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Gallifreyan was a Gallifreyan language used by the Time Lords. There were several forms of written Gallifreyan. By the time of the Doctor, the archaic Old High Gallifreyan language used in the days of Rassilon had changed considerably. (TV: The Five Doctors) TARDISes' translation circuits translated neither Old High Gallifreyan nor Gallifreyan written in the Doctor's time. (PROSE: The Price of Paradise, TV: The Time of Angels, A Good Man Goes to War)

Old High Gallifreyan[]

Old High Gallifreyan was the ancient language of the Time Lords. (TV: The Five Doctors) The Eleventh Doctor stated that Old High Gallifreyan once possessed the power to raise empires and destroy gods. (TV: The Time of Angels) He later stated that Old High Gallifreyan had tenses that aided in speaking about time travel. (PROSE: Borrowed Time)

When spoken, Old High Gallifreyan sounded musical to human ears. (PROSE: Cold Fusion, The Cabinet of Light) Honoré Lechasseur perceived a conversation between the Doctor and Mestizer as a song with gibberish words, (PROSE: The Cabinet of Light) and when the Fifth Doctor spoke Old High Gallifreyan with Patience, Adric compared it to a nursery rhyme. (PROSE: Cold Fusion)

The Fifth Doctor identified the Harp of Rassilon from its inscription: Δ:x ◫.ʮ: Øx.[1] A truncated pentagonal pyramid-shaped plinth in the Tomb of Rassilon located in the Death Zone of Gallifrey was inscribed with Old High Gallifreyan writing. Three of its faces read:[1]

Old High Gallifreyan in the Tomb of Rassilon. (TV: The Five Doctors)

Face 1 Face 2 Face 3

The First, Second, and Third Doctors translated the writing:

[T]his is the Tomb of Rassilon, where Rassilon lies in eternal sleep. [A]nyone who's got this far has passed many dangers and shown great courage and determination. "To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose." [W]hoever takes the ring from Rassilon's hand and puts it on shall get the reward he seeks: Immortality.First, Second, and Third Doctor [src]

The written form of Old High Gallifreyan resembled, to English-speaking human eyes, a mixture of Greek letters and mathematical symbols. (TV: The Five Doctors) Marnal manipulated his bottle universe with controls labelled in a language that looked like Greek, but he clarified that it was the "Gallifreyan omegabet." (PROSE: The Gallifrey Chronicles)

The Seventh Doctor claimed that all the best computer programs, such as the one his TARDIS used, were written in ancient High Gallifreyan. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Genesys) On Planet Wet, the Twelfth Doctor wrote a Trojan virus in Ancient High Gallifreyan. (PROSE: Buyer's Remorse)

Old High Gallifreyan was forgotten by all but a few in the Doctor's era. (TV: The Five Doctors) "Mi'en Kalarash" was known to mean as "Blue Fire", (AUDIO: House of Blue Fire) and "valeyard" was said to translate as "learned court prosecutor". (TV: The Mysterious Planet) The First Doctor wrote his Five Hundred Year Diary in High Gallifreyan to make sure no one else could read it. (PROSE: The Power of the Daleks) River Song could write in Old High Gallifreyan, (TV: The Time of Angels) and Susan Foreman used it to write the Doctor's real name on the wrapping paper of a hypercube intended for him. (PROSE: Ghost of Christmas Past)

The label on the Doctor's pot of Sisterhood Salve was written in Old High Gallifreyan. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus)

Within the Doctor's rooms on Gallifrey was a painting of a woman holding a scroll with the words "Death is but a door" written in High Gallifreyan. (PROSE: The Infinity Doctors)

Modern Gallifreyan[]

An example of Gallifreyan script written by the Fourth Doctor. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)

While Old High Gallifreyan was the original language of the Time Lords, it had evolved into a different form by the time of the Doctor. (TV: The Five Doctors)

Two Time Lords looked at an archive of information on the Third Doctor, which displayed a photo and writing in modern Gallifreyan. (TV: Colony in Space)

A script, in a letter written by the Fourth Doctor to warn the High Council of an assassination, was in modern Gallifreyan. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)

The Seventh Doctor left a calling card for the Supreme Dalek in a script other than English. It appeared to include the Greek characters Theta Sigma (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks), which had been an old nickname of the Doctor's. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

Circular Gallifreyan[]

Gallifreyan could also be written using interlocking circles, hexagons and lines. (TV: The End of Time)

An example of the interlocking/overlapping circles. (TV: Utopia)

A complex system of interlocking circles was used by the scanner screens in the Ninth and Tenth Doctor's TARDIS and was seen in the notes that the Doctor scattered around the console room. (TV: Rose onwards)

