Last updated

R r
(See below)
R cursiva.gif
Writing system Latin script
Type Alphabetic and Logographic
Language of origin Latin language
Phonetic usage[ r ]
[ ɾ ]
[ ɹ ]
[ ʀ ]
[ ʁ ]
(English variations)
Unicode valueU+0052, U+0072
Alphabetical position18
Time period~50 to present
Sisters Р


Ռ ռ
Ր ր

Variations(See below)
Other letters commonly used with r(x), rh

R or r is the 18th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is ar (pronounced /ˈɑːr/ ), plural ars, [1] or in Ireland or /ˈɔːr/ . [2]



Egyptian hieroglyph
tp (D1)
Archaic Greek/Old Italic
Roman square capital
15th century Florentine
inscriptional capital
blackletter (Fraktur)German kurrent modern cursive
(D'Nealian 1978)
PhoenicianR-01.png Greek Rho 01.svg Greek Rho 03.svg Greek Rho 06.svg Greek Rho round-tack.svg R Agrippa.png RomanR-01.png Fraktur letter R.png Kurrent R.svg R cursiva.gif


The word prognatus as written on the Sarcophagus of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (280 BC) reveals the full development of the Latin R by that time; the letter P at the same time still retains its archaic shape distinguishing it from Greek or Old Italic rho. Prognatus.png
The word prognatus as written on the Sarcophagus of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (280 BC) reveals the full development of the Latin R by that time; the letter P at the same time still retains its archaic shape distinguishing it from Greek or Old Italic rho.

The original Semitic letter may have been inspired by an Egyptian hieroglyph for tp, "head".[ citation needed ] It was used for /r/ by Semites because in their language, the word for "head" was rêš (also the name of the letter). It developed into Greek 'Ρ' ῥῶ (rhô) and Latin R.

The descending diagonal stroke develops as a graphic variant in some Western Greek alphabets (writing rho as Greek Rho 03.svg ), but it was not adopted in most Old Italic alphabets; most Old Italic alphabets show variants of their rho between a "P" and a "D" shape, but without the Western Greek descending stroke. Indeed, the oldest known forms of the Latin alphabet itself of the 7th to 6th centuries BC, in the Duenos and the Forum inscription, still write r using the "P" shape of the letter. The Lapis Satricanus inscription shows the form of the Latin alphabet around 500 BC. Here, the rounded, closing Π shape of the p and the Ρ shape of the r have become difficult to distinguish. The descending stroke of the Latin letter R has fully developed by the 3rd century BC, as seen in the Tomb of the Scipios sarcophagus inscriptions of that era. From around 50 AD, the letter P would be written with its loop fully closed, assuming the shape formerly taken by R.

Late medieval illuminated initial Weltchronik Fulda Aa88 001r detail3.jpg
Late medieval illuminated initial


18th-century example of use of r rotunda in English blackletter typography Caslon-specimen-1763-double-pica-black.jpg
18th-century example of use of r rotunda in English blackletter typography
Letter R from the alphabet by Luca Pacioli, in De divina proportione (1509) Luca Pacioli, De divina proportione, Letter R.jpg
Letter R from the alphabet by Luca Pacioli, in De divina proportione (1509)

The minuscule (lowercase) form (r) developed through several variations on the capital form. Along with Latin minuscule writing in general, it developed ultimately from Roman cursive via the uncial script of Late Antiquity into the Carolingian minuscule of the 9th century.

In handwriting, it was common not to close the bottom of the loop but continue into the leg, saving an extra pen stroke. The loop-leg stroke shortened into the simple arc used in the Carolingian minuscule and until today.

A calligraphic minuscule r, known as r rotunda (ꝛ), was used in the sequence or, bending the shape of the r to accommodate the bulge of the o (as in oꝛ as opposed to or). Later, the same variant was also used where r followed other lower case letters with a rounded loop towards the right (such as b, h, p) and to write the geminate rr (as ꝛꝛ). Use of r rotunda was mostly tied to blackletter typefaces, and the glyph fell out of use along with blackletter fonts in English language contexts mostly by the 18th century.

