Last updated

C c
(See below)
C cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
Type Alphabetic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ c ]
[ k ]
[ t͡ʃ ]
[ t͡s ( ʰ )]
[ d͡ʒ ]
[ ʃ ]
[ ]
[ ʕ ]
[ ʔ ]
[ θ ]
Unicode valueU+0043, U+0063
Alphabetical position3
Numerical value: 3
Variations(See below)
Associated numbers3
C in copyright symbol Copyright.svg
C in copyright symbol

C is the third letter in the English alphabet and a letter of the alphabets of many other writing systems which inherited it from the Latin alphabet. It is also the third letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is named cee (pronounced /s/ ) in English. [1]

Letter (alphabet) grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing

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

English alphabet Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters, each having an uppercase and a lowercase form

The modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters, each having an upper- and lower-case form. The same letters constitute the ISO basic Latin alphabet. The alphabet's current form originated in about the 7th century from the Latin script. Since then, various letters have been added, or removed, to give the current Modern English alphabet of 26 letters:

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.



Old Latin
C (G)
Phoenician gimel.svg Jiim-individua.svg Gimel Hebrew.svg Gamma uc lc.svg EtruscanC-01.svg Old Latin G.svg

"C" comes from the same letter as "G". The Semites named it gimel. The sign is possibly adapted from an Egyptian hieroglyph for a staff sling, which may have been the meaning of the name gimel. Another possibility is that it depicted a camel, the Semitic name for which was gamal. Barry B. Powell, a specialist in the history of writing, states "It is hard to imagine how gimel = "camel" can be derived from the picture of a camel (it may show his hump, or his head and neck!)". [2]

Semitic people group of people, culture and languages in Middle East

Semites, Semitic people or Semitic cultures was a term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group who speak or spoke the Semitic languages.

Gimel is the third letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Gīml , Hebrew ˈGimel ג, Aramaic Gāmal , Syriac Gāmal ܓ, and Arabic ǧīm ج. Its sound-value in the original Phoenician and in all derived alphabets, save Arabic, is a voiced velar plosive ; in Modern Standard Arabic, it represents either a or for most Arabic speakers except in Lower Egypt, the southern parts of Yemen and some parts of Oman where it is pronounced as a voiced velar plosive, see below and also Persian Gaf گ.

Egyptian hieroglyphs Formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians

Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters. Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing, as was the Proto-Siniatic script that later evolved into the Phoenician alphabet. Through the Phoenician alphabet's major child systems, the Greek and Aramaic scripts, the Egyptian hieroglyphic script is ancestral to the majority of scripts in modern use, most prominently the Latin and Cyrillic scripts and the Arabic script and Brahmic family of scripts.

In the Etruscan language, plosive consonants had no contrastive voicing, so the Greek 'Γ' (Gamma) was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet to represent /k/. Already in the Western Greek alphabet, Gamma first took a ' Early Etruscan C.gif ' form in Early Etruscan, then ' Classical Etruscan C.gif ' in Classical Etruscan. In Latin it eventually took the 'c' form in Classical Latin. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters 'c k q' were used to represent the sounds /k/ and /ɡ/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, 'q' was used to represent /k/ or /ɡ/ before a rounded vowel, 'k' before 'a', and 'c' elsewhere. [3] During the 3rd century BC, a modified character was introduced for /ɡ/, and 'c' itself was retained for /k/. The use of 'c' (and its variant 'g') replaced most usages of 'k' and 'q'. Hence, in the classical period and after, 'g' was treated as the equivalent of Greek gamma, and 'c' as the equivalent of kappa; this shows in the romanization of Greek words, as in 'ΚΑΔΜΟΣ', 'ΚΥΡΟΣ', and 'ΦΩΚΙΣ' came into Latin as 'cadmvs', 'cyrvs' and 'phocis', respectively.

Etruscan language Ancient Mediterranean language

The Etruscan language was the spoken and written language of the Etruscan civilization, in Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Corsica, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy and Campania. Etruscan influenced Latin, but eventually was completely superseded by it. The Etruscans left around 13,000 inscriptions which have been found so far, only a small minority of which are of significant length; some bilingual inscriptions with texts also in Latin, Greek, or Phoenician; and a few dozen loanwords, such as the name Roma, but Etruscan's influence was significant. Attested from 700 BC to AD 50, the relation of Etruscan to other languages has been a source of long-running speculation and study, with its being referred to at times as an isolate, one of the Tyrsenian languages, and a number of other less well-known possibilities.

