Last updated
K k
(See below)
K cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
Type Alphabetic and Logographic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ k ]
[ ]
[ ]
[ ɡ ]
Unicode valueU+004B, U+006B
Alphabetical position11
Time period~-700 to present
Descendants K
Sisters К


Կ կ
Հ հ
Խ խ
Variations(See below)
Other letters commonly used with k(x)

K (named kay /k/ ) [1] 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.

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.

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:

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.



hieroglyph D
Proto-semiticK-01.svg PhoenicianK-01.svg EtruscanK-01.svg Kappa uc lc.svg

The letter K comes from the Greek letter Κ (kappa), which was taken from the Semitic kaph, the symbol for an open hand. [2] This, in turn, was likely adapted by Semitic tribes who had lived in Egypt from the hieroglyph for "hand" representing D in the Egyptian word for hand, d-r-t. The Semites evidently assigned it the sound value /k/ instead, because their word for hand started with that sound. [3]

Kappa letter in the Greek alphabet

Kappa is the 10th letter of the Greek alphabet, used to represent the [] sound in Ancient and Modern Greek. In the system of Greek numerals, has a value of 20. It was derived from the Phoenician letter kaph . Letters that arose from kappa include the Roman K and Cyrillic К.

Kaf is the eleventh letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Kāp 𐤊, Hebrew Kāf כ, Aramaic Kāp 𐡊, Syriac Kāp̄ ܟܟ, and Arabic Kāf ک/ك.

The ancient Egyptian Hand (hieroglyph) is an alphabetic hieroglyph with the meaning of "d"; it is also used in the word for 'hand', and actions that are performed, i.e. by the 'way of one's hands', or actions.

In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all 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. Later, the use of C and its variant G replaced most usages of K and Q. K survived only in a few fossilized forms such as Kalendae, "the calends". [4]

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.

The calends or kalends is the first day of every month in the Roman calendar. The English word calendar is derived from this word.

After Greek words were taken into Latin, the Kappa was transliterated as a C. Loanwords from other alphabets with the sound /k/ were also transliterated with C. Hence, the Romance languages generally use C, in imitating Classical Latin's practice, and have K only in later loanwords from other language groups. The Celtic languages also tended to use C instead of K, and this influence carried over into Old English.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Romance languages all the related languages derived from Vulgar Latin

The Romance languages are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries and that form a subgroup of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.

Celtic languages Language family

The Celtic languages are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707, following Paul-Yves Pezron, who made the explicit link between the Celts described by classical writers and the Welsh and Breton languages.

Use in writing systems


Today, English is the only Germanic language to productively use "hard" c (outside the digraph ck) rather than k (although Dutch uses it in loaned words of Latin origin, and the pronunciation of these words follows the same hard/soft distinction as in English).[ citation needed ] The letter k is silent at the start of an English word when it comes before the letter n, as in the words "knight," "knife," "knot," "know," and "knee". Like J, X, Q, and Z, K is not used very frequently in English. It is the fifth least frequently used letter in the English language, with a frequency of about 0.8% in words.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

In English orthography, the letter ⟨k⟩ normally reflects the pronunciation of [] and the letter ⟨g⟩ normally is pronounced or "hard" ⟨g⟩, as in goose, gargoyle and game; or "soft" ⟨g⟩, generally before ⟨i⟩ or ⟨e⟩, as in giant, ginger and geology; or in some words of French origin, such as rouge, beige and genre. However, silent ⟨k⟩ and ⟨g⟩ occur because of apheresis, the dropping of the initial sound of a word.


The SI prefix for a thousand is kilo-, officially abbreviated as k—for instance, prefixed to "metre" or its abbreviation m, kilometre or km signifies a thousand metres. As such, people occasionally represent numbers in a non-standard notation by replacing the last three zeros of the general numeral with "K": for instance, 30K for 30,000.

Other languages

In most languages where it is employed, this letter represents the sound /k/ (with or without aspiration) or some similar sound.

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses k for the voiceless velar plosive.

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.

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Ligatures and abbreviations

Computing codes

Unicode 75U+004B107U+006B8490U+212A
UTF-8 754B1076B226 132 170E2 84 AA
Numeric character reference KKkkKK
EBCDIC family210D214692
ASCII 1754B1076B
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and nMacintosh families of encodings.

Other representation

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

Other usage

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.

G letter in the Latin alphabet

G is the 7th letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

M letter in Latin alphabet

M is the thirteenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

N Letter of the Latin Alphabet

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

O letter of the Latin Alphabet

O is the 15th letter and the fourth vowel in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

P letter of the Latin Alphabet

P is the 16th 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.

U Letter in the Latin alphabet

U is the 21st letter and the fifth vowel in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is preceded by T, and is followed by V.

V letter of Latin-based alphabets

V is the 22nd letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

W letter of the Latin Alphabet

W is the 23rd letter of the modern English and ISO basic Latin alphabets.

X letter of the Latin alphabet

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

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.


  1. "K" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "kay," op. cit.
  2. "K". The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1977, online (registration required)[ dead link ]
  3. Gordon, Cyrus H. (1970). "The Accidental Invention of the Phonemic Alphabet". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 29 (3): 193. doi:10.1086/372069. JSTOR   543451.
  4. 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.
  5. Latin Extended-D
  6. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).
  7. Ruppel, Klaas; Aalto, Tero; Everson, Michael (2009-01-27). "L2/09-028: Proposal to encode additional characters for the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet" (PDF).
  8. Everson, Michael; Jacquerye, Denis; Lilley, Chris (2012-07-26). "L2/12-270: Proposal for the addition of ten Latin characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  9. 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).
  10. Stephen Phillips (2009-06-04). "International Morse Code".