Devanagari, or ‘(writing) of the town (nagari), (originating from) the gods’, is a beautiful Indian script used to write Sanskrit. The name was given by pandits, Hindu scholars, before being widely used by 18th-century missionaries.
Nagari is a vernacular language. It is also the name given to a recent form of Brahmi script. It is a syllabic script: each consonant is followed by a short a that can be altered or muted by using a diacritic – except at the beginning of a word when a diacritic has the value of a syllable. Groups of consonants are penned with ligatures.
Brahmi script can be traced back to the 3rd century BC. Although it is most likely of Semitic origin, this has not been confirmed. It could also be an offshoot of the Phoenician alphabet.