Phonation Process of creating phonetic sounds

The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology and speech production in general. Phoneticians in other subfields, such as linguistic phonetics, call this process voicing, and use the term phonation to refer to any oscillatory state of any part of the larynx that modifies the airstream, of which voicing is just one example. Voiceless and supra-glottal phonations are included under this definition.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Other alphabets have letters homoglyphic to 'c' but not analogous in use and derivation, like the Cyrillic letter Es (С, с) which derives from the lunate sigma, named due to its resemblance to the crescent moon.

Homoglyph a visually similar character

In orthography and typography, a homoglyph is one of two or more graphemes, characters, or glyphs with shapes that appear identical or very similar. The designation is also applied to sequences of characters sharing these properties.

Cyrillic script alphabetic writing system

The Cyrillic script is a writing system used for various alphabets across Eurasia, particularly in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and North Asia. It is based on the Early Cyrillic alphabet developed during the 9th century AD at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire. It is the basis of alphabets used in various languages, especially those of Orthodox Slavic origin, and non-Slavic languages influenced by Russian. As of 2011, around 250 million people in Eurasia use it as the official alphabet for their national languages, with Russia accounting for about half of them. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official script of the European Union, following Latin and Greek.

Es (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

Es is a letter of the Cyrillic script.

Later use

When the Roman alphabet was introduced into Britain, c represented only /k/, and this value of the letter has been retained in loanwords to all the insular Celtic languages: in Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, c represents only /k/. The Old English Latin-based writing system was learned from the Celts, apparently of Ireland; hence c in Old English also originally represented /k/; the Modern English words kin, break, broken, thick, and seek, all come from Old English words written with c: cyn, brecan, brocen, þicc, and séoc. But during the course of the Old English period, /k/ before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) were palatalized, having changed by the tenth century to [tʃ], though c was still used, as in cir(i)ce, wrecc(e)a. On the continent, meanwhile, a similar phonetic change had also been going on (for example, in Italian).

Insular Celtic languages are a group of Celtic languages that originated in Britain and Ireland, in contrast to the Continental Celtic languages of mainland Europe and Anatolia. All surviving Celtic languages are from the Insular Celtic group, including the one which is now spoken in Continental Europe; the Continental Celtic languages are extinct. The six Insular Celtic languages of modern times are divided into two groups:

Welsh language Brythonic language spoken natively in Wales

Welsh or y Gymraeg is a member of the Brittonic branch of the Celtic languages of the Indo-European language family. It is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa. Historically, it has also been known in English as "Cambrian", "Cambric" and "Cymric".

Irish language Goidelic (Gaelic) language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish, aka Gaeilge or Gaelic, is a member of the Goidelic language branch of the Celtic languages of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country.

In Vulgar Latin, /k/ became palatalized to [tʃ] in Italy and Dalmatia; in France and the Iberian peninsula, it became [ts]. Yet for these new sounds c was still used before the letters e and i. The letter thus represented two distinct values. Subsequently, the Latin phoneme /kʷ/ (spelled qv) de-labialized to /k/ meaning that the various Romance languages had /k/ before front vowels. In addition, Norman used the letter k so that the sound /k/ could be represented by either k or c, the latter of which could represent either /k/ or /ts/ depending on whether it preceded a front vowel letter or not. The convention of using both c and k was applied to the writing of English after the Norman Conquest, causing a considerable re-spelling of the Old English words. Thus while Old English candel, clif, corn, crop, cú, remained unchanged, Cent, cæ´ᵹ (cé´ᵹ), cyng, brece, séoce, were now (without any change of sound) spelled 'Kent', 'keȝ', 'kyng', 'breke', and 'seoke'; even cniht ('knight') was subsequently changed to 'kniht' and þic ('thick') changed to 'thik' or 'thikk'. The Old English 'cw' was also at length displaced by the French 'qu' so that the Old English cwén ('queen') and cwic ('quick') became Middle English 'quen' 'quik', respectively. The sound [tʃ], to which Old English palatalized /k/ had advanced, also occurred in French, chiefly from Latin /k/ before 'a'. In French it was represented by the digraph ch, as in champ (from Latin camp-um) and this spelling was introduced into English: the Hatton Gospels, written about 1160, have in Matt. i-iii, child, chyld, riche, mychel, for the cild, rice, mycel, of the Old English version whence they were copied. In these cases, the Old English c gave place to k qu ch but, on the other hand, c in its new value of /ts/ came in largely in French words like processiun, emperice, grace, and was also substituted for 'ts' in a few Old English words, as miltse, bletsien, in early Middle English milce, blecien. By the end of the thirteenth century both in France and England, this sound /ts/ de-affricated to /s/; and from that time c has represented /s/ before front vowels either for etymological reasons, as in lance, cent, or to avoid the ambiguity due to the "etymological" use of s for /z/, as in ace, mice, once, pence, defence.

