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The letter Å (small å) represents various sounds in the alphabets used for Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish (although no native Finnish words contain the letter å), North Frisian, Walloon, Chamorro, Istro-Romanian, Lule Sami, Skolt Sami, Southern Sami and the Alemannic and Bavarian-Austrian dialects of German.

Å is often perceived as an A with a ring, interpreting the ring as a diacritical mark. However, in the languages that use it, the ring is not considered a diacritic but part of the letter. It developed as a form of semi-ligature of an A with another smaller a above it to denote a long a, similar to how the umlaut mark ¨ is developed from a small e written above the letter in question.

To those who do not use it in their alphabet, it is most familiar as a symbol for Ångström.


Scandinavian languages

Closeup on Å, Ä, and Ö on a Swedish/Finnish keyboard.

The letter Å in Scandinavian alphabets represents two sounds, one short and one long.

  • The short version represents IPA /ɔ/.
  • In Norwegian and Swedish, the long version represents IPA /oː/. In Danish, the long version is pronounced IPA /ɔː/.


In historical linguistics, the Å-sound originally had the same origin as the long /aː/ sound in German Aal and Haar (Scandinavian ål, hår, English eel, hair).

Historically, the letter Å derives from the Old Norse vowel á. This was a long /aː/ sound, but over time, the vowel developed to an [ɔ] sound. Medieval writing often used doubled letters for long vowels, and the vowel continued to be written Aa. In Old Swedish the use of the ligatures Æ and Œ that represented the sounds [æ] and [ø] respectively were gradually replaced by new letters. Instead of using ligatures, a minuscule E was placed above the letters A and O to create new graphemes. These would later evolve into the modern letters Ä and Ö, where the E was simplified into two dots. This construction was also applied to construct a new grapheme where an "aa" previously had been used. A minuscule O was placed on top of an A to create a new letter. It was first used in print in the Gustav Vasa Bible that was published in 1541 and replaced Aa in the 16th century.[1]

In an attempt to modernize the orthography, linguists tried to introduce the Å to Danish and Norwegian writing in the 19th century. Most people felt no need for the new letter, although the letter group Aa had already been pronounced like Å for centuries all over Scandinavia. Aa was usually treated as a single letter, spoken like the present Å when spelling out names or words. Orthography reforms making Å official were carried out in Norway in 1917 and in Denmark in 1948. It has been argued that the Å only made its way to official Danish spelling due to anti-German and pro-Scandinavian sentiment after World War II. Danish had been the only language apart from German to use capitalized nouns in the last decades, but abolished them at the same occasion.

In a few names of Danish cities or towns, the old spelling has been retained as an option due to local resistance, e.g. Aalborg and Aabenraa, however Ålborg and Åbenrå is the spelling recommended by the Danish Language Board.[2]

Icelandic and Faroese are the only Scandinavian languages not to use the letter Å. The Old Norse letter á is retained, but has become a diphthong, pronounced [au] in Icelandic and [ɔa] in Faroese. The short variation of Faroese á is pronounced [ɔ], though.


Since Å is a letter with a distinct sound, not an A with an accent, it is best to keep it when referring to Scandinavian words and names in other languages. However, in Danish and Norwegian, Aa is widely known as the old way of writing Å, used until first part of the 20th century, and a fully functional transcription for Å when using a foreign keyboard. Due to technical troubles with the Å, Å is in internet addresses also mostly spelled as Aa. In Swedish, where this transcription is less common, Å is often rendered simply A in internet addresses (internationalized domain names are still fairly uncommon).

Use in names

Before 1917 some Norwegian place names could consist of three or four connecting "a"s: for instance Haaa (now Håa, a river) and Blaaaasen (Blååsen, 'the blå/blue ås/hill').

In some names of geographical places, the old Aa spelling dominates, more often in Denmark than in Norway (where it has been abolished in official use since 1917). Locals of Aalborg and Aabenraa resist the Å, whereas Århus and Ålesund rarely are seen with Aa spelling. Official rules allow both forms in the most common cases, but Å is always correct.

In personal names the bearer of the name uses Aa or Å according to their choice. Most people keep to the traditional Aa style, Aagaard being much more common than Ågård.

Company names are also written as the owner decides. Sometimes the Aa spelling is used to imply a conservative or nostalgic feeling.

It is also common for people whose last name begins with "Aa" to use this in their initials. For instance, a person named Hans Aaberg could therefore use the initials "H.Aa." instead of "H.A.".

About 240 persons in Norway (2007) have Aa as a family name (for instance the writer Brynjar Aa); it is never spelled as Å.

Place in alphabet

The fact that Å is a common letter in Swedish while having no native uses in Finnish has led to it being used as a concise symbol for the Swedish language, as in this campaign to rid Finnish schools of Mandatory Swedish. The phrase reads "Away with enforced Swedish".

Correct alphabetization in Danish and Norwegian places Aa along with Å as the last letter in the alphabet, the sequence being Æ, Ø, Å/Aa. Unless manually corrected, sorting algorithms of programs localised for Danish or Norwegian will place e.g. Aaron after Zorro. In Danish / Norwegian books, a distinction is made between foreign and local words so e.g. the German city Aachen would be listed under "A" but the Danish city "Aabenraa" would be listed after "Z".

