Why Bliss?

The system of Blissymbolics has several features which makes it a preferred means of communication for nonspeaking persons, for persons with limited literacy skills, and for persons who are ready and eager to use Bliss to communicate with persons whatever their language background may be.

Blissymbolics is a language with a wide vocabulary, a grammar which allows for sentences in past, future and present tenses, and markers for possession, plurality, questions and commands.

There are many strategies within the system of Blissymbolics which enable the user to create new symbols. It is a totally generative system with each new symbol interpretable by the receiver through analysing the component parts. In the same way that letters represent sounds that are used to create words in print, meaning-based Bliss-characters are sequenced to define the meaning of each compound symbol or Bliss-word.

The full current vocabulary is built from around 1200 such semantic characters. However, since these Bliss-characters are built from a limited number of elements, called key symbols, the learner need only master the meaning of approximately a maximum of 100 to 120 elements.

After all, it is important to remember that Bliss can be introduced and practically used from a very simple and early level, with a wide horizon for language and literacy development at hand.

About Blissymbolics

Blissymbolics is a communication system originally developed by Charles K. Bliss (1897-1985) for the purpose of international communication. It was first applied to the communication of children with physical disabilities by an interdisciplinary team led by Shirley McNaughton at the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre (now the Bloorview MacMillan Centre) in 1971.

The Blissymbolics language is currently composed of over 5,000 graphic symbols. Each symbol or Bliss-word is composed of one or more Bliss-characters which can be combined and recombined in endless ways to create new symbols. Bliss-words can be sequenced to form many types of sentences and express many grammatical capabilities. Simple shapes are used to keep the symbols easy and fast to draw and because both abstract and concrete levels of concepts can be represented, Blissymbolics can be applied both to children and adults and are appropriate for persons with a wide range of intellectual abilities.


  • are quick and easy to learn
  • can be used at a pre-reading level, but are sophisticated enough to allow expression of thoughts, ideas and feelings
  • can be expanded as ability grows


Some symbols are pictographs - they look like the things they represent



Some symbols are ideographs - they represent ideas:



Symbols can be combined to create additional meanings:


For more details on how the Blissymbolics communication system works, please visit our Bliss Workshop.


How You Can Help

There are many ways to facilitate the work of BCI!

  • Take time to acquaint yourself with Bliss. Blissymbolics is easy and fun! Learn about Blissymbols and introduce yourself to a Bliss user in your own community.
  • Become a paying member of BCI, and/or consider to make a donation to support our work.
  • Help us to spread knowledge about, and use of, the fascinating language tool of Blissymbolics. Tell others about Blissymbols and Bliss users and encourage them to join the Bliss language community.
  • Join the BCI Community email list to keep in touch!

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Additional information