Insular script used a minuscule which retained two downward strokes, but which did not close the loop ("Insular r", ꞃ); this variant survives in the Gaelic type popular in Ireland until the mid-20th century (but now mostly limited to decorative purposes).


The name of the letter in Latin was er (/ɛr/), following the pattern of other letters representing continuants, such as F, L, M, N and S. This name is preserved in French and many other languages. In Middle English, the name of the letter changed from /ɛr/ to /ar/, following a pattern exhibited in many other words such as farm (compare French ferme) and star (compare German Stern).

In Hiberno-English the letter is called /ɒr/ or /ɔːr/, somewhat similar to oar, ore, orr. [3] [4] [5]

The letter R is sometimes referred to as the littera canīna (literally 'canine letter', often rendered in english as the dog's letter). This Latin term referred to the Latin R was trilled to sound like a growling dog, a spoken style referred to as vōx canīna ('dog voice'). A good example of a trilled R is in the Spanish word for dog, perro. [6]

In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , such a reference is made by Juliet's nurse in Act 2, scene 4, when she calls the letter R "the dog's name". The reference is also found in Ben Jonson's English Grammar. [7]

Use in writing systems


The letter r is the eighth most common letter in English and the fourth-most common consonant (after t, n, and s). [8]

The letter r is used to form the ending "-re", which is used in certain words such as centre in some varieties of English spelling, such as British English. Canadian English also uses the "-re" ending, unlike American English, where the ending is usually replaced by "-er" (center). This does not affect pronunciation.

Other languages

r represents a rhotic consonant in many languages, as shown in the table below.

Alveolar trill [r] Listen some dialects of British English or in emphatic speech, standard Dutch, Finnish, Galician, German in some dialects, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Czech, Javanese, Lithuanian, Latvian, Latin, Norwegian mostly in the northwest, Polish, Portuguese (traditional form), Romanian, Russian, Scots, Slovak, Swedish, Sundanese, Welsh; also Catalan, Spanish and Albanian rr
Alveolar approximant [ɹ] Listen English (most varieties), Dutch in some Dutch dialects (in specific positions of words), Faroese, Sicilian
Alveolar flap / Alveolar tap [ɾ] Listen Portuguese, Catalan, Spanish and Albanian r, Turkish, Dutch, Italian, Venetian, Galician, Leonese, Norwegian, Irish, Māori
Voiced retroflex fricative [ʐ] Listen Norwegian around Tromsø; Spanish used as an allophone of /r/ in some South American accents; Hopi used before vowels, as in raana, "toad", from Spanish rana; Hanyu Pinyin transliteration of Standard Chinese.
Retroflex approximant [ɻ] Listen some English dialects (in the United States, South West England, and Dublin), Gutnish
Retroflex flap [ɽ] Listen Norwegian when followed by <d>, sometimes in Scottish English
Uvular trill [ʀ] Listen German stage standard; some Dutch dialects (in Brabant and Limburg, and some city dialects in The Netherlands), Swedish in Southern Sweden, Norwegian in western and southern parts, Venetian only in Venice area.
Voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] Listen North Mesopotamian Arabic, Judeo-Iraqi Arabic, German, Danish, French, standard European Portuguese rr, standard Brazilian Portuguese rr, Puerto Rican Spanish rr and 'r-' in western parts, Norwegian in western and southern parts.

Other languages may use the letter r in their alphabets (or Latin transliterations schemes) to represent rhotic consonants different from the alveolar trill. In Haitian Creole, it represents a sound so weak that it is often written interchangeably with w, e.g. 'Kweyol' for 'Kreyol'.