Simpler handwritten circles appeared on the Betamax tape used by the Tenth Doctor to trap the Wire. The circular text, since scribbled over, presumably stated the tape's contents. (TV: The Idiot's Lantern)

Captain Jack Harkness's office in the Torchwood Hub had windows with circular Gallifreyan engraved on them. (TV: Everything Changes - Children of Earth: Day One) However, these were likely destroyed when a bomb was implanted in him without his knowledge and used to blow up the Hub once he was inside. (TV: Children of Earth: Day One)

The Visionary wrote interlocking circles, which Rassilon and the other Time Lords could understand. One of the words was "Earth." (TV: The End of Time)

The envelope from the Eleventh Doctor inviting River Song to Lake Silencio, and a page from the 1,103-year-old Eleventh Doctor's TARDIS diary, were written in Circular Gallifreyan. (TV: The Impossible Astronaut)

Text in circular Gallifreyan was seen carved into the Doctor's cot. (TV: A Good Man Goes to War)

A blue fire extinguisher that the Eleventh Doctor used on the TARDIS was marked in silver Circular Gallifreyan. (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan)

Gallifreyan text on the TARDIS monitor. (TV: The Snowmen)

The Eleventh Doctor's second TARDIS control room design featured circular Gallifreyan symbols on rotating sections above the main console and time rotor. (TV: The Snowmen)

The Whisper Men showed Clarence DeMarco a map that he had to memorise in Circular Gallifreyan that they demanded he give to Madame Vastra. (HOMEVID: Clarence and the Whispermen) These were space-time coordinates which led to Trenzalore, the final resting place of the Doctor following the Siege of Trenzalore. (TV: The Name of the Doctor)

Circular Gallifreyan writing was written on the sides of the TARDIS exterior after it had entered siege mode. (TV: Flatline)

The blind Twelfth Doctor employed a reading aid which had circular Gallifreyan script on it. (TV: Extremis)

Behind the scenes[]

  • The Making of Doctor Who includes the first appearance of Old High Gallifreyan, before it was named in TV: The Five Doctors. The Doctor's real name is given as a "mathematical formula": ∂³Σx². Other Time Lords are given similar names:[1]
    • Prosecutor: ᔑx²-›‾‹
    • Counsel for the Defense: Δ:ʮ≠β (seen typed as Δ:y≠β)
    • Official Court Reporter: ⵋᵅ/₆🡑∝
    • Court Archivist: Øμ³-∝
  • A secretary of the Order of the White Peacock was named ∞×∑û≠∆ (PROSE: A Choice of Houses)
  • The Gallifreyan spoken by the Doctor in Cold Fusion is represented in the text by Greek type: "Ανδ Ι τυρνεδ αρουνδ ανδ τηευ ςερε αλλ ςεαρινγ ευεπατψηεσ." The passage doesn't actually mean anything in Greek, but if transliterated letter-by-letter to English in the Symbol font the passage becomes "And I turned around and they were all wearing eyepatches," a sly reference to the infamous Eyepatch Story.
  • The design for circular Gallifreyan, popular throughout the BBC Wales series, was devised by graphic artist Jenny Bowers, for the Ninth Doctor's TARDIS in series 1.
  • The number system in circular Gallifreyan, as seen in the chapter headings of the New Series Adventures, was in base seven.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!" on 11DY3 4 Cover D.

  • None of the Gallifreyan languages used in the show have been given translations.
    • A version of Circular Gallifreyan created by Doctor Who fan Loren Sherman made its way onto official Doctor Who merchandise, including one symbol on Arianna Florean's Cover D of The Tragical History Tour: Part 2. The Gallifreyan was created by DeviantArt user phantoms-siren, and is the iconic Sherlock Holmes quote, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!" Additionally, the Official Doctor Who Tumblr has often spotlighted fanmade pieces making use of the Sherman Gallifreyan.[2]
    • Loren Sherman's Gallifreyan writing system has also appeared, albeit vaguely, in the TV show. In Extremis, the device which the Doctor uses to temporarily regain his sight by sacrificing part of his future is briefly shown to have a sentence on it written in a simplified style of Sherman's Gallifreyan. When translated, it appears that it was supposed to read "To be paid back in full", however this intent, while likely, is currently unknown due to the simplified font.

External links[]

  • "Old High Gallifreyan": an article by Jon Preddle on Gallifreyan writing as it appeared in the series pre-2005


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Handwritten symbols transcribed with the closest Unicode character
  2. https://doctorwho.tumblr.com/post/48894076554/thegirlwhopondered-companions-and-their