Not everyone can type using Esperanto's diacritics at all times, so we have the h- and x-systems to allow writers to continue to write Esperanto words.

On the whole, which system is more popular, and why isn't the other more popular?

I most often use and see the x-system, but I do often see h-system users

8 Answers 8


In my anecdotal experience on the Internet I see the x-system vastly more often than the h-system. It has the major advantage that there is less ambiguity so it is easier to automatically convert away from it. If an automatic system is used with the h-system it would need to have special exceptions to cope with words like flughaveno.

However the h-system is the one officially backed by Zamenhof which gives it a lot of weight. I have a feeling the h-system is more common amongst people who learnt Esperanto before the Internet age because in that case the automatic conversion was less of an issue.

Some evidence can be gathered with a quick search on Telegram for the following words:

manĝas: 170 results

mangxas: 35 results

manghas: 0 results

However it's worth stressing that in this day and age there are very few situations where it is not possible to type the letters correctly and using either system just appears lazy and inconsiderate of the reader. Even if someone doesn't want to take the time to find a suitable way to type the letters on their system it is still reasonably easy to convert the text using a webpage such as this one before posting it.

  • 1
    To amplify this, the main support for the "h" system is based on it being in the Fundamento, but what the Fundamento says is "If it be found impraticable to print works with the diacritical signs (^,˘), the letter h may be substituted for the sign (^), and the sign (˘), may be altogether omitted." Arguably it is never "impraticable" to us the diacritical marks now, so this no longer applies!
    – conor
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 22:49
  • 2
    I don't agree that it is never impractical.... But as you said, one can argue the point. Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 0:43
  • 1
    @CharlotteSL: impracticable and impractical are not synonyms... impracticable is closer to impossible.
    – Max
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 8:36
  • 1
    @conor Esperanto has 28 letters so you would run out of letters if you continued that approach. I personally really like the circumflexes. Computers are supposed to help us, not the other way around. If we change our ways to help the computer instead then we are just getting one step closer to the robot apocalypse where we are slaves to our robotic overlords. Is that what you want?
    – Neil Roberts
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 12:15
  • 1
    No, not at all, as I tried to say above, I regard this as no longer a problem. Arguably it was a problem in the past and may have slowed down the spread of the language and if so that's too be regretted, Zamenhof himself considered reforms, but now, the diacritics are easy to use and preserve the one letter one sound rule which, as you point out, would be list in any reform.
    – conor
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 12:33

Through my personal experience, the x-system is by far the more popular of the 2 methods. I can only recall a few times where I've seen the h-system used outside of showing what the h-system looks like. Though IIRC the h-system is the original method proposed by Zamenhof himself, if that's worth anything.


People definitely use the x-system more. However, as Neil Roberts noted above, the h-system seems to be slightly more popular with older Esperanto speakers, who learned before computers existed or were so popular, and it is considered to be the official alternative.

Joop Eggen mentioned that the h-system looks more pleasing to the eye for non-Esperanto speakers. I think this is definitely true, because it makes it resemble a "natural" language more closely. However I have found that after knowing Esperanto for a long time, the h-system looks annoying to me and the x-system is something I barely notice. I see the x-system much more often so my brain processes it easily, while the h-system is infrequently used, making it jarring and unattractive to me.

  • I really dislike the argument about "natural" languages. Anyone who learns one or two foreign languages (especially languages from different language-families) know that very little can be taken for granted. Anything you know about orthography, phonetics, syllables, stress, grammar, verb tenses, etc. will be challenged when you learn another language. Ch is not any more natural than Cx. The Gi and Ghi sounds are reversed in Italian. Jh and Hh? Do they even happen in any other language?
    – marcus
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 21:33
  • @marcus "natural" I here understand as being more recognizable internationally. ch and sh do appear in other languages. Esperanto does not solely orient itself to its own speakers. Words should be international. The other contrary factors being word stems and disambiguation (no homonyms). That and (may I say it) Ido make an argument pro h-system. Myself I often use the x-system, but I am aware it is an Esperanto-(sub)cultural (=popular) artefact; just as malsanulejo is more popular than hospitalo.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 7:08

I personally prefer the x-system for two reasons:

  1. Because x is not a letter in the Esperanto alphabet, there is never any confusion as to whether it is a letter in the word or a substitute for a circumflex. If I search, I can come up with a couple of examples of words in which the h can be interpreted either way, but they're rare. The real problem is that it makes the text slower for me to read.
  2. Because x appears later in the alphabet than anything but z, it makes cx sort after c, etc. in all but the rarest cases. That isn't true at all for the h-system.

Of those two reasons, I'd guess most people only care about the first one.


I believe there was an addendum added in the Fundamento to make way for the x-system, though it still officially prefers the h-system in cases where the x-system isn't more practical. That being said, it's more or less a mute point considering that whichever way is easily translatable.

  • Depends on where you are using it. The h-system is not a system that allows for automatically updating it. The x-system is not ambiguous, so for any page where you might run a program to analyze it change to diacritics, for example, the x-system is preferable. Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 0:45

The h-system came first, and is more natural "charma", "Chehhoslovakio", "shi" - it has more appeal to non-Esperantists. The x-system is ugly, but ideal for automatic conversion.

But the x-system is far more in use. Even when automatic translation is not a factor (sms, skype, chat). A cultural thing.

  • 1
    I think a lot of people don't like it because of ambiguity. How do you specify between "flughaveno" and "fluĝaveno"? In the H-system, they're identical.
    – IBPX
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 3:13
  • @IBPX though people can live with far greater ambiguity in other languages. A sense of perfectionism (no ambiguity) would be one explanation, a non-compromising radicalism an other. Personally I go to some effort to use diacritics, Ibp̂, would write in longer more valuable texts maybe x (if not at home), and for e-mail would adapt to my audience, with x the most frequent choice.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:33
  • If you are using the H-system, it would be much more considerate to your readers to always write flug-haveno, with an hyphen.
    – marcus
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 23:54

I've seen the X-system more, maybe due to programs that replace X by the diacritic automatically, but some people, including me personally, use the H-system. Some people prefer the X-system because it's unambiguous, but the H-system isn't necessarily ambiguous: You can write an apostrophe for ch gh hh jh sh when they appear in the middle of a word, as in flug'haveno; for au and eu it's normally not necessary, but there are some words that need it, is it traŭmata or tra-umata? I'd write tra'umata there, or tra-umata. So the H-system has it's problems, but it looks more natural, also it's Zamenhofa.


I see the x- system more, and I personally use that system because esperanto doesn't use 'x' so anytime it appears it's immediately apparent what the intention is. When the h-system is used, you have to first parse the word with an h and then go back and re-parse it if it doesn't make sense.

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.