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H h
(See below)
H cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
Type Alphabetic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ h ]
[ x ]
[ ħ ]
[ ɦ ]
[ ɥ ]
[ ʜ ]
[ ʔ ]
[ ◌ʰ ]
[ ç ]
Unicode valueU+0048, U+0068
Alphabetical position8
Time period~-700 to present
Descendants  Ħ
Sisters Һ



Հ հ
Variations(See below)
Other letters commonly used with h(x), ch, gh, nh, ph, sh, ſh, th, wh, (x)h

H (named aitch // or, regionally, haitch /h/ , plural aitches) [1] [2] is the eighth 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.



Egyptian hieroglyph 
Old Semitic
H |
Proto-semiticH-01.svg PhoenicianH-01.svg PhoenicianH-01.svg Greek Eta 2-bars.svg
Greek Eta square-2-bars.svg Greek Eta diagonal.svg
PhoenicianH-01.svg Greek uncial Eta.svg

The original Semitic letter Heth most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative ( ħ ). The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts.

Ḥet or H̱et is the eighth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Ḥēt , Hebrew Ḥēth ח, Aramaic Ḥēth , Syriac Ḥēṯ ܚ, and Arabic Ḥā' ح.

Voiceless pharyngeal fricative consonantal sound

The voiceless pharyngeal fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is an h-bar, ⟨ħ⟩. In the transcription of Arabic, Berber and other scripts, it is often written ⟨Ḥ⟩, ⟨ḥ⟩.

The Greek eta 'Η' in Archaic Greek alphabets still represented /h/ (later on it came to represent a long vowel, /ɛː/). In this context, the letter eta is also known as heta to underline this fact. Thus, in the Old Italic alphabets, the letter heta of the Euboean alphabet was adopted with its original sound value /h/.

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.

While Etruscan and Latin had /h/ as a phoneme, almost all Romance languages lost the sound—Romanian later re-borrowed the /h/ phoneme from its neighbouring Slavic languages, and Spanish developed a secondary /h/ from /f/, before losing it again; various Spanish dialects have developed [h] as an allophone of /s/ or /x/ in most Spanish-speaking countries, and various dialects of Portuguese use it as an allophone of /ʀ/. 'H' is also used in many spelling systems in digraphs and trigraphs, such as 'ch', which represents /tʃ/ in Spanish, Galician, Old Portuguese and English, /ʃ/ in French and modern Portuguese, /k/ in Italian, French and English, /x/ in German, Czech, Polish, Slovak, one native word of English and a few loanwords into English, and /ç/ in German.

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.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

A phoneme is one of the units of sound that distinguish one word from another in a particular language.

Name in English

For most English speakers, the name for the letter is pronounced as // and spelled "aitch" [1] or occasionally "eitch". The pronunciation /h/ and the associated spelling "haitch" is often considered to be h-adding and is considered nonstandard in England. [3] It is, however, a feature of Hiberno-English, [4] as well as Welsh English.

Hiberno-English or Irish English is the set of English dialects natively written and spoken within the island of Ireland.

Welsh English Dialect within the English language

Welsh English refers to the dialects of English spoken by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh. In addition to the distinctive words and grammar, a variety of accents are found across Wales, including those of north Wales, the Cardiff dialect, the South Wales Valleys and west Wales.

The perceived name of the letter affects the choice of indefinite article before initialisms beginning with H: for example "an H-bomb" or "a H-bomb". The pronunciation /heɪtʃ/ may be a hypercorrection formed by analogy with the names of the other letters of the alphabet, most of which include the sound they represent. [5]

In sociolinguistics, hypercorrection is non-standard use of language that results from the over-application of a perceived rule of language-usage prescription. A speaker or writer who produces a hypercorrection generally believes through a misunderstanding of these rules that the form is more "correct", standard, or otherwise preferable, often combined with a desire to appear formal or educated.

The haitch pronunciation of h has spread in England, being used by approximately 24% of English people born since 1982, [6] and polls continue to show this pronunciation becoming more common among younger native speakers. Despite this increasing number, the pronunciation without the /h/ sound is still considered to be standard in England, although the pronunciation with /h/ is also attested as a legitimate variant. [3]

Authorities disagree about the history of the letter's name. The Oxford English Dictionary says the original name of the letter was [ˈaha] in Latin; this became [ˈaka] in Vulgar Latin, passed into English via Old French [atʃ], and by Middle English was pronounced [aːtʃ]. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language derives it from French hache from Latin haca or hic. Anatoly Liberman suggests a conflation of two obsolete orderings of the alphabet, one with H immediately followed by K and the other without any K: reciting the former's ..., H, K, L,... as [...(h)a ka el ...] when reinterpreted for the latter ..., H, L,... would imply a pronunciation [(h)a ka] for H. [7]

