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Gothic Handwriting

 

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Practice Sheet

Download a printable full alphabet practice sheet for the following letter exercise. You may also use this sheet with tracing paper to trace these letters. The practice sheets below allow you to practice the alphabet in sections at a time.

a-e

 

f-j

k-o

p-t

u-z

Download a blank printable practice sheet .

 

 

"a"

lowercase, written A  

Description

The German letter a is fairly easy to recognize because it closely resembles the modern Latin a that has been taught in American schools for over a century. The German a can be occasionally mistaken for an o, but unlike the o, the a will not be closed at the top and will include a downward stroke on the right.

(Click on the minim to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

aber

dagegen

Katharina

 

"b"

lowercase, written B  

Description

The German letter b strongly resembles its Latin counterpart and should be easily recognizable. It can be confused, however, with the letter s in word- or syllable-final positions.

Examples

 

 

 

beiden

Regensburg

ob

 

 

 

"c"

lowercase, written C  

Description

The letter c is simply a straight vertical line with connecting strokes at the top and bottom. It is essentially the same as the letter i, minus the dot. It should be noted that in German, c seldom occurs word-initially or as a double consonant; usually it appears in the consonant clusters ch, ck, or sch.

Examples

 

 

 

 

noch

zu

rück

schon

 

 

"d"

lowercase, written D  

Description

This letter ends with an upper loop that is not "designed" to connect with other letters, although it sometimes does. The upper and lower portions of this letter can be so spread out that they resemble the letters cl (which occur only rarely in German) or il.

Examples

 

 

 

der

edoch

wird

 

 

"e"

lowercase, written E  

Description

The Gothic letter e may resemble an n or a u, although it is usually thinner than the n and has no stroke above it like the u. It is a very common letter and has several variants.

Examples

 

 

 

erscheint

werden

die

 

 

"f"

lowercase, written F  

Description

Although the German letter f strongly resembles its counterpart in the Latin alphabet, it may also resemble a German h or a word-initial/medial s. Watch for a cross-stroke through the middle of the stem; this differentiates the f from an s.

(Click on the minim to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

für

Befehl

darf

 

 

"g"

lowercase, written G  

Description

The German g is also fairly easy to identify, although it might be confused sometimes with a p or a z. The upper half of g is almost identical to the letter a.

Examples

 

 

 

gegen

gelangen

Auswanderung

 

 

"h"

lowercase, written H  

Description

This letter looks like the first Latin s in a "double-s" combination (as in the word "Massachusetts" from U.S. colonial-era documents). It may be confused with a German f or an initial/medial s, but both its loops are usually more visible and pronounced than f or s. One of h's variants puts the top and bottom loops on separate stems, making it look almost like an l followed by a dotless j (lj).

Examples

 

 

 

hat

nicht

nach

 

 

"i"

lowercase, written I  

Description

As mentioned earlier, the German letter i is essentially identical to the German letter c, except for a dot above the mean line. The dot almost never appears directly above the letter, however, and may instead appear one or two letters over to the right.

Examples

 

 

 

im

dieses

Juli

 

 

"j"

lowercase, written J  

Description

The German j is also very much like its Latin counterpart and should be fairly easy to recognize.

examples

 

 

jeder

jährl(jährlich)

 

 

"k"

lowercase, written K  

Description

The letter k usually has a loop above the midline and a cross-stroke through the lower stem. Sometimes it occurs in the consonant cluster -ck. If the cluster -ck is split at the end of one line and continued on another, it usually becomes k-k, but not always.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

​königl. (königlich)

gekommen

Glück

 

 

"l"

lowercase, written L  

Description

The upper loop in l is usually clear enough to make this letter easy to identify. It may look very similar, however, to a b or to the upper half of an h.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

lassen

gelangen

Kerschl

 

 

"m"

lowercase, written M  

Description

The German m tends to be straight and pointy while the traditional Latin m tends to be curved and round. The letter m may be difficult to identify when it is adjacent to the vowels a, e, or u. An m with a bar on top of it means a double-m (mm).

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

mit

genommen

um

 

 

"n"

lowercase, written N  

Description

The German n is also straighter and pointier than its Latin counterpart, and it may appear almost identical to a u. (It should never be confused with a u, however, since it never has a u-loop.) The n can also be doubled by writing a bar on the top of it.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

nehmen

Magdalena

dürftigen

 

 

"o"

lowercase, written O  

Description

This letter, like a, is usually open at the top. It may appear similar to the a, but neither its left nor right hook will extend down to the baseline. The letter o is the least common of all the German vowels.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

folgt

gros (groß)

 

 

"p"

lowercase, written P  

Description

The letter p begins with a backward loop above the baseline, then a downward stroke below the baseline, and finally an upward stroke back to the baseline. The letter animation of p to the left strongly resembles a g, although many actual instances of p are more easily identifiable: while the upper loop of g is usually directly above the lower loop, the upper loop of p is usually to the right of the lower loop. (There is often another upper loop to the left, although this loop is usually incomplete and appears more like a stem.) The letter p may strongly resemble the letter x, although x is rare and does not occur in most of the same orthographical environments as p.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

plus

April

 

 

"q"

lowercase, written Q  

Description

This letter is fairly rare and is always followed by a u. It may sometimes resemble a g or a p. Its lower protrusion should be only a tail, not a loop (although some writers tend to make a loop anyway).

