Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 4.0, September 2013


No romanization system for Lao (Laotian) has been approved at the United Nations conferences on the standardization of geographical names. Currently there is no national romanization system in Laos. In 1966 the BGN and the PCGN jointly adopted a system of romanization that was based on the earlier Lao Commission Nationale de Toponymie (CNT) system, to which a complete vowel table and supplementary notes had been added.

System of romanization

The BGN/PCGN 1966 System gives the following romanization1:

I. Consonant characters

Lao characters are romanized in two ways depending on whether they denote syllable-initials or syllable-finals. The romanization of syllable-finals is indicated in parentheses. Some other consonant characters which are not accompanied by a vowel character form a full syllable when used within a word: ຂ kkha, ຄ kkha, ຈ tcha, ສ tsa, ຊ tsa, ຕ tta, ຖ ttha, ທ ttha, ປ ppa, ພ ppha, ຟ pfa.

1 k (k)
2 kh
3 kh
4 ng (ng)
5 ch
6 s
7 x
8 gn (y)A
9 d (t)
10 t
11 th
12 th
13 n (n)
14 b (p)
15 p
16 ph
17 f
18 ph
19 f
20 m
21 y
22 r
23 lB
24 v, oC
25 hD
26 (E)
27 h

II. Vocalic nuclei (ກ stands for any consonant character)

1 ກະ a
2 ກັກ a
3 ກາ a
4 ກິ i
5 ກີ i
6 ກຶ u
7 ກື u
8 ກຸ ou
9 ກູ ou
10 ເກະ é
11 ເກັກ é
12 ເກ é
13 ແກະ è
14 ແກັກ è
15 ແກ è
16 ໂກະ ô
17 ກົກ ô
18 ໂກ ô
19 ເກາະ o
20 ກັອກ o
21 ກໍ o
22 ກອກ o
23 ເກິະ eu
24 ເກິກ eu
25 ເກີ eu
26 ເກືກ eu
27 ເກັຽະ ia
28 ກັຽກ ia
29 ເກັຽ ia
30 ກຽກ ia
31 ເກຶອະ ua
32 ເກຶອກ ua
33 ເກືອ ua
34 ກົວະ oua
35 ກັວກ oua
36 ກົວ oua
37 ກວກ oua
38 ໄກ ai
39 ໃກ ai
40 ເກົາ ao
41 ກຳ am

III. Reduplicating mark

(e.g. ແຊອໆ xèoxèo)


  1. Tone marks ່, ້, ໊, ໋ should not be romanized.
  2. At the beginning of a syllable, the character ຫ unaccompanied by a vowel or tone mark and occurring immediately before ຍ gn, ນ n, ມ m, ຣ r, ລ l or ວ v should generally not be romanized: ຫລວງພຣະບາງ Louangphrabang. Often ligatures ໜ, ໝ, ຫຼ are used in such cases.
  3. At the beginning of a word ອ should not be romanized: ອີກ ik. At the beginning of a syllable within a word the character should be romanized by a hyphen: ຊະເອມ xa-ém, ບ້ານແກ້ງອີ Ban Kèng-I.
  4. The character ວ at the beginning of a syllable should be romanized v: ທັນວາ thanva. As the second character of a combination, ວ should be romanized o. At the end of a syllable the character is romanized o generally (ນາວ nao, ແກວ kèo, ດຽວ diao) but after i it is romanized ou (ຄິວ khiou, ຕີວ tiou).
  5. In consonant combinations where the second character is ຣ r, ລ l or ວ v, it should be romanized character by character, even if the second character may represent no pronounced sound: ບ້ານວັດພຣະໄຊ Ban Vatphraxai, ຄຼິສຕຽນ Khlitsatian, ສວາຽ soay, ແຂວງ khoèng.
  6. A vowel which is not represented in Lao writing occasionally occurs in the pronunciation of certain words. The presence of that vowel should be indicated in romanization by insertion of the letter a: ສວັນນະເຂດ Savannakhét (also written ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ), ຂວາວ khavao (but cf. ຂວານ khoan).
  7. In some words of foreign origin the variant ຣ໌ r occurs: ເບີຣ໌ beur.


  1. Romanization Systems and Roman-script Spelling Conventions. Prepared by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names Foreign Names Committee Staff. Published by the Defense Mapping Agency. 1994, pp. 63-67.