Foreign letters in Italian

Officially, the Italian alphabet has only 21 letters. However, if we include the non-Italian letters, this number increases to 26.

This is because there are 5 foreign letters in Italian: J, K, W, X, and Y. In this lesson, you’re going to see how they are pronounced depending on the loanword in which they appear.

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Foreign letters in Italian

J – i lunga

The J letter is called i lunga or gei in Italian and can be pronounced either as the J in Jack or as the French J (/ʒ/) as in toujours.

J (i lunga, gei)

Jackpot, jeans, joystick, jazz
Jackpot, jeans, joystick, jazz

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The soccer team Juventus is pronounced as Iuventus!


K – kappa

The letter K is called kappa in Italian and it is always pronounced as the C in scowl or the K in key. It’s never aspirated.

K (kappa)

Karate, karaoke, koala
Karate, karaoke, koala

two men practicing karate

W – vu doppia, doppia vu

The letter W is called vu doppia or doppia vu in Italian and its pronunciation, like that for the letter J, depends on the source language of the loanword.

In loanwords from English, such as webcam, it’s pronounced as a U vowel. In loanwords from German, it’s pronounced as the V in vase.

W (vu doppia, doppia vu)

Würstel, watt, wafer, wireless, weekend, windsurf
Würstel, watt, wafer, wireless, weekend, windsurf

woman windsurfing

X – ics

The letter X is always pronounced as the X in taxi. When it starts a word, make sure the sound is similar to “eeks”, with a clear i as in tea.

X (ics)

Xilofono, taxi, boxe, taglia XXL, xenofobia
Xylophone, taxi, boxing, size XXL, xenophobia

two men boxing

Y – ipsilon

The letter Y inherits the pronunciation of the source language of the loanword.

Y (ipsilon)

Yogurt, yacht, yoga, nylon
Yogurt, yacht, yoga, nylon

And that’s it for the foreign letters in Italian! If you still have any doubts about them, feel free to leave a comment.


What next?

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Now that you’ve seen the foreign letters in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Or you might also want an excellent offline Italian grammar resource to take with you at all times (Amazon).

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

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