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G g
(See below, Typographic)
G cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
Type Alphabetic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ g ]
[ d͡ʒ ]
[ ʒ ]
[ ŋ ]
[ j ]
[ ɣ ~ ʝ ]
[ x ~ χ ]
[ d͡z ]
[ ɟ ]
[ k ]
[ ɠ ]
[ ɢ ]
Unicode valueU+0047, U+0067, U+0261
Alphabetical position7
Bactrian.camel.sideon.arp-2.png (speculated origin)
Time period~-300 to present
  Looptail g.svg
Sisters C

Գ գ
Transliteration equivalents C
Variations(See below, Typographic)
Other letters commonly used with gh, g(x)

G (named gee // ) [1] is the 7th letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

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.



The letter 'G' was introduced in the Old Latin period as a variant of 'C' to distinguish voiced /ɡ/ from voiceless /k/. The recorded originator of 'G' is freedman Spurius Carvilius Ruga, the first Roman to open a fee-paying school, who taught around 230 BCE. At this time, 'K' had fallen out of favor, and 'C', which had formerly represented both /ɡ/ and /k/ before open vowels, had come to express /k/ in all environments.

C letter of the Latin alphabet

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 in English.

Spurius Carvilius Ruga was the freedman of Spurius Carvilius Maximus Ruga. He is often credited with inventing the Latin letter G. His invention would have been quickly adopted in the Roman Republic, because the letter C was, at the time, confusingly used both for the /k/ and /g/ sounds. For example, Ruga's own name contained this confusion: SPVRIVS CARVILIVS RVCA. Ruga was also the first man in recorded history to open a private elementary school.

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.

Ruga's positioning of 'G' shows that alphabetic order related to the letters' values as Greek numerals was a concern even in the 3rd century BC. According to some records, the original seventh letter, 'Z', had been purged from the Latin alphabet somewhat earlier in the 3rd century BC by the Roman censor Appius Claudius, who found it distasteful and foreign. [2] Sampson (1985) suggests that: "Evidently the order of the alphabet was felt to be such a concrete thing that a new letter could be added in the middle only if a 'space' was created by the dropping of an old letter." [3] The 3rd-century-BC addition of the letter G to the Roman alphabet is credited to Spurius Carvilius Ruga. [4]

Greek numerals

Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet. In modern Greece, they are still used for ordinal numbers and in contexts similar to those in which Roman numerals are still used elsewhere in the West. For ordinary cardinal numbers, however, Greece uses Arabic numerals.

Roman censor Roman magistrate responsible for the census and monitoring public morality

The censor was a magistrate in ancient Rome who was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government's finances.

Appius Claudius Caecus Roman politician

Appius Claudius Caecus was a Roman politician from a wealthy patrician family. He was the son of Gaius Claudius Crassus. As censor he was responsible for the construction of Rome's first aqueduct and major road project.

George Hempl proposed in 1899 that there never was such a "space" in the alphabet and that in fact 'G' was a direct descendant of zeta. Zeta took shapes like ⊏ in some of the Old Italic scripts; the development of the monumental form 'G' from this shape would be exactly parallel to the development of 'C' from gamma. He suggests that the pronunciation /k/>/ɡ/ was due to contamination from the also similar-looking 'K'. [5]

Zeta is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 7. It was derived from the Phoenician letter zayin . Letters that arose from zeta include the Roman Z and Cyrillic З.

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.

Roman square capitals ancient Roman style of writing

Roman square capitals, also called capitalis monumentalis, inscriptional capitals, elegant capitals and capitalis quadrata, are an ancient Roman form of writing, and the basis for modern capital letters.

Eventually, both velar consonants /k/ and /ɡ/ developed palatalized allophones before front vowels; consequently in today's Romance languages, c and g have different sound values depending on context (known as hard and soft C and hard and soft G). Because of French influence, English orthography shares this feature.

Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth.

In phonetics, palatalization or palatization refers to a way of pronouncing a consonant in which part of the tongue is moved close to the hard palate. A consonant pronounced this way is called a palatalized consonant. Palatalized consonants have secondary articulation in the hard palate, or two places of articulation, one of which is palatal. They contrast with palatal consonants, which have palatal primary articulation.

Allophone Sounds considered the same in a language

In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or phones, or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. For example, in English, and the aspirated form are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as Thai and Hindi. On the other hand, in Spanish, and are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English.

Typographic variants

Typographic variants include a double-storey and single-storey g. LowercaseG.svg
Typographic variants include a double-storey and single-storey g.

The modern lowercase 'g' has two typographic variants: the single-storey (sometimes opentail) ' Opentail g.svg ' and the double-storey (sometimes looptail) ' Looptail g.svg '. The single-storey form derives from the majuscule (uppercase) form by raising the serif that distinguishes it from 'c' to the top of the loop, thus closing the loop, and extending the vertical stroke downward and to the left. The double-storey form (g) had developed similarly, except that some ornate forms then extended the tail back to the right, and to the left again, forming a closed bowl or loop. The initial extension to the left was absorbed into the upper closed bowl. The double-storey version became popular when printing switched to "Roman type" because the tail was effectively shorter, making it possible to put more lines on a page. In the double-storey version, a small top stroke in the upper-right, often terminating in an orb shape, is called an "ear".