Use in writing systems


In English, h occurs as a single-letter grapheme (being either silent or representing the voiceless glottal fricative ( /h/ ) and in various digraphs, such as ch // , /ʃ/ , /k/ , or /x/ ), gh (silent, /ɡ/, /k/, /p/, or /f/), ph (/f/), rh (/r/), sh ( /ʃ/ ), th ( /θ/ or /ð/ ), wh (/hw/ [8] ). The letter is silent in a syllable rime, as in ah, ohm, dahlia, cheetah, pooh-poohed, as well as in certain other words (mostly of French origin) such as hour, honest, herb (in American but not British English) and vehicle. Initial /h/ is often not pronounced in the weak form of some function words including had, has, have, he, her, him, his, and in some varieties of English (including most regional dialects of England and Wales) it is often omitted in all words (see 'h'-dropping). It was formerly common for an rather than a to be used as the indefinite article before a word beginning with /h/ in an unstressed syllable, as in "an historian", but use of a is now more usual (see English articles § Indefinite article). In English, The pronunciation of h as /h/ can be analyzed as a voiceless vowel. That is, when the phoneme /h/ precedes a vowel, /h/ may be realized as a voiceless version of the subsequent vowel. For example the word hit, /hɪt/ is realized as [ɪ̥ɪt]. [9]

Other languages

In the German language, the name of the letter is pronounced /haː/. Following a vowel, it often silently indicates that the vowel is long: In the word erhöhen ('heighten'), the second h is mute for most speakers outside of Switzerland. In 1901, a spelling reform eliminated the silent h in nearly all instances of th in native German words such as thun ('to do') or Thür ('door'). It has been left unchanged in words derived from Greek, such as Theater ('theater') and Thron ('throne'), which continue to be spelled with th even after the last German spelling reform.

In Spanish and Portuguese, h ("hache" in Spanish, pronounced Spanish pronunciation:  ['atʃe], or agá in Portuguese, pronounced [aˈɣa] or [ɐˈɡa] ) is a silent letter with no pronunciation, as in hijo [ˈixo] ('son') and húngaro [ˈũɡaɾu] ('Hungarian'). The spelling reflects an earlier pronunciation of the sound /h/. It is sometimes pronounced with the value [h], in some regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Canarias, Cantabria and the Americas in the beginning of some words. h also appears in the digraph ch, which represents /tʃ/ in Spanish and northern Portugal, and /ʃ/ in oral traditions that merged both sounds (the latter originarily represented by x instead) e.g. in most of the Portuguese language and some Spanish-speaking places, prominently Chile, as well as nh/ɲ/ and lh/ʎ/ in Portuguese, whose spelling is inherited from Occitan.

In French, the name of the letter is pronounced /aʃ/. The French orthography classifies words that begin with this letter in two ways, one of which can affect the pronunciation, even though it is a silent letter either way. The H muet, or "mute" h, is considered as though the letter were not there at all, so for example the singular definite article le or la, which is elided to l' before a vowel, elides before an H muet followed by a vowel. For example, le + hébergement becomes l'hébergement ('the accommodation'). The other kind of h is called h aspiré ("aspirated 'h'", though it is not normally aspirated phonetically), and does not allow elision or liaison. For example in le homard ('the lobster') the article le remains unelided, and may be separated from the noun with a bit of a glottal stop. Most words that begin with an H muet come from Latin (honneur, homme) or from Greek through Latin (hécatombe), whereas most words beginning with an H aspiré come from Germanic (harpe, hareng) or non-Indo-European languages (harem, hamac, haricot); in some cases, an orthographic h was added to disambiguate the [v] and semivowel [ɥ] pronunciations before the introduction of the distinction between the letters v and u: huit (from uit, ultimately from Latin octo), huître (from uistre, ultimately from Greek through Latin ostrea).

In Italian, h has no phonological value. Its most important uses are in the digraphs 'ch' /k/ and 'gh' /ɡ/, as well as to differentiate the spellings of certain short words that are homophones, for example some present tense forms of the verb avere ('to have') (such as hanno, 'they have', vs. anno, 'year'), and in short interjections (oh, ehi).

Some languages, including Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Finnish, use h as a breathy voiced glottal fricative [ɦ], often as an allophone of otherwise voiceless /h/ in a voiced environment.

In Hungarian, the letter has five independent pronunciations, perhaps more than in any other language, with an additional three uses as a productive and non-productive member of a digraph. H may represent /h/ as in the name of the Székely town Hargita; intervocalically it represents /ɦ/ as in "tehéz"; it represents /x/ in the word "doh"; it represents /ç/ in "ihlet"; and it is silent in "Cseh". As part of a diphthong, it represents, in archaic spelling, /t͡ʃ/ with the letter C as in the name "Széchényi; it represents, again, with the letter C, /x/ in "pech" (which is pronounced [pɛx]); in certain environments it breaks palatalization of a consonant, as in the name "Horthy" which is pronounced [hɔrti] (without the intervening H, the name "Horty" would be pronounced [hɔrc]); and finally, it acts as a silent component of a diphthong, as in the name "Vargha", pronounced [vɒrgɒ].

