The specific example that I am thinking of is the word "दाल का सूप" in Hindi. It translates to "lentil soup", and is pronounced "dal", however there are multiple ways of spelling it (like "dhal, dhall, daal, etc.) since the word does not actually exist in English.

I'm pretty sure there is a term for this that starts with a "V", maybe "ver...something?". I honestly cannot remember, and the curiosity is starting to eat away at me.

I do not have any sort of background in linguistics, nor do I speak Hindi, or any other Indian language(s); I only know a handful of Hindi and Punjabi words/ phrases that I picked up overtime from my family.

Any help would be much appreciated!

  • 7
    No, there's no special word, except transliterate, which refers to makeshift spelling for sounds that don't exist in the target language. Like putting an H after P, T, Ṭ, C, K in transliterating Hindi aspirated stops. Transliterating from one alphabet to another (like Russian to English) is hard enough, but transliterating from an abjad like Arabic or an abugida like Hindi to an alphabet like English is very complicated. And, more important, it's been done before many times, in many ways, and people get attached to their own ways.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 2:02
  • 5
    @jlawler are you trying to emphasize that transliteration tends to be irregular? I think you have a point, but transliteration also is shaped by the target language and the sounds available in it. For example the Russian fricative Х gets transliterated as fricative ch into German (where we use that combination of letters for practically the same sound), but as kh into English. So there are two dimensions to this. Irregularity as such and then the differences depending on target language of the transliteration. Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 8:37
  • 3
    It's also worth noting that some languages have standardized (either by the government of the country they're spoken in, or by international standards committees, or both) transliterations, at least into forms that would be reasonably easily read by Europeans. See, for example, pinyin for Mandarin Chinese and the several Japanese romanization systems.
    – Hearth
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 16:15
  • 3
    @jlawler So there is a special word, and that word is "transliterate" Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 10:27
  • No, not as the question defined it. That asked for 'a term for translating a word to a language that has a different alphabet'. Transliterate is not translation; it's just changing the writing system. It can be used to translate a word to a different language, or to simply represent the same word in the same language. Since writing systems and languages are independent, there are a lot of combinations, and no special word for what you asked for.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 15:24

4 Answers 4


There is a term for converting दाल to dal, namely "transliteration". Etymologically that is not original English, but it is now, so it's not a translation, whereas फल transliterates as phal which translates as "fruit".

  • This also applies to Russian for example, they even call this way of writing Russian "translit", and there's a website that can be used to do it automatically, called "translit.ru" Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 11:15
  • 1
    Maybe worth mentioning that the word comes from the Latin trans, “across,” and litera (or more commonly, littera), “letter of the alphabet.”
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 12:11

I work in the video game industry and we have to do a lot of this exact kind of work, translating a word while also changing the alphabetic representation. We use the umbrella term "localize" to describe it.

Conversationally, we use "localize" in place of "translate" (e.g. we don't "translate" games for other languages, we "localize" games for other languages).

The extra considerations that have to be kept in mind when translating a written word is one reason why we prefer the one term over the other. It also helps for describing subtle distinctions between alphabets within the same language. For example, the inverted meanings between the American "Z" and the British "Zed".

  • 9
    Wait, what's inverted about "zee" and "zed"? Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 22:43
  • 4
    However the asker is not asking about translation, but about representing the same sounds in different alphabets. Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 10:28
  • 1
    @AzorAhai--hehim hopefully someone will answer your question. Because I wanna know as well. P.S I made an account just to learn what "inverted meanings between the American 'Z' and the British 'Zed' " means
    – Ka_Papa
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 11:22
  • I guess in Britain, they would localise the game. @GeorgeNostradamos As of me writing this comment, it appears that six other people also want to know. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 1:20
  • 1
    For the majority of the world, the last sentence reads "the inverted meanings between the American zed and the British zed," since in the majority of the word "Z" is pronounced zed. Also, localization is distinguished from translation because translation is only a part of localization.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 13:34

The term "Romanize" is often used to refer to putting text into the Roman alphabet.

Otherwise, "Convert" is often used to describe using one writing system to represent another. I.E. "The Hindi sentence was converted to the roman alphabet".

"Transcribe" is another word that might be a good fit for what you're looking for:

To convert a representation of language, typically speech but also sign language, etc., to another representation.

  • 3
    "Romanize" and "Convert" are good suggestions for the purposes you mention, but I don't think "Transcribe" fits the needs of the OP. Typically transcribing something means to transfer it from an audio medium (or sign language) to a written medium, not changing it from one language to another. Some people may use it that way, but it isn't as clear as the other suggestions
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 18:17
  • 1
    "anglicize" is also possible, though a stretch
    – MegaWidget
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 19:37
  • @MegaWidget why? Transliterating something into the Latin alphabet typically yields different results depending on the target language (Sharif, Chérif, Sjarief, Šerif, etc.).
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 13:35

The word you're looking for probably is vernacularize. As per the Oxford English Dictionary, it means

Translate (speech or writing) into the vernacular of a country or region.

  • 2
    Translating into the vernacular would be like taking a technical document and explaining it to someone with no training in that field. That's not what the OP is talking about. Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 19:28
  • @GabrielLuci I agree the meaning may not precisely match, but due to the 50 reputation threshold for commenting I unfortunately can't add this as a comment and must put it as an answer.. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 6:35

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