Brazilian Portuguese has a great number of allophones of /ʁ/ such as [ χ ], [ h ], [ ɦ ], [ x ], [ ɣ ], [ ɹ ] and [ r ], the latter three ones can be used only in certain contexts ([ ɣ ] and [ r ] as rr; [ ɹ ] in the syllable coda, as an allophone of /ɾ/ according to the European Portuguese norm and /ʁ/ according to the Brazilian Portuguese norm). Usually at least two of them are present in a single dialect, such as Rio de Janeiro's [ ʁ ], [ χ ], [ ɦ ] and, for a few speakers, [ ɣ ].

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses several variations of the letter to represent the different rhotic consonants; r represents the alveolar trill.

Calligraphic variants in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Abbreviations, signs and symbols


R electrical resistance ohm (Ω)
Ricci tensor unitless
gas constant joule per mole-kelvin (J/(mol·K))
r radius vector (position) meter (m)
rradius of rotation or distance between two things such as the masses in Newton's law of universal gravitation meter (m)


Unicode 82U+0052114U+0072
UTF-8 825211472
Numeric character reference &#82;&#x52;&#114;&#x72;
EBCDIC family217D915399
ASCII 1825211472
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

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

See also

Related Research Articles

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D Letter of the Latin alphabet

D or d is the fourth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is dee, plural dees.

H letter of the Latin alphabet

H or h is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is aitch, or regionally haitch.

N Letter of the Latin Alphabet

N or n is the fourteenth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is en, plural ens.

O letter of the Latin alphabet

O or o is the 15th letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet and the fourth vowel letter in the modern English alphabet. Its name in English is o, plural oes.

P letter of the Latin alphabet

P or p is the 16th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is pee, plural pees.

In phonetics, rhotic consonants, or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including ⟨R⟩, ⟨r⟩ in the Latin script and ⟨Р⟩, ⟨p⟩ in the Cyrillic script. They are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by upper- or lower-case variants of Roman ⟨R⟩, ⟨r⟩:, ,, ,, ,, and.

S 19th letter in the English alphabet

S or s is the 19th letter in the Modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is ess, plural esses.

T Letter of the Latin alphabet

T or t is the 20th letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is tee, plural tees. 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

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Rho is the 17th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 100. It is derived from Phoenician letter res . Its uppercase form uses the same glyph, Ρ, as the distinct Latin letter P; the two letters have different Unicode encodings.

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 in history 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 Euclidean 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.

Eng (letter) letter of the Latin alphabet

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Unicode supports several phonetic scripts and notations through the existing writing systems and the addition of extra blocks with phonetic characters. These phonetic extras are derived of an existing script, usually Latin, Greek or Cyrillic. In Unicode there is no "IPA script". Apart from IPA, extensions to the IPA and obsolete and nonstandard IPA symbols, these blocks also contain characters from the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet and the Americanist Phonetic Alphabet.


  1. "R", Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition (1989); "ar", op. cit
  2. "Analysis of selected contemporary Irish dialects" (PDF). Digilib.k.utb.cz. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  3. Hogarty, Steve (November 11, 2013). "Losing My Voice - This Happened to Me". Medium.
  4. "Mind your 'P's and 'Q's – ore you'll get into trouble!". December 19, 2018.
  5. "A Word A Day: Dog's letter". Wordsmith.org. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  6. Shakespeare, William; Horace Howard Furness; Frederick Williams (1913). Romeo and Juliet. Lippincott. p.  189.
  7. "Frequency Table". Math.cornell.edu. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  8. 1 2 Constable, Peter (2003-09-30). "L2/03-174R2: Proposal to Encode Phonetic Symbols with Middle Tilde in the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  9. Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  10. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  11. 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). Unicode.org.
  12. Lemonen, Therese; Ruppel, Klaas; Kolehmainen, Erkki I.; Sandström, Caroline (2006-01-26). "L2/06-036: Proposal to encode characters for Ordbok över Finlands svenska folkmål in the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.