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B b
(See below)
B cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
English alphabet
ISO basic Latin alphabet
Type Alphabetic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ b ]
[ p ]
[ ɓ ]
(Adapted variations)
Unicode valueU+0042, U+0062
Alphabetical position2
Numerical value: 2
Time periodunknown to present
Sisters Б

Բ բ
Variations(See below)
Other letters commonly used with bv

Associated numbers2

B or b (pronounced /b/ BEE) [1] [2] is the second letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It represents the voiced bilabial stop in many languages, including English. In some other languages, it is used to represent other bilabial consonants.

Letter (alphabet) grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing

A letter is a grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing. It is a visual representation of the smallest unit of spoken sound. Letters broadly correspond to phonemes in the spoken form of the language, although there is rarely a consistent, exact correspondence between letters and phonemes.

The ISO basic Latin alphabet is a Latin-script alphabet and consists of two sets of 26 letters, codified in various national and international standards and used widely in international communication. They are the same letters that comprise the English alphabet.



EgyptianB-01.svg PhoenicianB-01.svg Beta uc lc.svg EtruscanB-01.svg RomanB-01.svg Runic letter berkanan.svg
Modern Roman
UncialB-01.png Insular-b.svg Blackletter b.png Francesco Torniello da Novara Letter B 1517 (coloured).png ModernRomanB-01.png

Old English was originally written in runes, whose equivalent letter was beorc , meaning "birch". Beorc dates to at least the 2nd-century Elder Futhark, which is now thought to have derived from the Old Italic alphabets'   𐌁   either directly or via Latin RomanB-01.png .

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Anglo-Saxon runes system of runes for Old English

Anglo-Saxon runes are runes used by the early Anglo-Saxons as an alphabet in their writing. The characters are known collectively as the futhorc, from the Old English sound values of the first six runes. The futhorc was a development from the 24-character Elder Futhark. Since the futhorc runes are thought to have first been used in Frisia before the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, they have also been called Anglo-Frisian runes. They were likely used from the 5th century onward, recording Old English and Old Frisian.

Birch genus of plants

A birch is a thin-leaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus Betula, in the family Betulaceae, which also includes alders, hazels, and hornbeams. It is closely related to the beech-oak family Fagaceae. The genus Betula contains 30 to 60 known taxa of which 11 are on the IUCN 2011 Red List of Threatened Species. They are a typically rather short-lived pioneer species widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in northern areas of temperate climates and in boreal climates.

The uncial UncialB-01.png and half-uncial Half-uncial b.png introduced by the Gregorian and Irish missions gradually developed into the Insular scripts' Insular-b.svg . These Old English Latin alphabets supplanted the earlier runes, whose use was fully banned under King Canute in the early 11th century. The Norman Conquest popularised the Carolingian half-uncial forms which latter developed into blackletter   Blackletter b.png  . Around 1300, letter case was increasingly distinguished, with upper- and lower-case B taking separate meanings. Following the advent of printing in the 15th century, Holy Roman Empire (Germany) and Scandinavia continued to use forms of blackletter (particularly Fraktur), while England eventually adopted the humanist and antiqua scripts developed in Renaissance Italy from a combination of Roman inscriptions and Carolingian texts. The present forms of the English cursive B were developed by the 17th century.

Uncial script Capital letter-only writing system in Greek and Latin

Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters were used to write Greek, Latin, and Gothic.

Gregorian mission 6th century Christian mission to Britain

The Gregorian mission or Augustinian mission was a Christian mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 596 to convert Britain's Anglo-Saxons. The mission was headed by Augustine of Canterbury. By the time of the death of the last missionary in 653, the mission had established Christianity in southern Britain. Along with the Irish and Frankish missions it converted other parts of Britain as well and influenced the Hiberno-Scottish missions to Continental Europe.

Hiberno-Scottish mission

The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert. There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic missions initiated by Gaelic monks from Ireland and the western coast of modern-day Scotland, which contributed to the spread of Christianity and established monasteries in Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages. The earliest recorded Irish mission can be dated to 563 with the foundation of Iona by the Irish monk Saint Columba. Columba is said by Bede and Adamnán to have ministered to the Gaels of Dál Riada and converted the northern Pictish kingdoms. Over the next centuries more missions followed and spread through Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire. These early missions were, from the 18th and 19th centuries, so-called 'Celtic Christianity', though aside from some idiosyncratic cultural features, it was orthodox and maintained relationships with the Holy See.

