# Why did the letters in the alphabet shift position?

When presented with the Greek alphabet, it is like this:

Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω

Or the Etruscan alphabet:

A B G D E V Z H Θ I K L M N Ξ O P Ś Q R S T Y X Φ Ψ

But if we are presented with the Latin alphabet, it looks like this:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Apart from letters changing there are some notable differences: The position of the G and Z sound for example.

Why and when did this all shift? Is it something from a later period or did the Romans also use the order, we use now?

The letter Γ was sometimes written 𐌂 and was taken into the Latin alphabet as C, so the position did not change. The letter G was only added later (3rd century BC) to the Latin alphabet, to disambiguate the sound /g/ from /k/ (i.e. soft C from hard C) and took the spot of Z (at that time /r/), which was dropped, only to be reintroduced two centuries later (then /dz/) for Greek loanwords, but this time at the end of the alphabet.

• In my browser, the symbol between "written" and "and was" in the first sentence does not render. – hBy2Py Feb 23 '16 at 23:01
• @Brian That's because it is U+10302 OLD ITALIC LETTER KE. It looks like く or <. – Earthliŋ Feb 23 '16 at 23:03
• Figured it was Unicode. Annoying that character support is often so flakey. :-/ – hBy2Py Feb 23 '16 at 23:04
• @Brian: you probably just have to download a font that includes the characters: wazu.jp/gallery/Fonts_OldItalic.html – Asteroides Feb 24 '16 at 1:48

The Etruscan alphabet you presented in your question is actually a transliteration. The actual Etruscan inscriptions are in one of the "Old Italic" alphabets derived from the Greek one.

Unicode now has separate code points for these (although it unifies various related alphabets like Etruscan, Oscan, and Old Latin) and if you download the right fonts, you'll be able to see them (although of course, a single font cannot represent the diversity of forms that used to be used). Here is the Etruscan alphabet encoded in "Old Italic":

𐌀 𐌁 𐌂 𐌃 𐌄 𐌅 𐌆 𐌇 𐌈 𐌉 𐌊 𐌋 𐌌 𐌍 𐌎 𐌏 𐌐 𐌑 𐌒 𐌓 𐌔 𐌕 𐌖 𐌗 𐌘 𐌙
(picture in case the characters don't display correctly)

(taken from this Wikipedia article: Old Italic script)

You can see (or maybe you can't) that the Etruscan letter transliterated as "G" actually has the form of C. This also applies to the Etruscan letter transliterated as "V," which actually had the form of F. Etruscan did not have a /g/ sound distinct from /k/ (or any distinct voiced plosive consonants in general), so when it adapted this letter from Greek gamma, it repurposed it for the sound /k/. This carried over into Latin; in Old Latin the letter C was used for both /k/ and /g/. The modern Latin letter G was created to distinguish the sound /g/ from the sound /k/, which came to be represented mostly by C.

The letter Z ended up not being used to represent any native Latin sound, so the new letter G took the place of Z in the Latin alphabet. Later, when Z came to be used regularly as a way of representing Greek zeta, it was added to the end of the alphabet.