Norman language Romance language

Norman is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name Norman-French is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, the written forms of Norman and modern French are mutually intelligible. This intelligibility was largely caused by the Norman language's planned adaptation to French orthography.

Middle English Stage of the English language from about the 12th through 15th centuries

Middle English was a form of the English language, spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.

Etymology Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

Thus, to show etymology, English spelling has advise, devise (instead of advize, devize), while advice, device, dice, ice, mice, twice, etc., do not reflect etymology; example has extended this to hence, pence, defence, etc., where there is no etymological reason for using c. Former generations also wrote sence for sense. Hence, today the Romance languages and English have a common feature inherited from Vulgar Latin spelling conventions where c takes on either a "hard" or "soft" value depending on the following letter.

Use in writing systems


In English orthography, c generally represents the "soft" value of /s/ before the letters e (including the Latin-derived digraphs ae and oe, or the corresponding ligatures æ and œ), i, and y, and a "hard" value of /k/ before any other letters or at the end of a word. However, there are a number of exceptions in English: "soccer" and "Celt" are words that have /k/ where /s/ would be expected.

The "soft" c may represent the /ʃ/ sound in the digraph ci when this precedes a vowel, as in the words 'delicious' and 'appreciate', and also in the word "ocean" and its derivatives.

The digraph ch most commonly represents // , but can also represent /k/ (mainly in words of Greek origin) or /ʃ/ (mainly in words of French origin). For some dialects of English, it may also represent /x/ in words like loch, while other speakers pronounce the final sound as /k/ . The trigraph tch always represents // .

The digraph ck is often used to represent the sound /k/ after short vowels.

Other languages

In the Romance languages French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, c generally has a "hard" value of /k/ and a "soft" value whose pronunciation varies by language. In French, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish from Latin America and southern Spain, the soft c value is /s/ as it is in English. In the Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain, the soft c is a voiceless dental fricative /θ/. In Italian and Romanian, the soft c is [t͡ʃ].

All Balto-Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, as well as Albanian, Hungarian, Pashto, several Sami languages, Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, and Americanist phonetic notation (and those aboriginal languages of North America whose practical orthography derives from it) use c to represent /t͡s/, the voiceless alveolar or voiceless dental sibilant affricate. In romanized Mandarin Chinese, the letter represents an aspirated version of this sound, /t͡sʰ/.

Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, c represents a variety of sounds. Yup'ik, Indonesian, Malay, and a number of African languages such as Hausa, Fula, and Manding share the soft Italian value of /t͡ʃ/. In Azeri, Crimean Tatar, Kurmanji Kurdish, and Turkish c stands for the voiced counterpart of this sound, the voiced postalveolar affricate /d͡ʒ/. In Yabem and similar languages, such as Bukawa, c stands for a glottal stop /ʔ/. Xhosa and Zulu use this letter to represent the click /ǀ/. In some other African languages, such as Beninese Yoruba, c is used for /ʃ/. In Fijian, c stands for a voiced dental fricative /ð/, while in Somali it has the value of /ʕ/.

The letter c is also used as a transliteration of Cyrillic ц in the Latin forms of Serbian, Macedonian, and sometimes Ukrainian, along with the digraph ts.

Other systems

As a phonetic symbol, lowercase c is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal plosive, and capital C is the X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal fricative.


There are several common digraphs with c, the most common being ch , which in some languages (such as German) is far more common than c alone. ch takes various values in other languages.

As in English, ck, with the value /k/, is often used after short vowels in other Germanic languages such as German and Swedish (but some other Germanic languages use kk instead, such as Dutch and Norwegian). The digraph cz is found in Polish and cs in Hungarian, both representing /t͡ʃ/. The digraph sc represents /ʃ/ in Old English, Italian, and a few languages related to Italian (where this only happens before front vowels, while otherwise it represents /sk/). The trigraph sch represents /ʃ/ in German.

