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In linguistics, diaeresis, or dieresis, is the pronunciation of two adjacent vowels in two separate syllables rather than as a diphthong or vowel digraph, and also the name of the diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used to prompt the reader to pronounce adjacent vowels in this manner.

For example the first two vowels in the word cooperate can be spelt co-operate or, using the diæresis, coöperate.

The word diæresis itself comes from the Greek noun διαίρεσις (diaíresis: ‘taking apart’ or ’division’), which derives from the verb διαιρεῖν (diaireîn). The spelling is now normally simplified by replacing the grapheme æ with the digraph ae (in British English), or with the letter e in North American English.

The opposite phenomenon is known as synæresis.



The diæresis is a diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used in English to indicate that two adjacent vowels are to be pronounced separately[1] as in Boötes, Noël and naïve, the names Zoë and Chloë and words like reënter and coöperate. An identical diacritic is used in German and several related languages to represent the umlaut, and this name is sometimes used to refer to the diæresis mark as well.

Despite its long history in English, the diæresis is now increasingly rarely used, with The New Yorker[2] and MIT's Technology Review being prominent exceptions.

Use in other languages

Dutch uses the same mark in a similar way, (for example coëfficiënt), but for compound words there is now a preference for hyphenation - so zeeëend (seaduck) is now spelled zee-eend.[3]

In French the diæresis is still in common usage, where it is called tréma, and the English examples Noël and naïve in fact derive from the French. It is usually written on the second of the two adjacent vowels – although since a spelling reform in 1990, it may been written on the u in -güe- and -güi-, as in Spanish. Additionally, in some French words, the diæresis indicates that an otherwise unpronounced syllable is pronounced: aigüe or aiguë; cigüe or ciguë.

In German, it is called an umlaut and is used over a, o or u to indicate fronting of the affected vowel. In direct German-English translations, it is represented by an e after the vowel with the umlaut. For instance, Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen is spelt in its English translation as Berlin Schoenefeld Aiport

In Welsh, where the diæresis appears, it is usually on the stressed vowel, and this is most often on the first of the two adjacent vowels; a typical example is copïo [kɔ.'pi.ɔ] (to copy), cf. mopio ['mɔ.pjɔ] (to mop).

Other languages indicate phonological diæresis with different diacritics, such as the acute accent in Spanish and Portuguese. For example, the Portuguese words saia [ˈsai̯ɐ] "skirt" and saía [saˈiɐ] "I used to leave" (Brazilian pronunciation) differ in that the sequence /ai/ forms a diphthong in the former (synæresis), but is a hiatus in the latter (diæresis).


In prosody, diæresis means the division made in a line or a verse when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word.

See also


  1. ^ Bringhurst, p 306.
  2. ^ Diaeresis at the Word of Day
  3. ^ Translation Services USA


  • Bringhurst, Robert (1992 [2004]). The elements of typographic style, version 3.0. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-133-4.

Basic Latin alphabet

The letter Y is the twenty-fifth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet. Its name in English (pronounced /waɪ/) is spelled wye or occasionally wy, plural wyes.[1]



The original ancestor of Y was the Semitic letter Waw, which was also the ultimate origin of the modern letters F, U, V, and W. See F for details.

In Ancient Greek, Υ (Upsilon) represented IPA: [/u/], and was borrowed by the Romans as the letter V to represent both the vowel /u/ and the consonant /w/. In later times, the pronunciation of the Greek letter shifted to /y/, and the Romans borrowed it again, as Y, to represent the new sound — mainly in names and words taken from Greek.

The letter Y was used in Old English, as in Latin, to represent /y/; however, some claim that this use was a type-setters' substitution for an old runic letter Yogh, unrelated to the Latin use of the letter. Regardless, it is fairly likely that the letter, although technically named Y Græca (pronounced /uː ɡreːka/) "Greek u" in contradistinction from native Latin /uː/, came to be analyzed as the letter V (called /uː/) atop the letter I (called /iː/). Such an analysis is made explicit in the First Grammatical Treatise. The letter was thus referred to as /uː iː/,[citation needed] which fused to /wiː/ and after English's Great Vowel Shift became /waɪ/.

