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The letter used in the word piñata.

Ñ (lower case ñ) is a letter of the modern Latin alphabet, formed by an N with a diacritical tilde. It is used in the Spanish alphabet, Basque alphabet, Filipino alphabet and Guarani alphabet, where it represents a palatal nasal (IPA: [ɲ]). In English, it is sometimes called the "Spanish N" or "enyay" (Spanish "eñe").

Unlike many other alphabets that use diacritic marks (such as ü in Asturian, Leonese, Spanish, and Galician), Ñ is considered by these languages a letter in its own right, with its own name (eñe) and its own place in the alphabet (after N). From this point of view, its alphabetical independence is similar to the English W (historically, W and Ñ come from a doubled V and a doubled N, respectively).



Historically, "ñ" arose as a ligature of "nn": the tilde was shorthand for the second "n", written over the first.[1] For example, the Spanish word año (year) is derived from Latin ANNVS. Other languages used the macron over an "n" or "m" to indicate simple doubling.

Already in medieval Latin palaeography, the sign that in Spanish came to be called virgulilla (tilde) was used on a vowel to indicate a following nasal consonant (n or m) that had been omitted, as in tãtus for tantus or quã for quam. This usage was passed on to other languages using the Latin alphabet, although it was subsequently dropped by most. Spanish and Portuguese retained it though, in some specific cases. In Spanish in particular it was kept to indicate the palatal nasal, the sound that is now spelt as "ñ".

From spellings of anno abbreviated as ãno, as explained above, the tilde was henceforth transferred on to the "n" and kept as a useful expedient to indicate the new palatal nasal sound that Spanish had developed in that position: año. The sign was also adopted for the same palatal nasal in all other cases, even when it did not derive from an original "nn", as for leña (from Latin "ligna") or señor (from Latin "senior").

The palatal nasal sound is roughly reminiscent of the English consonant cluster /nj/ in "onion" /ˈʌnjən/. While this common description is enough to give a rough idea of the sound, it is not precise (it is analogous to giving the pronunciation of the English word "shot" as "syot").

Other Romance languages have different spellings for this phoneme: Italian and French use "gn", a consonant cluster that had evolved to it from Latin also in Spanish (see leña above), whereas Portuguese and Occitan ("nh") or Catalan ("ny") chose other digraphs with no etymological precedent.

When the Morse Code was extended beyond English, a symbol was allotted for this character, though it is not used in English ( — — · — — ).

Although the letter "ñ" is used by other languages whose spellings were influenced by Spanish, it has recently been chosen to represent the identity of the Spanish language, especially as a result of the battle against its obliteration from computer keyboards by an English-led industry.[2]

Cross-linguistic usage

In Spanish and some other languages (Aymara, Quechua, Guaraní, Filipino, Basque, Galician, Leonese, and Tetum), whose orthographies were based on that of Spanish, it also represents the palatal nasal. Other Romance languages have this sound as well, written "nh" in Portuguese (espanhol) and classical Occitan (espanhòu); "gn" in Italian (spagnolo) and French (espagnol), and "ny" in Catalan (espanyol). The accented letter ń used in Polish, and the symbol ň used in Czech and Slovak are also equivalent to the Spanish letter "ñ". The same sound is written "ny" in Hungarian.

It is also used to represent the velar nasal sound when transliterating both Crimean Tatar in Latin script.

In the Breton language, it nasalises the preceding vowel as in Jañ /ʒã/ which corresponds to the French name Jean and bears the same pronunciation.

It is used in a number of English words of Spanish origin, such as jalapeño, piña colada, piñata, and El Niño. The Spanish word cañón, however, became the English word canyon. Until the middle of the 20th century, adapting it to "nn" was more common in English, as in the phrase "Battle of Corunna". Nowadays, it is almost always left alone.

In the orthography for languages of Senegal, ñ represents the palatal nasal. Senegal is unique among countries of West Africa in using this letter.

Cultural significance

The letter "Ñ" has come to represent the identity of the Spanish language. Latino publisher Bill Teck labeled Hispanic culture and its influence on the United States "Generation Ñ" and later started a magazine with that name.[3] Organizations such as the Instituto Cervantes and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have adopted the letter as their mark for Hispanic heritage.