The Roman B derived from the Greek capital beta Β via its Etruscan and Cumaean variants. The Greek letter was an adaptation of the Phoenician letter bēt 𐤁. [3] The Egyptian hieroglyph for the consonant /b/ had been an image of a foot and calf   Hiero D58.png  , [4] but bēt (Phoenician for "house") was a modified form of a Proto-Sinaitic glyph   Proto-Canaanite - bet.png   probably adapted from the separate hieroglyph Pr Egyptian-per2.PNG meaning "house". [5] [6] The Hebrew letter beth ב is a separate development of the Phoenician letter. [3]

The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late ninth or early eighth century BC. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the first alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants. In Archaic and early Classical times, the Greek alphabet existed in many different local variants, but, by the end of the fourth century BC, the Eucleidean alphabet, with twenty-four letters, ordered from alpha to omega, had become standard and it is this version that is still used to write Greek today. These twenty-four letters are: Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Π π, Ρ ρ, Σ σ/ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ φ, Χ χ, Ψ ψ, and Ω ω.

Old Italic is one of several now-extinct alphabet systems used on the Italian Peninsula in ancient times for various Indo-European languages and non-Indo-European languages. The alphabets derive from the Euboean Greek Cumaean alphabet, used at Ischia and Cumae in the Bay of Naples in the eighth century BC.

Phoenician alphabet non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. Oldest verified alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, is the oldest verified alphabet. It is an alphabet of abjad type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels. It was used to write Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the ancient civilization of Phoenicia in modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and northern Israel.

By Byzantine times, the Greek letter Β came to be pronounced /v/, [3] so that it is known in modern Greek as víta (still written βήτα). The Cyrillic letter ve В represents the same sound, so a modified form known as be Б was developed to represent the Slavic languages' /b/. [3] (Modern Greek continues to lack a letter for the voiced bilabial plosive and transliterates such sounds from other languages using the digraph/consonant cluster μπ, mp.)

The voiced labiodental fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨v⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is v.

Modern Greek is the form of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The end of the Medieval Greek period and the beginning of Modern Greek is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic modern features of the language arose centuries earlier, between the fourth and the fifteenth centuries AD.

Ve (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

Ve is a letter of the Cyrillic script.

Use in writing systems


In English, b denotes the voiced bilabial stop /b/, as in bib. In English, it is sometimes silent. This occurs particularly in words ending in mb, such as lamb and bomb, some of which originally had a /b/ sound, while some had the letter b added by analogy (see Phonological history of English consonant clusters). The b in debt, doubt, subtle, and related words was added in the 16th century as an etymological spelling, intended to make the words more like their Latin originals (debitum, dubito, subtilis).

English orthography is the system of writing conventions used to represent spoken English in written form that allows readers to connect spelling to sound to meaning.

The voiced bilabial stop is a type of consonantal sound, used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨b⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is b. The voiced bilabial stop occurs in English, and it is the sound denoted by the letter ⟨b⟩ in obey. Many Indian languages, such as Hindustani, distinguish between breathy voiced and plain.

In an alphabetic writing system, a silent letter is a letter that, in a particular word, does not correspond to any sound in the word's pronunciation. Phonetic transcriptions that better depict pronunciation and which note changes due to grammar and proximity of other words require a symbol to show that the letter is mute. Handwritten notes use a circle with a line through it and the sound is called "zero"; It resembles the symbol for the "empty set", but must not be confused with the Danish and Norwegian letter Ø. In printed or computer's graphic presentation, the symbol is used.

As /b/ is one of the sounds subject to Grimm's Law, words which have b in English and other Germanic languages may find their cognates in other Indo-European languages appearing with bh, p, f or φ instead. [3] For example, compare the various cognates of the word brother.

Other languages

Many other languages besides English use b to represent a voiced bilabial stop.

In Estonian, Icelandic, and Chinese Pinyin, b does not denote a voiced consonant. Instead, it represents a voiceless /p/ that contrasts with either a geminated /p:/ (in Estonian) or an aspirated /pʰ/ (in Pinyin, Danish and Icelandic) represented by p. In Fijian b represents a prenasalised /mb/, whereas in Zulu and Xhosa it represents an implosive /ɓ/, in contrast to the digraph bh which represents /b/. Finnish uses b only in loanwords.