In typography, a serif is a small line or stroke regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol within a particular font or family of fonts. A typeface or "font family" making use of serifs is called a serif typeface, and a typeface that does not include them is a sans-serif one. Some typography sources refer to sans-serif typefaces as "grotesque" or "Gothic", and serif typefaces as "roman".

Roman type typeface that originates from ancient Rome

In Latin script typography, roman is one of the three main kinds of historical type, alongside blackletter and italic. Roman type was modelled from a European scribal manuscript style of the 15th century, based on the pairing of inscriptional capitals used in ancient Rome with Carolingian minuscules developed in the Holy Roman Empire.

Generally, the two forms are complementary, but occasionally the difference has been exploited to provide contrast. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, opentail ɡ has always represented a voiced velar plosive, while Looptail g.svg was distinguished from ɡ and represented a voiced velar fricative from 1895 to 1900. [6] [7] In 1948, the Council of the International Phonetic Association recognized ɡ and Looptail g.svg as typographic equivalents, [8] and this decision was reaffirmed in 1993. [9] While the 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association recommended the use of Looptail g.svg for a velar plosive and ɡ for an advanced one for languages where it is preferable to distinguish the two, such as Russian, [10] this practice never caught on. [11] The 1999 Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, the successor to the Principles, abandoned the recommendation and acknowledged both shapes as acceptable variants. [12]

Wong et al. (2018) found that native English speakers have little conscious awareness of the looptail 'g' ( Looptail g.svg ). [13] [14] They write: "Despite being questioned repeatedly, and despite being informed directly that G has two lowercase print forms, nearly half of the participants failed to reveal any knowledge of the looptail 'g', and only 1 of the 38 participants was able to write looptail 'g' correctly."

Use in writing systems


In English, the letter appears either alone or in some digraphs. Alone, it represents

In words of Romance origin, g is mainly soft before e (including the digraphs ae and oe), i, or y, and hard otherwise. Soft g is also used in many words that came into English through medieval or modern Romance languages from languages without soft g (like Ancient Latin and Greek) (e.g. fragile or logic ). There are many English words of non-Romance origin where g is hard though followed by e or i (e.g. get, gift), and a few in which g is soft though followed by a such as gaol or margarine .

The double consonant gg has the value /ɡ/ (hard g) as in nugget, with very few exceptions: /ɡd͡ʒ/ in suggest and /d͡ʒ/ in exaggerate and veggies.

The digraph dg has the value /d͡ʒ/ (soft g), as in badger. Non-digraph dg can also occur, in compounds like floodgate and headgear.

The digraph ng may represent

Non-digraph ng also occurs, with possible values

The digraph gh (in many cases a replacement for the obsolete letter yogh, which took various values including /ɡ/, /ɣ/, /x/ and /j/) may represent

Non-digraph gh also occurs, in compounds like foghorn, pigheaded

The digraph gn may represent

Non-digraph gn also occurs, as in signature, agnostic

The trigraph ngh has the value /ŋ/ as in gingham or dinghy. Non-trigraph ngh also occurs, in compounds like stronghold and dunghill.

Other languages

Most Romance languages and some Nordic languages also have two main pronunciations for g, hard and soft. While the soft value of g varies in different Romance languages (/ʒ/ in French and Portuguese, [(d)ʒ] in Catalan, /d͡ʒ/ in Italian and Romanian, and /x/ in most dialects of Spanish), in all except Romanian and Italian, soft g has the same pronunciation as the j.

In Italian and Romanian, gh is used to represent /ɡ/ before front vowels where g would otherwise represent a soft value. In Italian and French, gn is used to represent the palatal nasal /ɲ/, a sound somewhat similar to the ny in English canyon. In Italian, the trigraph gli, when appearing before a vowel or as the article and pronoun gli , represents the palatal lateral approximant /ʎ/.

Other languages typically use g to represent /ɡ/ regardless of position.

Amongst European languages, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, and Slovak are an exception as they do not have /ɡ/ in their native words. In Dutch, g represents a voiced velar fricative /ɣ/ instead, a sound that does not occur in modern English, but there is a dialectal variation: many Netherlandic dialects use a voiceless fricative ([x] or [χ]) instead, and in southern dialects it may be palatal [ʝ]. Nevertheless, word-finally it is always voiceless in all dialects, including the standard Dutch of Belgium and the Netherlands. On the other hand, some dialects (like Amelands) may have a phonemic /ɡ/.

Faroese uses g to represent /dʒ/, in addition to /ɡ/, and also uses it to indicate a glide.