In 1991, a European Community report recommended the repeal of a regulation preventing the sale in Spain of computer products not supporting "all the characteristics of the Spanish writing system," claiming that it was a protectionist measure against the principles of the free market. This would have allowed the distribution of keyboards without an "Ñ" key. The Real Academia Española stated that the matter was a serious attack against the language. Nobel Prize winner in literature Gabriel García Márquez expressed his disdain over the elimination of the eñe by saying: "The 'Ñ' is not an archaeological piece of junk, but just the opposite: a cultural leap of a Romance language that left the others behind in expressing with only one letter a sound that other languages continue to express with two."[2]

Among other forms of controversy are those pertaining to the anglicization of Spanish surnames. Such personal decisions can be perceived by the Spanish community as denying identity and heritage.[citation needed] The replacement of "ñ" with another letter alters the pronunciation and meaning of a word or name, in the same manner as replacing any letter with a different one would. Peña is a common Spanish surname and a common noun that means "ridge"; it is often anglicized into Pena, changing the name into the Spanish word for "sorrow" (and Latin American Spanish for "embarrassment"). Another common example: "año" means "year", but "ano" means "anus".

Computer usage

Ñ is to the right of the L on a Spanish keyboard layout.

In HTML character entity reference the codes are Ñ and ñ or Ñ and ñ.

On the Apple Macintosh operating system, it can be typed by pressing the Option key then typing n followed by either N or n.

To make a lowercase ñ on the Microsoft Windows operating system, hold down the Alt key and type the numbers 164 or 0241 on the numeric keypad (with Num Lock turned on). To make an uppercase Ñ, press Alt-165 or Alt-0209. Character Map in Windows identifies the letter as "Latin Small/Capital Letter N With Tilde".

In Microsoft Word, a capital Ñ can be typed by pressing Control-Shift-Tilde (~), and then typing an "N". A lowercase ñ can be typed the same way except by typing "n" instead.

In Linux, an uppercase Ñ can be typed by holding Control and Shift while typing UD1. Similarly, a lowercase ñ can be typed with the code UF1.

In Mac OS X, an Ñ can be typed by pressing Option-N and then typing an uppercase "N". Similarly, a lowercase ñ can be typed by pressing Option-N and then typing an "n".

Another option (for any operating system) is to configure the system to use the US-International keyboard layout, where the ñ can be produced either by Alt Gr-N, or by typing the tilde (~) followed by the letter n.

Integration with URLs

From late 2001, the letter ñ was accepted as a character usable in URLs.


  1. ^ Buitrago, A., Torijano, J. A.: "Diccionario del origen de las palabras". Espasa Calpe, S. A., Madrid, 1998. (Spanish)
  2. ^ a b El triunfo de la ñ - Afirmación de Hispanoamérica (Spanish)
  3. ^ Generation-Ñ

See also

Other symbols for the palatal nasal

Other letters with a tilde

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 N with diacritics
Letters using tilde sign

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

Basic Latin alphabet

N is the fourteenth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet. Its name in English (pronounced /ɛn/) is spelled en.[1]


History of the forms

One of the most common snake hieroglyph was used in Egyptian writing to stand for a sound like English "J", because the Egyptian word for "snake" was djet. It is speculated that Semitic people working in Egypt adapted hieroglyphics to create the first alphabet, and that they used the same snake symbol to represent N, because their word for "snake" may have begun with that sound. However, the name for the letter in the Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic alphabets is nun, which means "fish" in some of these languages. The sound value of the letter was /n/—as in Greek, Etruscan, Latin and all modern languages.

Egyptian hieroglyph for 'J' Proto-Semitic N Phoenician N Etruscan N Greek Nu


N represents the dental or alveolar nasal in virtually all languages that use the Latin alphabet. A common digraph with is , which represents a velar nasal in a variety of languages, usually positioned word-finally in English. In languages like Italian and French, represents a palatal nasal (/ɲ/). The Portuguese spelling for this sound is . In English, n is silent when it is preceded by an m, in words like hymn (although it is pronounced in words such as damnation).

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the lowercase [n] represents the alveolar nasal sound. A small capital [ɴ] represents the uvular nasal.

N is the second-most commonly used consonant in the English language (after T).

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of N
NATO phonetic Morse code
November –·
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode the capital N is codepoint U+004E and the lower case n is U+006E.

The ASCII code for capital N is 78 and for lowercase n is 110; or in binary 01001110 and 01101110, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital N is 213 and for lowercase n is 149.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "N" and "n" for upper and lower case respectively.

See also

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 N with diacritics

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


  1. ^ "N" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "en," op. cit.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



The Latin script
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
Variations of letter N

Ńń Ǹǹ Ňň Ññ Ņņ Ṋṋ Ṉṉ N̈n̈ Ɲɲ Ƞƞ ɳ ȵ ɴ Ŋŋ NJNjnj NJNjnj

Letters using tilde sign or middle tilde sign

Ãã Ĩĩ Ññ Õõ P̃p̃ Ũũ Ṽṽ


Ñ upper case (lower case ñ)

  1. The letter N with a tilde.



Ñ (upper case, lower case ñ)

  1. The 17th letter of the Spanish alphabet.

Simple English

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

N is the fourteenth (number 14) letter in the English alphabet.

Meanings for N

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