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Add to C with diacritics

Derived ligatures, abbreviations, signs and symbols

Computing codes

Unicode 67U+004399U+0063
UTF-8 67439963
Numeric character reference CCcc
EBCDIC family195 {{#ifeq:0| 0C3131 {{#ifeq:0| 083
ASCII 167 {{#ifeq:0| 04399 {{#ifeq:0| 063
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Charlie –·–·
ICS Charlie.svg Semaphore Charlie.svg Sign language C.svg Braille C3.svg
Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) Braille

See also

Related Research Articles

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.

K letter of the Latin Alphabet

K is the eleventh letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. In English, the letter K usually represents the voiceless velar plosive.

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.

X letter of the Latin alphabet

X is the 24th and antepenultimate letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Z Last letter of the Latin alphabet

Z is the 26th and final letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Ç letter

Ç or ç (c-cedilla) is a Latin script letter, used in the Albanian, Azerbaijani, Manx, Tatar, Turkish, Turkmen, Kurdish and Zazaki alphabets. Romance languages that use this letter include French, Friulian, Ligurian, Occitan, Portuguese and Catalan as a variant of the letter C. It is also occasionally used in Crimean Tatar, and in Tajik when written in the Latin script to represent the sound. It is often retained in the spelling of loanwords from any of these languages in English, Dutch, Spanish, Basque, and other Latin script spelled languages.

Finnish orthography is based on the Latin script, and uses an alphabet derived from the Swedish alphabet, officially comprising 29 letters but also has 2 additional letters in some loanwords. The Finnish orthography strives to represent all morphemes phonologically and, roughly speaking, the sound value of each letter tends to correspond with its value in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) – although some discrepancies do exist.

A caron, háček or haček also known as a hachek, wedge, check, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, is a diacritic commonly placed over certain letters in the orthography of some Baltic, Slavic, Finnic, Samic, Berber, and other languages to indicate a change in the related letter's pronunciation.

Digraph (orthography) pair of characters used to write one phoneme

A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used in the orthography of a language to write either a single phoneme, or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined.

Italian orthography uses a variant of the Latin alphabet consisting of 21 letters to write the Italian language.

Esh is a character used in conjunction with the Latin script. Its lowercase form ʃ is similar to a long s ſ or an integral sign ∫; in 1928 the Africa Alphabet borrowed the Greek letter Sigma for the uppercase form Ʃ, but more recently the African reference alphabet discontinued it, using the lowercase esh only. The lowercase form was introduced by Isaac Pitman in his 1847 Phonotypic Alphabet to represent the voiceless postalveolar fricative. It is today used in the International Phonetic Alphabet, as well as in the alphabets of some African languages.

Ch (digraph) latin-script digraph

Ch is a digraph in the Latin script. It is treated as a letter of its own in Chamorro, Old Spanish, Czech, Slovak, Igbo, Kazakh, Uzbek, Quechua, Guarani, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Belarusian Łacinka alphabets. In Vietnamese and Modern Spanish, it also used to be considered a letter for collation purposes but this is no longer common.

In the Latin-based orthographies of many European languages, a distinction between hard and soft ⟨c⟩ occurs in which ⟨c⟩ represents two distinct phonemes. The sound of a hard ⟨c⟩ is that of the voiceless velar stop, while the sound of a soft ⟨c⟩, depending on language, may be a fricative or affricate. In English, the sound of soft ⟨c⟩ is.


  1. "C" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "cee", op. cit.
  2. Powell, Barry B. (27 Mar 2009). Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization. Wiley Blackwell. p. 182. ISBN   978-1405162562.
  3. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN   0-19-508345-8.
  4. 1 2 Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  5. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).
  6. West, Andrew; Chan, Eiso; Everson, Michael (2017-01-16). "L2/17-013: Proposal to encode three uppercase Latin letters used in early Pinyin" (PDF).
  7. Everson, Michael (2005-08-12). "L2/05-193R2: Proposal to add Claudian Latin letters to the UCS" (PDF).
  8. Everson, Michael; Baker, Peter; Emiliano, António; Grammel, Florian; Haugen, Odd Einar; Luft, Diana; Pedro, Susana; Schumacher, Gerd; Stötzner, Andreas (2006-01-30). "L2/06-027: Proposal to add Medievalist characters to the UCS" (PDF).