In Maori (Te Reo Māori), g is used in the digraph ng which represents the velar nasal /ŋ/ and is pronounced like the ng in singer.

In older Czech and Slovak orthographies, g was used to represent /j/, while /ɡ/ was written as ǧ (g with caron).

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Ligatures and abbreviations

Computing codes

Unicode 71U+0047103U+0067609U+0261
UTF-8 714710367201 161C9 A1
Numeric character reference GGggɡɡ
EBCDIC family199C713587
ASCII 1714710367
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Golf ––·
ICS Golf.svg Semaphore Golf.svg Sign language G.svg Braille G7.svg
Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) Braille

See also

Related Research Articles

Gamma letter in the Greek alphabet

Gamma is the third letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 3. In Ancient Greek, the letter gamma represented a voiced velar stop. In Modern Greek, this letter represents either a voiced velar fricative or a voiced palatal fricative.

H letter of the Latin alphabet

H is the eighth letter in 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.

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.

A trigraph is a group of three characters used to represent a single sound or a combination of sounds that does not correspond to the written letters combined.

Voiced velar stop consonantal sound

The voiced velar stop is a type of consonantal sound, used in many spoken languages.

Ge (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

Ge or Ghe is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It is also known in some languages as He. It commonly represents the voiced velar plosive, like ⟨g⟩ in "go".

Eng (letter) letter

Eng or engma is a letter of the Latin alphabet, used to represent a velar nasal in the written form of some languages and in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

History of the International Phonetic Alphabet History of the IPA phonetic representation system

The International Phonetic Alphabet was created soon after the International Phonetic Association was established in the late 19th century. It was intended as an international system of phonetic transcription for oral languages, originally for pedagogical purposes. The Association was established in Paris in 1886 by French and British language teachers led by Paul Passy. The prototype of the alphabet appeared in Phonetic Teachers' Association (1888b). The Association based their alphabet upon the Romic alphabet of Henry Sweet, which in turn was based on the Phonotypic Alphabet of Isaac Pitman and the Palæotype of Alexander John Ellis.

Ġ letter of the Maltese alphabet

Ġ is a letter of the Latin script, formed from G with the addition of a dot above the letter.

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.

J letter in the Latin alphabet

J is the tenth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its normal name in English is jay or, now uncommonly, jy. When used for the palatal approximant, it may be called yod or yot.

Nh is a digraph of the Latin alphabet, a combination of N and H. Together with ilh and the interpunct, it is a typical feature of Occitan, a language illustrated by medieval troubadours.

In the Latin-based orthographies of many European languages, the letter ⟨g⟩ is used in different contexts to represent two distinct phonemes, often called hard and soft ⟨g⟩. The sound of a hard ⟨g⟩ is usually the voiced velar plosive while the sound of a soft ⟨g⟩ may be a fricative or affricate, depending on the language. In English, the sound of soft ⟨g⟩ is the affricate, as in general, giant, and gym.

Gh is a digraph found in many languages.

The Cyrillic script family contains a large number of specially treated two-letter combinations, or digraphs, but few of these are used in Slavic languages. In a few alphabets, trigraphs and even the occasional tetragraph are used.


  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 1976.
  2. Encyclopaedia Romana
  3. Everson, Michael; Sigurðsson, Baldur; Málstöð, Íslensk. "Sorting the letter ÞORN". Evertype. ISO CEN/TC304. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
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  6. Association phonétique internationale (January 1895). "vɔt syr l alfabɛ" [Votes sur l'alphabet]. Le Maître Phonétique: 16–17.
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  9. International Phonetic Association (1993). "Council actions on revisions of the IPA". Journal of the International Phonetic Association . 23 (1): 32–34. doi:10.1017/S002510030000476X.
  10. International Phonetic Association (1949). The Principles of the International Phonetic Association. Department of Phonetics, University College, London. Supplement to Le Maître Phonétique 91, January–June 1949. Reprinted in Journal of the International Phonetic Association 40 (3), December 2010, pp. 299–358, doi:10.1017/S0025100311000089.
  11. Wells, John C. (6 November 2006). "Scenes from IPA history". John Wells’s phonetic blog. Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, University College London.
  12. International Phonetic Association (1999). Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 19. ISBN   0-521-63751-1.
  13. Wong, Kimberly; Wadee, Frempongma; Ellenblum, Gali; McCloskey, Michael (2 April 2018). "The Devil's in the g-tails: Deficient letter-shape knowledge and awareness despite massive visual experience". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. doi:10.1037/xhp0000532. PMID   29608074.
  14. Dean, Signe. "Most People Don't Know What Lowercase "G" Looks Like And We're Not Even Kidding". Science Alert. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  15. Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  16. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).
  17. Everson, Michael; Dicklberger, Alois; Pentzlin, Karl; Wandl-Vogt, Eveline (2011-06-02). "L2/11-202: Revised proposal to encode "Teuthonista" phonetic characters in the UCS" (PDF).