English alphabet

From Academic Kids

The English language has been written using the Latin alphabet from ca. the 7th century. Since the 5th century, the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc had been used, and both alphabets continued to be used in parallel for some time. Use of the Latin alphabet was influenced by the Futhorc: the letters (thorn) and Template:Unicode (wynn) are derived from runes. The letter (eth) was devised as a modified version of d, and Template:Unicode (yogh) was created by Norman scribes who derived it from the form of the insular g used in Old English and Irish alongside their own Carolingian g. This resulted in an English alphabet which consisted of a total of 27 letters (the 23 letters of the post-1st century BC Latin alphabet, one modified Latin letter, two letters borrowed from Runic, and one letter borrowed from the Insular Latin hand). Additionally, the ligatures w (for vv) and (named "ash", for ae) were in use.

In Modern English orthography, , Template:Unicode, , and Template:Unicode are obsolete, although continued its existence for some time, its lower case form gradually becoming graphically indistinguishable from the minuscule y in most handwritings. On the other hand, u and j were introduced as distinct from v and i in the 16th century, and w assumed the status of an independent letter, so that the English alphabet is now considered to consist of the following 26 letters:

Letter    Letter name (IPA)
A a
B bee
C cee
D dee
E e
F ef
G gee
H aitch or haitch
I i
J jay
K kay
L el
M em
N en
O o
P pee
Q cue
R ar (non-rhotic) or (rhotic) (see rhotic and non-rhotic accents)
S ess
T tee
U u
V vee
W double-u
X ex
Y wye
Z zed or zee (the latter in American English only)

Unfortunately, these common names for the letters are often hard to distinguish from each other when heard. The NATO phonetic alphabet gives each letter a name specifically designed to sound different from any other. Therefore, aircraft pilots and many other people use the NATO phonetic alphabet names instead of these common names.


The letters A, E, I, O, U are vowels; sometimes Y and rarely W function as vowels too, but more often they're semivowels. The remaining letters are consonants. The letter most frequently used in English is E. The least frequent used letters are Q, X, and Z.

The names of the letters are rarely spelled out, except in compound words like tee-shirt, deejay, u-turn, emcee, okay, etc., and derived forms like exed out, effing. The forms listed here are from the Oxford English Dictionary: vowels stand for themselves, and consonants are C+ee or e+C, with the exceptions of aitch, jay, kay, cue, ar, ess, wye, zed.

Diacritic marks are not common in English, appearing mainly in foreign and loan-words such as rsum, nave, and faade. Occasionally, especially in older writing, diacritics are used to indicate the syllables of a word: cursed is pronounced with one syllable, while cursd is pronounced with two. Similarly, there's a chicken coop, where the two vowel letters represent a single vowel sound (a digraph), versus cooperate (from 1604), co-operate (from 1762), or coperate (from 1876), where they represent two. These distinctions are, however, optional, and often unused even where they would serve to alleviate some degree of confusion. See also Written accents in English.

The English alphabet is a form of the Latin alphabet. The lower-case letters, W, and the distinctions between I and J, U and V were introduced in continental Europe during the Middle Ages. The Roman ligatures and Œ are still used in British English for certain words of Greek or Latin origin, such as "encyclopdia" and "cœlom".

In Old English, was adopted as a letter on its own and called sc ("ash"), and in very early Old English Œ also appeared as a distinct letter named œel ("ethel"). Other Old English letters (also used in Middle English and modern Icelandic) are (thorn) and (eth), both now th with the exception of being y in a few archaisms like Ye Olde Booke Shoppe. (When the letter wye was adopted during Middle English, it had a dot over it to distinguish it from thorn, so in such archaisms y without a dot is thorn, not wye.) Other archaic letters are runic Template:Unicode (wynn), now uniformly replaced by W; and a variant form of G, Template:Unicode (yogh), which was later replaced by Y (young), W (bow), or GH (night, laugh). The variant lower-case form Template:Unicode (long s) lasted into early modern English, and was used in non-final position up to the early nineteenth century.

Historically the ampersand (&) was treated as the twenty-seventh letter of the English alphabet, although the figure is properly a ligature for the letters et. It is used to represent the English word and and occasionally the Latin word et, as in the abbreviation &c (et cetera).

See also


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools