly reversible but there exist some ambiguities in the romanization of vowels (independent vs. abbreviated characters) and consonants (ligatures vs. character sequences), particularly in the case of older orthography.


The romanization system below is based on the new orthography, with notes where appropriate on the older spelling. The table of ligatures has been added.

I. Independent vowel characters

1 a
2 ā
3 i
4 ī
5 u
6 ū
8 ĕ
9 e
10 ai
11 ŏ
12 o
13 au

II. Abbreviated vowel characters (ട stands for any consonant character)

1 a
2 ടാ ā
3 ടി i
4 ടീ ī
5 ടു uA
6 ടൂ ūB
7 ടൃ C
8 ടെ ĕ
9 ടേ e
10 ടൈ ai
11 ടൊ ŏ
12 ടോ o
13 ടൗ auD

III. Other symbols (ട stands for any consonant character)

1 ടം
2 ടഃ
3 ട്‌ (A)

IV. Consonant characters

1 ka
2 kha
3 ga
4 gha
5 ṅa
6 cha
7 chha
8 ja
9 jha
10 ña
11 ṭa
12 ṭha
13 ḍa
14 ḍha
15 ṇa
16 ta
17 tha
18 da
19 dha
20 na
21 pa
22 pha
23 ba
24 bha
25 ma
26 ya
27 ra
28 la
29 va
30 sha
31 ṣha
32 sa
33 ha
34 ക്ഷ kṣha
35 ḷa
36 ḻa
37 ṟaA

V. Ligatures

Adscript forms of some consonants

r- ര്ഗ്ഗ rgga (newer style; earlier a dot above the next character was used instead of ർ)
-r ക്ര kra (for older style see the PDF version)
-y ത്യ tya
-v സ്വ sva

Other ligatures (the list is not complete; availability depends on the fonts used)

ക്ക ക്ട ക്ത ക്ഷ ക്ല ഗ്ഗ ഗ്ദ ഗ്ദ്ധ ഗ്ന ഗ്മ ഗ്ല ങ്ക
kka kṭa kta kṣha kla gga gda gddha* gna gma glaṅka
ങ്ങ ച്ച ച്ഛ ജ്ജ ജ്ഞ ഞ്ച ഞ്ഛ ഞ്ജ ഞ്ഞ ട്ട ഡ്ഡ ണ്ട
ṅṅa chcha chchha jja jña ñcha ñchha* ñja* ñña ṭṭa ḍḍa ṇṭa
ണ്ഠ ണ്ഡ ണ്ണ ണ്മ ത്ത ത്ഥ ത്ന ത്ഭ ത്മ ത്സ ദ്ദ ദ്ധ
ṇṭha* ṇḍa ṇṇa ṇma tta ttha tna* tbha tma tsa dda ddha
ന്ത ന്ഥ ന്ദ ന്ധ ന്ന ന്മ ന്റ പ്ത പ്ന പ്പ പ്ല പ്സ
nta ntha nda ndha nna nma nṟa pta* pna* ppa pla psa*
ബ്ദ ബ്ധ ബ്ബ ബ്ല മ്ന മ്പ മ്മ മ്ല യ്ക യ്ക്ക യ്ത യ്ത്ത
bda bdha bba bla mna* mpa mma mla yka* ykka yta* ytta*
യ്പ യ്മ യ്യ ല്ക ല്ക്ക ല്പ ല്മ ല്ല വ്വ ശ്ച ശ്ല ശ്ശ
ypa* yma* yya lka* lkka* lpa lma* lla vva shcha shla shsha
ഷ്ക ഷ്ട ഷ്ഠ ഷ്ണ ഷ്പ ഷ്ഫ ഷ്മ സ്ക സ്റ്റ സ്ത സ്ഥ സ്ന
ṣhka* ṣhṭa ṣhṭha* ṣhṇa* ṣhpa* ṣhpha* ṣhma* ska* sṭ̈a sta* stha sna*
സ്പ സ്ഫ സ്മ സ്ല സ്സ ഹ്ന ഹ്മ ഹ്ല ള്ള ഴ്ക ഴ്ച ഴ്ത്ത
spa* spha* sma* sla ssa hna hma hla ḷḷa ḻka* ḻcha* ḻtta*
ഴ്മ ഴ്പ
ḻma* ḻpa*

Many of the ligatures, especially those marked with the asterisk are thought to be obsolete since the introduction of the new spelling and have been replaced by a combination of two consonant characters, the first of which bears the ്‌ diacritic, e.g. പ്‌ന pna. However, the usage of ligatures in different sources varies greatly.

Other systems of romanization

For differences between the UN system and the ISO transliteration standard ISO 15919: 2001 see the section on the romanization of Hindi.

The State of Kerala seems to use a regular pattern for rendering their geographical names. At least the following correspondences may be noted:

UN State of Kerala
= zh
sh = s
t = th
= t or d


  1. Second United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. London, 10–31 May 1972. Vol. II. Technical papers. United Nations. New York 1974, pp. 149–150.
  2. Third United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Athens, 17 August – 7 September 1977. Vol. II, Technical papers, pp. 393 etc.