In the Swedish alphabet, Å is sorted after Z, as the third letter from the end, the sequence being Å, Ä, Ö. In the Finnish alphabet, it is carried over from the Swedish alphabet, but has no native use and is treated as in Swedish, but its usage is limited to names of Swedish, Danish or Norwegian origin.

Walloon writing

Å was introduced to some local variants of eastern-Walloon dialect at the beginning of the 20th century, initially to note the same sound as in Danish. Its use quickly spread to all the eastern-Walloon dialects, through the cultural influence of the city of Liège, and covered three sounds, a long open o, a long close o, or a long a, depending on the local varieties. The use of a single å letter to cover those pronunciations has been embraced by the new pan-Walloon orthography, that systemizes a unique orthography for words that are the same, regardless of the local phonetic variations.

In non-standardized writings outside the Liège area, words containing the å letter are written with au, â or ô depending on the pronunciation. For example the word måjhon (house) in standardized orthography is written môjo, mâhon, mohone, maujon in dialectal writings.

Istro-Romanian writing

The Istro-Romanian alphabet is based on the standard Romanian alphabet with three additional letters used to mark sounds specific only to this dialect: å, ľ and ń. The letter å represents the [ɔ] sound as in Scandinavian languages.


Å and å are also used in the practical orthography of the Chamorro, a language indigenous to the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. The capital of Guam is also called "Hagåtña".

Symbol for ångström

The letter "Å" (U+00C5) is also used throughout the world as the international symbol for the non-SI unit ångström, a physical unit of length named after the Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström. It is always upper case in this context (symbols for units named after persons are generally upper-case).

Unicode also has encoded U+212B for the Ångström symbol. However, that is canonically equivalent to the ordinary letter Å. The duplicate encoding at U+212B is due to round-trip mapping compatibility with an East-Asian character encoding, and should be seen as a mistake not to be used.[citation needed]

On computers

Danish keyboard with keys for Æ, Ø and Å.
On Norwegian keyboards the Æ and Ø trade places.
On Swedish and Finnish keyboards Æ and Ø are replaced with Ö and Ä.

For computers, when using the ISO 8859-1 or Unicode sets, the codes for "Å" and "å" are respectively 197 and 229 in decimal representation, or C5 and E5 in hexadecimal.

In (X)HTML character entity references, required in cases where the letter is not available by ordinary coding, the codes are Å and å; or Å and å. The latter codes can be used in any XML application when the letter is not directly available in the character encoding used.

False and playful uses of Å

The logo of the Major League Baseball team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is a capital "A" with a halo. Due to the resemblance, many Angels fans often type the name as "Ångels". This usage is similar to a heavy metal umlaut. Occasionally they use "Å" and "å" in other words, such as "Ånåheim", "chåmpionship", and "rålly monkey". This use of "Å" and "å" looks very strange to speakers of Scandinavian languages, as these words approximately would be pronounced "Ongels", "Onoheim", "chompionship" and "rolly monkey", the O sounding like oa in oar.

Similarly, the logo of the TV series Stargate SG-1 resembles "STARGÅTE", yet a more accurate description of the character standing for the second 'a' would be a upper case lambda (Λ) with a ring above it. Written as Stargåte, it would really be pronounced in English more like "Star goat." Note also that the word "gåte/gåta/gåde" in Norwegian/Swedish/Danish languages means "riddle".

See also


  1. ^ Pettersson (1996), p. 139
  2. ^ Orthography rules, §3.2, (in Danish)


  • Pettersson, Gertrud (1996), Svenska språket under sjuhundra år: en historia om svenskan och dess utforskande, Lund: Studentlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-48221-3

External links

The basic modern Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Letter A with diacritics
Letters using ring sign

history palaeography derivations diacritics punctuation numerals Unicode list of letters ISO/IEC 646

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Å, pronounced "Oh", is the southernmost town on the island of Moskenesøya in the Lofoten archipelago of Norway. The name means simply "river" or "stream", and the town is also known as Å i Lofoten to distinguish it from other places called Å.

Get in

Å can be reached from the Moskenes ferry terminal on foot, by car or by bus, and is around a 20-40 minute walk or 5 minute drive.

Get around

There are bikes for hire at the Youth Hostel and some hiking paths are dotted around the surrounding area.


A ferry to the Moskenesoya maelstrom (a swirling circular current off the coast of the island), and the fishing museum are arguably the two main attractions of the village. The village sits between a picturesque lake and the North sea, with many of the wooden buildings being built over water on stilts.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

The Universal Character Set
For technical reasons, the ANGSTROM SIGN ( - U+212B) also redirects here.
Latin-1 Supplement U+00C5




Å upper case (lower case å)

  1. The letter A with a ring above, considered an individual letter by most languages where it is used.


Å (U+00C5) or (U+212B)

  1. (metrology) Symbol for angstrom, ångström

See also

Simple English

This page is about the first letter in the alphabet.
For the indefinite article, see Article (grammar).
For other uses of A, see A (disambiguation)
The Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd
Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj
Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp
Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv
Ww Xx Yy Zz

A is the first letter of the English alphabet. a is a usual symbol for a low central vowel, as in "father"; the English long a (ā) is pronounced as a diphthong of ĕ and y. The corresponding letter of the Greek alphabet is named alpha. Alpha and omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, symbolize the beginning and the end. In musical notation the letter A is the symbol of a note in the scale, below B and above G.

  • A is the letter that was formerly used to represent a team in an old TV show, The A Team.
Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

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