Phonetic transcription

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [b] is used to represent the voiced bilabial stop phone. In phonological transcription systems for specific languages, /b/ may be used to represent a lenis phoneme, not necessarily voiced, that contrasts with fortis /p/ (which may have greater aspiration, tenseness or duration).

Other uses

B is also a musical note. In English-speaking countries, it represents Si, the 12th note of a chromatic scale built on C. In Central Europe and Scandinavia, "B" is used to denote B-flat and the 12th note of the chromatic scale is denoted "H". Archaic forms of 'b', the b quadratum (square b, ) and b rotundum (round b, ) are used in musical notation as the symbols for natural and flat , respectively.

In Contracted (grade 2) English braille, 'b' stands for "but" when in isolation.

In computer science, B is the symbol for byte, a unit of information storage.

In engineering, B is the symbol for bel, a unit of level.

In chemistry, B is the symbol for boron, a chemical element.

The blood-type B emoji (🅱️) was added in Unicode 6.0 in 2010, and became a popular internet meme in 2018 where letters would be replaced with the emoji. [7]

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Derived ligatures, abbreviations, signs and symbols

Computing codes

Unicode 66U+004298U+0062
UTF-8 66429862
Numeric character reference BBbb
EBCDIC family194C213082
ASCII 166429862
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Bravo –···
ICS Bravo.svg Semaphore Bravo.svg Sign language B.svg Braille B2.svg
Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) Braille

Related Research Articles

Alphabet A standard set of letters that represent phonemes of a spoken language

An alphabet is a standard set of letters that represent the phonemes of any spoken language it is used to write. This is in contrast to other types of writing systems, such as syllabaries and logographic systems.

D letter in the Latin alphabet

D is the fourth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

F letter in the Latin alphabet

F is the sixth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language. The IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech-language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.

N Letter of the Latin Alphabet

N is the fourteenth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

R letter in the Latin alphabet

R is the 18th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

T letter of the Latin alphabet

T is the 20th letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is derived from the Semitic letter taw via the Greek letter tau. In English, it is most commonly used to represent the voiceless alveolar plosive, a sound it also denotes in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is the most commonly used consonant and the second most common letter in English-language texts.

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 2. In Ancient Greek, beta represented the voiced bilabial plosive. In Modern Greek, it represents the voiced labiodental fricative. Letters that arose from beta include the Roman letter ⟨B⟩ and the Cyrillic letters ⟨Б⟩ and ⟨В⟩.

Voiced bilabial fricative consonantal sound

The voiced bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨β⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B. The symbol ⟨β⟩ is the Greek letter beta.

Be (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

Be is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It commonly represents the voiced bilabial plosive, like the English pronunciation of ⟨b⟩ in "bee". It should not be confused with the Cyrillic letter Ve (В в), which is shaped like Latin capital letter B but represents the voiced labiodental fricative.

The history of alphabetic writing goes back to the consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to this Semitic proto-alphabet. Its first origins can be traced back to a Proto-Sinaitic script developed in Ancient Egypt to represent the language of Semitic-speaking workers in Egypt. This script was partly influenced by the older Egyptian hieratic, a cursive script related to Egyptian hieroglyphs.


  1. "B", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989
  2. "B", Merriam-Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, 1993
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878), "B"  , Encyclopædia Britannica , 3 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 173
  4. Schumann-Antelme, Ruth; Rossini, Stéphane (1998), Illustrated Hieroglyphics Handbook , English translation by Sterling Publishing (2002), pp. 22–23, ISBN   1-4027-0025-3
  5. Goldwasser, Orly (Mar–Apr 2010), "How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs", Biblical Archaeology Review , Vol. 36 (No.&nbsp, 1), Washington: Biblical Archaeology Society, ISSN   0098-9444
  6. It also resembles the hieroglyph for /h/   Hiero O4.png   meaning "manor" or "reed shelter".
  7. "B Button Emoji 🅱". Know Your Meme. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  8. Constable, Peter (30 September 2003). "L2/03-174R2: Proposal to Encode Phonetic Symbols with Middle Tilde in the UCS" (PDF).
  9. Constable, Peter (19 April 2004). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  10. Everson, Michael; et al. (20 March 2002). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).