Anusvara (Sanskrit: अनुस्वार anusvāra), also known as Bindu (Hindi: बिंदु), is a symbol used in many Indic scripts to mark a type of nasal sound, typically transliterated ⟨ṃ⟩ or ⟨ṁ⟩ in standards like ISO 15919 and IAST. Depending on its location in the word and the language for which it is used, its exact pronunciation can vary. In the context of ancient Sanskrit, anusvara is the name of the particular nasal sound itself, regardless of written representation.


In Vedic Sanskrit, the anusvāra (lit. "after-sound" or "subordinate sound")[1] was an allophonic (derived) nasal sound.

The exact nature of the sound has been subject to debate. The material in the various ancient phonetic treatises points towards different phonetic interpretations, and these discrepancies have historically been attributed to either differences in the description of the same pronunciation[2] or to dialectal or diachronic variation.[3][4] In a 2013 reappraisal of the evidence, Cardona concludes that these reflect real dialectal differences.[5]

The environments in which the anusvara could arise, however, were well defined. In the earliest Vedic Sanskrit, it was an allophone of /m/ at a morpheme boundary, or of /n/ within morphemes, when it was preceded by a vowel and followed by a fricative (/ś/, /ṣ/, /s/, /h/).[1] In later Sanskrit its use expanded to other contexts, first before /r/ under certain conditions, then, in Classical Sanskrit, before /v/ and /y/.[1]

Later still, Pāṇini gave anusvara as an alternative pronunciation as word-final sandhi, and later treatises also prescribed it at morpheme junctions and within morphemes.[6] In the later written language, the diacritic used to represent anusvara was optionally used to indicate a nasal stop having the same place of articulation as a following plosive, written in some evolved scripts (e.g. in Bengali-Assamese) as an additional sandhi letter (no longer as a diacritic) for Vedic transcriptions of Sanskrit, to distinguish it with the anusvara diacritic used to transcribe other phonemes.

Devanagari script

In the Devanagari script, anusvara is represented with a dot (bindu) above the letter (e.g. मं). In the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), the corresponding symbol is ṃ (m with an underdot). Some transcriptions render notation of phonetic variants used in some Vedic shakhas with variant transcription (ṁ).

In writing Sanskrit, the anusvara is often used as an alternative representation of the nasal stop with the same place of articulation as the following plosive. For example, [əŋɡə] 'limb (of the body)' may be written with either a conjunct, अङ्ग aṅga, or with an anusvara, अंग aṃga. A variant of the anusvara, the anunāsika or 'candrabindu', was used more explicitly for nasalized vowels, as in अँश aṃśa for [ə̃ɕə] 'portion'.[7]


In Standard Hindi, the anusvāra is traditionally defined as representing a nasal consonant homorganic to a following plosive, in contrast to the candrabindu (anunāsika), which indicates vowel nasalization. In practice, however, the two are often used interchangeably.

The precise phonetic value of the phoneme, whether it is represented by anusvāra or candrabindu, is dependent on the phonological environment.[8]

Word-finally it is realized as nasalization of the preceding vowel: kuāṃ [kʊ̃ãː], "a well". It results in vowel nasalization also medially between a short vowel and a non-obstruent (kuṃvar [kʊ̃ʋər] "a youth", gaṃṛāsā [ɡə̃ɽaːsaː] "a long-handled axe") and, in native words, between a long vowel and a voiceless plosive (dāṃt [dãːt] "tooth", sāṃp [sãːp] "a snake", pūṃch [pũːtʃʰ] "tail").

It is pronounced as a homorganic nasal, with the preceding vowel becoming nasalized allophonically, in the following cases: between a long vowel and a voiced plosive (tāṃbā [taːmbaː] "copper", cāṃdī [tʃaːndiː] "silver"), between a long vowel and a voiceless plosive in loanwords (dāṃt [daːnt] "repressed", baiṃk [bæːŋk] "a bank", khazāṃcī [kʰəzaːɲtʃiː] "cashier"), and between a short vowel and an obstruent (saṃbhāl- [səmbʱaːl] "to support", saṃdūk [sənduːk] "a chest").

The last rule has two sets of exceptions where the anusvāra only results in nasalization of the preceding short vowel. Words from the first set are morphologically derived from words with a long nasalized vowel (baṃṭ- [bə̃ʈ], "to be divided" from bāṃṭ- [bãʈ], "to divide"; siṃcāī [sɪ̃tʃai], "irrigation" from sīṃc- [sĩːtʃ], "to irrigate"). In such cases, the vowel is sometimes denasalized ([bəʈ], [sɪtʃai] instead of [bə̃ʈ-], [sɪ̃tʃai]). The second set is composed of a few words like (pahuṃc- [pahʊ̃tʃ], "to arrive" and haṃs- [hə̃s], "to laugh").[note 1]


In Marathi the anusvara is pronounced as a nasal that is homorganic to the following consonant (with the same place of articulation). For example, it is pronounced as the dental nasal न् before dental consonants, as the bilabial nasal म् before bilabial consonants, etc.[citation needed] Unlike in other Indic languages, in Marathi the same dot designating anusvara is also used to mark a retension of the inherent vowel (it is placed over a consonant after which the short central vowel is to be pronounced and not elided).


In Nepali, chandrabindu and anusvara have the same pronunciation similarly to Hindi. Therefore, there is a great deal of variation regarding which occurs in any given position. Many words containing anusvara thus have alternative spellings with chandrabindu instead of anusvara and vice versa.

Other Indic script languages

Anusvara is used in other languages using Indic scripts as well, usually to represent suprasegmental phones (such as phonation type or nasalization) or other nasal sounds.


In the Bengali script, the anusvara diacritic (Bengali: অনুস্বার, romanizedanuswār) is written as a circle above a slanted line (), and represents /ঙ্/. It is used in the name of the Bengali language বাংলা [baŋla]. It has merged in pronunciation with the letter unga in Bengali. Although the anusvara is a consonant in Bengali phonology, it is nevertheless treated in the written system as a diacritic in that it is always directly adjacent to the preceding consonant, even when consonants are spaced apart in titles or banners: বাং-লা-দে-শ baṅ-la-de-ś, not বা-ং-লা-দে-শ ba-ṅ-la-de-ś for বাংলাদেশ Bangladesh. It is never pronounced with the inherent vowel 'ô', and it cannot take a vowel sign (instead, the consonant uṅô is used pre-vocalically).


In the Burmese script, the anusvara (အောက်မြစ် auk myit (့) IPA: [aʊʔ mjɪʔ]) is represented as a dot underneath a nasalised final to indicate a creaky tone (with a shortened vowel). Burmese also uses a dot above to indicate the /-ɴ/ nasalized ending (called "Myanmar Sign Anusvara" in Unicode), called သေးသေးတင် thay thay tin (IPA: [θé ðé tɪ̀ɰ̃]) (ံ)


In the Sinhala script, the anusvara is not a nonspacing combining mark but a spacing combining mark. It has circular shape and follows its base letter ( ං).[9] It is called binduva in Sinhala, which means "dot". The anusvara represents /ŋ/ at the end of a syllable. It is used in fact, in the name of the Sinhala language සිංහල [ˈsiŋɦələ]. It has merged in pronunciation with the letter ඞ ṅa in Sinhala.


The Telugu script has full-zero (sunna) ం , half-zero (arasunna) and visarga to convey various shades of nasal sounds. Anusvara is represented as a circle shape after a letter:[10] క - ka and కం - kam.


The equivalent of the anusvara in the Thai alphabet is the nikkhahit (◌ํ), which is used when rendering Sanskrit and Pali texts. It is written as an open circle above the consonant (for example อํ) and its pronunciation depends on the following sound: if it is a consonant then the nikkhahit is pronounced as a homorganic nasal, and if it is at the end of a word it is pronounced as the Voiced velar nasal/ŋ/.[citation needed]


Anunasika (anunāsika) is a form of vowel nasalization, often represented by an anusvara. It is a form of open mouthed nasalization, akin to the nasalization of vowels followed by "n" or "m" in Parisian French. When "n" or "m" follow a vowel, the "n" or "m" becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasal (pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part or all of the air to leave through the nostrils). Anunasika is sometimes called a subdot because of its IAST representation.

In Devanagari and related orthographies, it is represented by the chandrabindu diacritic (example: माँ).

In Burmese, the anunasika, called သေးသေးတင် (IPA: [θé ðé tɪ̀ɰ̃]) and represented as , creates the /-ɰ̃/ nasalized ending when it is attached as a dot above a letter. The anunasika represents the -m final in Pali.


