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 ]
[ ʝ˞ ]
(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 (named ar/or /ɑːr/ [1] ) is the 18th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

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:

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
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.

Lapis Satricanus

The Lapis Satricanus, is a yellow stone found in the ruins of the ancient town of Satricum, near Borgo Montello, a village of southern Lazio, dated late 6th to early 5th centuries BC. It was found in 1977 during excavations by C.M. Stibbe. It reads:

Tomb of the Scipios grave

The Tomb of the Scipios, also called the hypogaeum Scipionum, was the common tomb of the patrician Scipio family during the Roman Republic for interments between the early 3rd century BC and the early 1st century AD. Then it was abandoned and within a few hundred years its location was lost.

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.

Roman cursive form of handwriting used in ancient Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages

Roman cursive is a form of handwriting used in ancient Rome and to some extent into the Middle Ages. It is customarily divided into old cursive, and new cursive.

Carolingian minuscule form of writing

Carolingian minuscule or Caroline minuscule is a script which developed as a calligraphic standard in Europe so that the Latin alphabet of Jerome's Vulgate Bible could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was developed for the first time, in about 780, by a Benedictine monk of Corbie Abbey, namely, Alcuin of York. It was used in the Holy Roman Empire between approximately 800 AD and 1200 AD. Codices, pagan and Christian texts, and educational material were written in Carolingian minuscule throughout the Carolingian Renaissance. The script developed into blackletter and became obsolete, though its revival in the Italian Renaissance forms the basis of more recent scripts.

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.

R rotunda letter of the Latin alphabet

The r rotunda (ꝛ), "rounded r", is a historical calligraphic variant of the minuscule (lowercase) letter Latin r used in full script-like typefaces, especially blackletters.

Blackletter Old script typeface used throughout Western Europe

Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the Danish language until 1875, and for German, Estonian and Latvian until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes the entire group of blackletter faces is incorrectly referred to as Fraktur. Blackletter is sometimes referred to as Old English, but it is not to be confused with the Old English language, which predates blackletter by many centuries and was written in the insular script or in Futhorc.

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).

Insular script Writing system common to Ireland and Anglo-Saxon Engłand

Insular script was a medieval script system invented in Ireland that spread to Anglo-Saxon England and continental Europe under the influence of Irish Christianity. Irish missionaries took the script to continental Europe, where they founded monasteries such as Bobbio. The scripts were also used in monasteries like Fulda, which were influenced by English missionaries. It is associated with Insular art, of which most surviving examples are illuminated manuscripts. It greatly influenced Irish orthography and modern Gaelic scripts in handwriting and typefaces.

Gaelic type is a family of Insular script typefaces devised for printing Classical Gaelic. It was widely used from the 16th until the mid-18th century (Scotland) or the mid-20th century (Ireland) but is now rarely used. Sometimes, all Gaelic typefaces are called Celtic or uncial although most Gaelic types are not uncials. The "Anglo-Saxon" types of the 17th century are included in this category because both the Anglo-Saxon types and the Gaelic/Irish types derive from the Insular manuscript hand.


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/. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4]

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). [5]

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/molK)
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 family217 {{#ifeq:0| 0D9153 {{#ifeq:0| 099
ASCII 182 {{#ifeq:0| 052114 {{#ifeq:0| 072
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

A First letter of the Latin alphabet

A is the first letter and the first vowel of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter alpha, from which it derives. The uppercase version consists of the two slanting sides of a triangle, crossed in the middle by a horizontal bar. The lowercase version can be written in two forms: the double-storey a and single-storey ɑ. The latter is commonly used in handwriting and fonts based on it, especially fonts intended to be read by children, and is also found in italic type.

D letter in the Latin alphabet

D is the fourth letter of the modern English alphabet and 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.

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 is the 19th letter in the Modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

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.

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 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.

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.

Ou (ligature) letter of the Latin alphabet

Ou is a ligature of the Greek letters ο and υ which was frequently used in Byzantine manuscripts. This ligature is still seen today on icon artwork in Greek Orthodox churches, and sometimes in graffiti or other forms of informal or decorative writing.

Resh is the twentieth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Rēsh , Hebrew Rēsh ר, Aramaic Rēsh , Syriac Rēsh ܪ, and Arabic Rāʾ ر. Its sound value is one of a number of rhotic consonants: usually or, but also or in Hebrew and North Mesopotamian Arabic.

Ə Letter

Ə ə, also called schwa or inverted e, is an additional letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the Azerbaijani language, in Gottscheerish, and in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect of Halkomelem. Both the majuscule and minuscule forms of this letter are based on the form of an upside down e, while the Pan-Nigerian alphabet pairs the same lowercase letter with Ǝ.

Ʊ letter of the Latin alphabet

The letter Ʊ, called Latin upsilon, is a letter of the Latin alphabet. While its form superficially resembles an upside-down capital Greek letter omega (Ω), it is derived from the Greek lowercase upsilon (υ).

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 || /ˈɔr/ 2nd edition (1989); "ar", op. cit; a pronunciation /ɔːr/ is common in Ireland.
  2. "Analysis of selected contemporary Irish dialects" (PDF). Digilib.k.utb.cz. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  3. "A Word A Day: Dog's letter". Wordsmith.org. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  4. Shakespeare, William; Horace Howard Furness; Frederick Williams (1913). Romeo and Juliet. Lippincott. p. 189.
  5. "Frequency Table". Math.cornell.edu. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  6. 1 2 Constable, Peter (2003-09-30). "L2/03-174R2: Proposal to Encode Phonetic Symbols with Middle Tilde in the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  7. Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  8. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.