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, Sri Lanka or in international cartographic products.

Tamil 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. The system is on the whole reversible.


I. Independent vowel characters

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

II. Abbreviated vowel characters and other symbols (ஜ stands for any consonant character)

1 a
2 ஜா ā
3 ஜி iA
4 ஜீ īB
5 ஜு uC
6 ஜூ ūD
7 ஜெ ĕ
8 ஜே e
9 ஜை ai
10 ஜொ ŏ
11 ஜோ o
12 ஜௌ au
13 E
14 (F)

III. Consonant characters

1 ka
2 ṅa
3 cha
4 ña
5 ṭa
6 ṇa
7 ta
8 na
9 pa
10 ma
11 ya
12 ra
13 la
14 va
15 l̮a
16 ḷa
17 ṟa
18 ṉa
19 jaA
20 shaA
21 ṣha
22 saAB
23 haA
24 க்ஷ kṣha
25 ற்ற ṟṟa
26 ன்ற ṉṟa

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.


  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. 153–154.
  2. Third United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Athens, 17 August – 7 September 1977. Vol. II, Technical papers, pp. 393 etc.