I am trying to describe the set of languages that, like English, are written left to right, and was trying "romanized", but "romanized" describes transliteration to a different set of characters, such as taking the Japanese word 着物 and writing it as kimono in English.

Unfortunately, when I enter "left to right" in a Google query, it finds me all the pages with "right to left" in them, which is of course the opposite of what I'm looking for.

  • 6
    I've only ever seen them referred to as ltr and ttb. Note that this is a feature of the script (more precisely the writing style), though, not the language. Turkish is written left to right currently, but less than a century ago, the official Turkish orthography was right to left, using the Arabic script. Japanese is usually written ttb-rtl in books and newspapers, but in comics, many magazines, and regular office documents and such things (as well as online), it's ltr-ttb. And Chinese can be ltr-ttb, ttb-rtl, or rtl-ttb, depending on context. Dec 12, 2014 at 1:03
  • 4
    @medica There should be, shouldn't there? But the only actual term I can think of (or rather, had to google my way to because I annoyingly couldn't think of it!) is only really a term, I think, because it refers to a type of directionality we don't use/reckon with: the boustrophedon. Dec 12, 2014 at 1:20
  • 1
    @medica Alas, I fear they'd have to be forensic neuroscientist archaeologists for the opportunity to arise. :-) Dec 12, 2014 at 1:28
  • 2
    I'd say sinistrodextral, the obvious but wholly unpopular complement to dextrosinistral. Those terms are more at home in anatomy, I think, but your use would be clear. Can't help you with the other dimension, though. (craniocaudal is right out.)
    – pilcrow
    Dec 16, 2014 at 22:40
  • 2
    Wrong question. There is no word for languages depending on how they are written. There are words for languages that depend on their pronunciation and grammar, but not for how they're written. Writing systems are independent of languages and any language can be written any way at all (not always as well, but who cares?). So you should be asking about writing systems that are written from left to right and others. Not languages. And you should be asking on Linguistics Stack Exchange, not here; this is specifically for English grammar and usage. Dec 16, 2014 at 22:48

3 Answers 3


They're simply referred to simply as as left-to-right or left-to-right, horizontal (e.g. English, Greek).

The opposite is right-to-left, or right-to-left, horizontal (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew).

LTR and RTL are also used as abbreviations.

There's a third class which do have a good name: boustrophedon. These alternate left-to-right then right-to-left. The name comes from the Greek for ox and turn, because it resembles an ox pulling a plough. Another name is plough-wise.

And these are just the horizontal writing systems. Here's some others, listed by Omniglot:

  • Left to right, vertical, top to bottom
  • Right to left, vertical, top to bottom
  • Left to right, vertical, bottom to top
  • Right to left, vertical, bottom to top
  • Variable

I had a hard time finding anything and had to settle for using the abbreviations, RTL (right to left) and TTB (top to bottom).

Normal Google didn't return anything useful using ["left to right" -"right-to-left], neither did Google Scholar, although there are some quite nice papers on the effect of writing direction on the mind.

If this is academic writing, try to stick what the others in the field have been using, what I have found in this article, is that the author sticks to just using "left to right" and "right to left", so without any specific term.

If anyone is able to find a source for a more specific word, I would be very interested.


I had the same problem once when I compared Arabic letters and Latin letters in order to see whether there was a relationship and, of course, I wanted an adjective. At last I used rechtsläufig and linksläufig in German, that would be right-running and left-running scripts. But I think the abbreviations rtl-/ltr-scripts will do as well.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.