Kzinti Language

Kzinti are a highly aggressive, cat-like and warlike interstellar species, one of the most prominent in Known Space. The Kzinti Empire fought, and lost, four interstellar wars with Humans.


Kzinti count in octal, which means decimal-ten is represented a o12, d100 as o144 and so on. Script is based on claw-carvings in wood and is often described as 'dots and commas' by humans.

The language sounds clashing and terrible to human ears, but is in fact pitched and cased with several modes; mode being dependent upon who you are talking to. Although there is only one main language (the Heroes' Tongue), it has many modes including Mocking, Deferential, Technical and Royal, which is only spoken to and by royalty(the Patriarch and his kin). A human with plenty of spit and a good falsetto can learn the basic mode of the H. T. and be understood anywhere, but pronunciation will be difficult; similarly Kzinti can learn to speak Terran with some difficulty.

Flora and Fauna

zheerekti, n. Judging by the kzinti reaction to this plant, it contains a substance much like catnip.
kz'eerkt, n. Kz'eerekti pl. Looks and acts very much like a monkey: humans (derog).
kshat, n. A herbivore capable of digesting offal: An insulting term for one behaving as a kshat. [O.K. /Kshauvat/, eater-of-offal].
raaairtwo, A large herbivore. 2 metres high at the shoulder, covered in n. shaggy orange hair, it typically weighs in at about twelve tons. It has the temperment of a rhino, and with the spiked ball on it's tail, is well capable of defending itself.
sthondat, n. 'unfit for kzinti consumption'. Sthondats feature in a great many colourful kzinti insults, and an extract of the blood is used by telepaths.
terrenki, n. A rather strong, fast animal which fights ferociously when cornered
vatach, n. A creature analogous to an earless Terran rabbit. The meat is reputedly tasty, but the animal is considered too tame for kzinti sport.
zianyas, n. A herbivore, and a favoured kzinti food
ztirgor, n. . A herd beast used by the kzinti for freight haulage


arow /A'row/ prn. That.
ch'rowl /ch'RAOWl/ vt. to have sex with; vi. the act of mating, highly emotive sexual trigger word.
chss /chSS/ adv. No.
chssee /chSSE~/ adv. Not.
chugra /chug'ra/ n. Spear.
h'rr /hr~/ cas. Interrogative modifier; conversational fill-syllable ('um...' 'er...').
hrung /Hr~ng/ v. To think (1st sing. 'hrunge').
hvraf ' /h'vR~AF-/ v. To scent.
k'tze /KTsey/ adv. That I-
kchee /kch'EE/ prn. Giant: extremely large.
kreera /creer'a/ n. A saw-edged kzinti short sword.
kshat /cssh'AT/ n. An offal-eating herbivore; prn. expression of disgust with.
kshinn /csh'in/ n. The sun of Homeworld, any local star.
kzaii /cs'ai/ vengance.
kzarr /cs'ar~/ vengeful.
kzinrret /ksin'R~ET/ n. kzinti female.
kzintosh /ksin'TOSH/ n. kzinti male
maarra /maR~'a/ n. Tool.
mearowet'aatrurre /me'AROW'et'atru'R~E/ v. To follow on from, to be led by.
prret /PR~'t/ n. (arch.) courtesan, pornocrat.
reet'ss /reet'SS/ n. Meeting.
Riit /reEt/ p.n. A member of the patriarchal family.
sero /se'ro/ prn. ...This.
su /soo/ v. To slash.
t' /t-/ adv. To.
t'kzintar /t'KSINtar/ n. warrior, hunter, provider
tai /ti/ v. To be; adv. emphasises previous verb.
ta'sskin /ta'SS'kin/ n. Animal, non-kzin, alien.
tauurre' /TAU~'r~e/ v. To terminate, to stop.
tui /twi/ n. The prey.
tza /tsa~/ v. To be present.
u'- /ao'.../ cas. Genitive casing - belonging to ...
wtsai /wt'SAI/ n. Ceremonial duelling knife, a symbol of virility (arch.).
ya-nar /yah-NAR/ n. Defier of.

Moods And Gestures

Thus: H'rrearow t'chsee mearrowet'aatruure -> This does not follow.