Unicode encodes anusvara and anusvara-like characters for a variety of scripts:

South Asian scripts
Script Sign Example Unicode
Bengali  ং কং U+0982
Bengali Vedic U+09FC
Bhaiksuki  𑰽 𑰎𑰽 U+11C3D
Brahmi  𑀁 𑀓𑀁 U+11001
Chakma  𑄁 𑄇𑄁 U+11101
Devanagari  ं कं U+0902
Dhives Akuru  𑤻 𑤌𑤻 U+1193B
Dogra  𑠷 𑠊𑠷 U+11837
Grantha  𑌂 𑌕𑌂 U+11302
Grantha Vedic 𑍞 U+1135E
Grantha Vedic (double) 𑍟 U+1135F
Grantha (combining above)  𑌀 𑌕𑌀 U+11300
Gujarati  ં કં U+0A82
Gunjala Gondi  𑶕 𑵱𑶕 U+11D95
Gurmukhi  ਂ ਕਂ U+0A02
Kaithi  𑂁 𑂍𑂁 U+11081
Kannada  ಂ ಕಂ U+0C82
Kannada (combining above right)  ೳ ಕೳ U+0CF3
Kharosthi  𐨎 𐨐𐨎 U+10A0E
Khojki  𑈴 𑈈𑈴 U+11234
Khudabadi  𑋟 𑊺𑋟 U+112DF
Malayalam  ം കം U+0D02
Malayalam (combining above)  ഀ കഀ U+0D00
Malayalam Vedic  ഄ U+0D04
Marchen  𑲵 𑱲𑲵 U+11CB5
Masaram Gondi  𑵀 𑴌𑵀 U+11D40
Modi  𑘽 𑘎𑘽 U+1163D
Mongolian ᢀ᠋ ᢀ᠋ᠠ᠋ U+1880
Nandinagari  𑧞 𑦮𑧞 U+119DE
Odia  ଂ କଂ U+0B02
Prachalit Nepal  𑑄 𑐎𑑄 U+11444
Prachalit Nepal (Vedic) 𑑟 U+1145F
Sharada  𑆁 𑆑𑆁 U+11181
Saurashtra  ꢀ ꢒꢀ U+A880
Siddham  𑖽 𑖎𑖽 U+115BD
Sinhala  ං කං U+0D82
Soyombo  𑪖 𑩜𑪖 U+11A96
Sylheti Nagari  ꠋ ꠇꠋ U+A80B
Takri  𑚫 𑚊𑚫 U+116AB
Telugu  ం కం U+0C02
Telugu (Prakrit)[11] (combining above)  ఄ కఄ U+0C04
Tibetan (rjes su nga ro)  ཾ ཀཾ U+0F7E
Tirhuta  𑓀 𑒏𑓀 U+114C0
Zanabazar Square  𑨸 𑨋𑨸 U+11A38
Southeast Asian scripts
Script Sign Example Unicode
Balinese  ᬂ ᬓᬂ U+1B02
Burmese  ံ ကံ U+1036
Javanese  ꦁ ꦏꦁ U+A981
Kawi  𑼁 𑼒𑼁 U+11F01
Khmer  ំ កំ U+17C6
Lao  ໍ ກໍ U+0ECD
Sundanese  ᮀ ᮊᮀ U+1B80
Tai Tham (mai kang)  ᩴ ᨠᩴ U+1A74
Thai  ํ กํ U+0E4D

See also


  1. ^ Ohala (1983, p. 90) lists five more such words: dhaṃs- "to sink", phaṃs- "to be stuck", haṃslī "a necklace", haṃsiyā "a sickle" and haṃsī "laughter".


  1. ^ a b c Allen 1953, p. 40.
  2. ^ Whitney, cited in Emeneau 1946, p. 91
  3. ^ Varma 1961, pp. 148–55.
  4. ^ Emeneau 1946, p. 91.
  5. ^ Cardona 2013.
  6. ^ Allen 1953, p. 41.
  7. ^ William Bright, "The Devanagari Script", in Daniels & Bright, The World's Writing Systems, OUP, 1996.
  8. ^ The following rules are from Ohala (1983, pp. 87–90)
  9. ^ See an example in Pandey, Anshuman (April 25, 2017). "Proposal to encode a nasal character in Vedic Extensions" (PDF). Unicode. L2/17-117R. Archived (PDF) from the original on Oct 8, 2022.
  10. ^ Chenchiah, P.; Rao, Raja Bhujanga (1988). A History of Telugu Literature. Asian Educational Services. p. 18. ISBN 81-206-0313-3.
  11. ^ A, Srinidhi; A, Sridatta (2016-10-20). "L2/16-285: Proposal to encode the Telugu Sign Combining Anusvara Above" (PDF). Unicode.