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

-No Examples-

 

 

"r"

lowercase, written R  

Description

The letter r is problematic because it strongly resembles an e or an n. It is one of the most common letters in the German language. If your attempts to distinguish this letter from e or n are unsuccessful, we recommend that you attempt to decipher the surrounding letters or the rest of the word.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

Maria

Peter

 

 

"s"

lowercase, written S  

Description

In old German script there are two manifestations of the lowercase s — one at the beginning of words or syllables or in between letters within a syllable, and one at the end of words or syllables. The following instances of ss are the aforementioned first kind: a tall, deep upward and downward stroke occurs as the beginning of a word or syllable and in between letters within a syllable. This letter may be confused with the letters f or h, although ideally it should not have loops. (As is the case with q, some writers might make loops anyway.) Occasionally, the s might be missing its upper stem. This is likely in the first s of a double-s.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

sich

diese

 

 

"s" (final)

lowercase, written ending S  

Description

The second manifestation of lowercase s occurs only at the end of a word or syllable. It basically resembles the number 6.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

das

als

 

 

"t"

lowercase, written ending T  

Description

The German letter t resembles the Roman letter t and is not often difficult to identify. It may appear unfamiliar, however, when following a d or an s (uppercase or lowercase), and some readers could confuse the combination of these two letters for another letter, such as N. In these instances, it is useful to notice that the d and the s usually connect to the t above the midline rather than near the baseline.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

tiefester (tiefster)

baldigste

bestimmt

 

 

"u"

lowercase, written U  

Description

As shown in the first example below, the letter u is identical to n except for an accompanying upper loop. This loop, called U-Bogen in German, may appear either directly above the u or above the next letter to the right. The u-loop is often a half-oval curving upward, although it may also curve downward and appear more circular. The u-loop may often be confused with an umlaut, although the umlaut is usually straighter and more jagged.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

unter

aus

zu

 

 

"v"

lowercase, written V  

Description

The overall shape of a handwritten v is similar to its Latin and Fraktur counterparts, although it may often resemble an r or an e. The v usually extends farther to the right than an r or an e, however, and often appears alongside these letters.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

vom

>vielmehr

 

 

"w"

lowercase, written W  

Description

The German w may resemble the v as well as the r or even the e, although it very often appears with a downward tail on the right. It is usually longer than a v but not necessarily twice as long. (Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

welcher

zwar

 

 

"x"

lowercase, written X  

Description

This letter is very rare in German and will most likely occur in a few personal or place names. It may resemble a p or even a g, although unlike either p or g, the lower loop of x always curves counterclockwise as it approaches the baseline.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples


-No Examples-

 

 

"y"

lowercase, written Y  

Description

The upper portion of the German y is identical to the v. The y curves downward and then upward again, in much the same way as the g, j, and z. Without an umlaut, the y is pronounced as an ü or an i sound. With an umlaut, the y (ÿ) is pronounced like the diphthong ei or ai.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

beÿ (bei)

 

 

"z"

lowercase, written Z  

Description

Because the German letter z is similar to its Latin script counterpart, it is usually fairly easy to recognize. 

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

 

zu

Bezahlung

Schweitz (Schweiz)

 

"ä"

lowercase, written ä  

Description

An a-umlaut usually resembles a regular a except for the two diacritic marks above the mean line. These marks, called the umlaut, derive from the practice of writing an e above certain vowels. (This is why ä is synonymous with ae. These two forms may appear interchangeably.) An umlaut may appear as two small dots or as one small slanted line. It is important to note that an umlaut may be written above the next letter to the right of the vowel, as is often the case with the u and the u-loop.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

jährigen

März

 

"ö"

lowercase, written ö  

Description

Just as ä resembles an a, an ö may resemble the o, and ö may also appear interchangeably with oe. Again, the umlaut may appear as a slanted or jagged line and it is also often written above the next letter to the right.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

königle. (königliche)

eröffnet

 

"ü"

lowercase, written ue  

Description

There may be some confusion between the ü and the regular u with a u-loop. The two may appear virtually identical. Our advice is to simply compare instances of u and ü and then use your knowledge of German vocabulary to determine the correct letter. Occasionally the ü may occur interchangeably with ue.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

übergiebt (übergibt)

dürften

 

"ß"

lowercase, written ß  

Description

The letter ß is called "Eszett" (which means "S-Z" in German) or "Sharp S" ("scharfes S" in German). It developed hundreds of years ago as a combination of the initial/medial s and z. Nowadays it stands for double-s, although it is not always interchangeable with a double-s. The ß is only a lowercase letter, therefore it would appear in uppercase form as SS (although some scribes did not follow this rule). The ß will never begin a word or a syllable, and it almost never occurs when a word can be hyphenated into two s's.

(Click on the letter to animate it.)

Examples

 

 

daß

Ergebnißes

 



Reference

Please consult pp. 18-20 of Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany by Roger P. Minert (GRT Publications: Provo, Utah, USA, 2001) for further descriptions and examples of the preceding letters.

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