Ya-nar kshinn -> Sun-defier (name of proven vessel)

Body language is, of course, very different from that of humans. A list of kzinti expressions and gestures follows:

worry A flattening of the fur.
frustration Open-shut flare of nostrils, ticking noise from throat.
readiness Ears laid flat.
'smile' Twitching of ears.
slyness Slight lidding of eyelids. Could also mean calculating thought.
laughter Twitching of ear & tail.
dismissive shrug Yawn.
puzzlement Careful sniffs of air, slight raise of muzzle.
threat Careful sniffs of air, slight raise of muzzle.
salute Claw rake in front of own face.

The tail is a great indicator of a kzin's mood. A lashing tail signifies worry. A dragging tail shows depression, a raised tail happiness. If the kzin's tail is hidden between it's legs, it is badly frightened. A slow, teasing motion of a kzinrret's tail-tip is considered extremely sexy by males, as is a cool, defiant stare. (cf. Cathouse)

The ears, too are highly expressive - a twitching indicates amusement, laid flat they indicate nervousness or readiness; and fanned out they indicate intent concentration or alertness.

Sitting, standing or lying down with the legs splayed is considered obscene in both males and females.

Body language is also important in social encounters. Those of lower social status keep their eyes averted, except when challenging (and that in it's correct place). Submission is signaled by covering of nose with paws, prostrating oneself or, in extreme circumstances, exposing belly and throat. A kzin who is about to attack or challenge will often adopt a threatening posture. The ears fold back to prevent them from being ripped or torn, the fur bottles out to hide the shape of the flesh, the tail becomes stiff and erect, ready to whip an opponents legs from under him. The lips pull back from the fangs in challenge, and the claws emerge ready for a fight. A kzin in this posture is about one second away from screaming and leaping - a favoured method of attack.

Kzinti also use scent a lot. They scent-mark with glands in cheeks and hands, occasionally using their urine. Their hormones are far more active than humans: a gingery smell signals excitement - either anger or fear.


Click HERE to download the zipped font

Kzinti.ttf VERSION 2.00 READ ME
27 April 2002
Daniel U. Thibault

Well, we've got fonts for nearly every major fictional alien race out there in SF TV/Movie Land, from Babylon 5 to Star Trek by way of Star Wars.

But what of Larry Niven's Kzinti?

I have been able to find only two attempts at pictorial representations of this "dots-and-commas" script. Neither was very pleasing in my opinion, and neither was a font. So I had to make one up.

The two pictures (Kzinti.gif and Kzinti Sample.gif) show my resulting font. It looks best printed (300+ dpi) or at large screen sizes (24+ pt).

Note that the "c" is meant to be a "ch" or "sh", and that there are no Q, X, 8 or 9.

In Larry Niven's Known Space, we learn that the Kzinti script evolved from claw markings in wood. This would influence the script the same way that runes were. Runes were also mostly graven in wood, so they had no transverse strokes --to avoid going across the grain. So I figured Kzinti markings would be dots (a simple peck of the claw) or vertical scratches with a twist (commas). This gives us a basic sub-glyph set of five symbols (the period and the vertical and horizontal mirror images of the comma). Not enough for a full alphabet, obviously, so letters and other symbols must be small groupings of dots and commas. I chose a roughly two by three matrix as my basic glyph

The numbers only go from 0 to 7, since the Kzin have an octal (base eight) numeral system. I used the dot as a "one" and one of the commas as a "two". Simple superpositions supply the numbers 3 through 7. I used what should by all logic be an 8 for the zero --I didn't want to use a blank. The remaining symbols follow a strict convention of having a dot at the lower left, to minimize confusion when symbols run into each other. The other sub-glyph at the lower right serves to regroup the symbols.

The vowels (plus H, W and Y) form one group, plosive, sibilant and labial consonants three more (with the appropriate correspondences being apparent when the symbols are compared; for example, B and P only differ by the lower right sub-glyph). The last group (which uses the double-dot base) contains the miscellaneous symbols --punctuation, mathematical, etc.

I originally made this font with a combination of Corel Draw 4 and Softy 1.07b; after a four year hiatus, I revised it thoroughly using Font Creator Program 3 and some home-made software tools.

Version History

2.00 27 April 2002; Complete overhaul, added characters
1.11 07 January 2001; re-release
1.10 02 April 2000 re-release
1.04 04 August 1998; Rebuilt using Softy 1.07b
1.03 Rebuilt using Softy 1.07a
1.00 12 March 1998; Original release (Softy 1.06b)

Feedback is welcome to Daniel U. Thibault