In Ukrainian and Belarusian, when written in the Latin alphabet, h is also commonly used for /ɦ/, which is otherwise written with the Cyrillic letter г.

In Irish, h is not considered an independent letter, except for a very few non-native words, however h placed after a consonant is known as a "séimhiú" and indicates lenition of that consonant; h began to replace the original form of a séimhiú, a dot placed above the consonant, after the introduction of typewriters.

In most dialects of Polish, both h and the digraph ch always represent /x/.

In Basque, during the 20th century it was not used in the orthography of the Basque dialects in Spain but it marked an aspiration in the North-Eastern dialects. During the standardization of Basque in the 1970s, the compromise was reached that h would be accepted if it were the first consonant in a syllable. Hence, herri ("people") and etorri ("to come") were accepted instead of erri (Biscayan) and ethorri (Souletin). Speakers could pronounce the h or not. For the dialects lacking the aspiration, this meant a complication added to the standardized spelling.

Other systems

As a phonetic symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), it is used mainly for the so-called aspirations (fricative or trills), and variations of the plain letter are used to represent two sounds: the lowercase form h represents the voiceless glottal fricative, and the small capital form ʜ represents the voiceless epiglottal fricative (or trill). With a bar, minuscule ħ is used for a voiceless pharyngeal fricative. Specific to the IPA, a hooked ɦ is used for a voiced glottal fricative, and a superscript ʰ is used to represent aspiration.

Ancestors, siblings and descendants in other alphabets

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Computing codes

Unicode 72U+0048104U+0068
UTF-8 724810468
Numeric character reference HHhh
EBCDIC family200C813688
ASCII 1724810468

1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Hotel ····
ICS Hotel.svg Semaphore Hotel.svg Sign language H.svg Braille H8.svg
Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) Braille

See also

Related Research Articles

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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.

T letter of the Latin alphabet

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U Letter in the Latin alphabet

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Ll/ll is a digraph which occurs in several natural languages.

In linguistics, a phonemic orthography is an orthography in which the graphemes correspond to the phonemes of the language. Languages rarely have perfectly phonemic orthographies; a high degree of grapheme-phoneme correspondence can be expected in orthographies based on alphabetic writing systems, but they differ in how complete this correspondence is. English orthography, for example, is alphabetic but highly nonphonemic; it was once mostly phonemic during the Middle English stage, when the modern spellings originated, but spoken English changed rapidly while the orthography was much more stable, resulting in the modern nonphonemic situation. However, because of their relatively recent modernizations when compared to English, the Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Finnish, Czech, Latvian and Polish orthographic systems come much closer to being consistent phonemic representations.

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Ge (Cyrillic) Cyrillic letter

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Ch (digraph) latin-script digraph

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Gh is a digraph found in many languages.


  1. 1 2 "H" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "aitch" or "haitch", op. cit.
  2. "the definition of h". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. 1 2 "'Haitch' or 'aitch'? How do you pronounce 'H'?". BBC News. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  4. Dolan, T. P. (1 January 2004). "A Dictionary of Hiberno-English: The Irish Use of English". Gill & Macmillan Ltd. Retrieved 3 September 2016 via Google Books.
  5. Todd, L. & Hancock I.: "International English Ipod", page 254. Routledge, 1990.
  6. John C. Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, page 360, Pearson, Harlow, 2008
  7. Liberman, Anatoly (7 August 2013). "Alphabet soup, part 2: H and Y". Oxford Etymologist. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  8. In many dialects, /hw/ and /w/ have merged
  9. "phonology - Why is /h/ called voiceless vowel phonetically, and /h/ consonant phonologically?". Linguistics Stack Exchange. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  10. Constable, Peter (19 April 2004). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  11. Everson, Michael; et al. (20 March 2002). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).
  12. Ruppel, Klaas; Aalto, Tero; Everson, Michael (27 January 2009). "L2/09-028: Proposal to encode additional characters for the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet" (PDF).
  13. Anderson, Deborah; Everson, Michael (7 June 2004). "L2/04-191: Proposal to encode six Indo-Europeanist phonetic characters in the UCS" (PDF).
  14. Cook, Richard; Everson, Michael (20 September 2001). "L2/01-347: Proposal to add six phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  15. Everson, Michael (12 August 2005). "L2/05-193R2: Proposal to add Claudian Latin letters to the UCS" (PDF).