By Middle English, /y/ had lost its roundedness and merged with /i/, and Y came to be used with the same values as I, /iː/ and /ɪ/ as well as /j/. Those dialects that retained /y/ spelled it with U, under French influence.

The Modern English use of Y is a direct continuation of this Middle English use, although eventually vocalic Y became essentially restricted to three contexts: word-final (e.g. city; cf. the plural cities); representing upsilon in borrowings from Greek (e.g. system); and in some words from monosyllabic stems before a vowel (e.g. rye, and dying.)[2]. Y remains the standard spelling of the consonant /j/.

Thus the words myth [of Greek origin] and gift [of Old English origin], which originally contained high front rounded vowels, both have [ɪ].

With the introduction of printing, the letter Y was used by Caxton and other printers in England to represent the letter thorn (Þ, þ) which was lacking from continental typefaces, resulting in the use of ye for the word the. The pronunciation always remained /ði/ (stressed), /ðə/ (unstressed); the occasionally encountered /ji/ is purely a modern spelling pronunciation.


In Spanish, Y is called i/y griega, in Catalan i grega, in French and Romanian i grec, in Polish igrek - all meaning "Greek i" (except for Polish, where it is simply a phonetic transcription of the French name); in most other European languages the Greek name is still used; in German, for example, it is called Ypsilon (or also sometimes spelt "Üpsilon") and in Portuguese it's called ípsilon or ípsilo (although in Portuguese there is also the name "Greek i"). [1] The letter Y was originally established as a vowel. In the standard English language, the letter Y is traditionally regarded as a consonant, but a survey of almost any English text will show that Y more commonly functions as a vowel. In many cases, it is known as a semivowel.

After fronting from /u/, Greek /y/ de-rounded to /i/.

In English morphology, -y is a diminutive suffix.

Other Germanic and Scandinavian Languages

When not serving as the second vowel in a diphthong, it has the sound value /y/ in the Scandinavian languages and /ʏ/ in German. Y can never be a consonant (except for loanwords), but in diphthongs, as in the name Meyer, it serves as a variant of "i".

In Dutch, Y appears only in loanwords and names and usually represents /i/. It is often left out of the Dutch alphabet and replaced with the "ligature IJ". In Afrikaans, a development of Dutch, Y denotes the diphthong [ɛi], probably as a result of mixing lower case i and y or may derive from the IJ ligature.


In the Spanish language, Y was used as a word-initial form of I that was more visible. (German has used J in a similar way.) Hence "el yugo y las flechas" was a symbol sharing the initials of Isabella I of Castille (Ysabel) and Ferdinand II of Aragon. This spelling was reformed by the Royal Spanish Academy and currently is only found in proper names spelt archaically, such as Ybarra or CYII, the symbol of the Canal de Isabel II. X is also still used in Spanish with a different sound in some archaisms.

Appearing alone as a word, the letter Y is a grammatical conjunction with the meaning "and" in Spanish and is pronounced /i/. In Spanish family names, y can separate the father's surname from the mother's surname as in "Santiago Ramón y Cajal"; another example is "Maturin y Domanova", from the Jack Aubrey novel sequence. Catalan names use i for this. Otherwise, Y represents /ʝ/ in Spanish. When coming before the sound /i/, Y is replaced with E: "español e inglés". This is to avoid pronouncing /i/ twice.

The letter Y is called "i/y griega", "Greek I", after the Greek letter ypsilon.

Other languages

Italian, too, has Y (i greca or ipsilon) in a small number of loanwords.

In Polish and Guaraní, it represents the close central unrounded vowel (IPA: /ɨ/)

In Finnish and Albanian, Y is always pronounced /y/.

In Lithuanian Y is the 15th letter and is a vowel. It is called the long i and is pronounced /i:/ like in English see.

In Faroese and Icelandic, it's always pronounced i. It can also be the part of diphthongs: ey and oy (Faroese only).

In Turkish Y is pronounced as /j/.

In contrast, in the Latin transcription of Nenets (Nyenec) the letter "y" palatalizes the preceding consonant. The letter Y shows how letters change their function.

When used as a vowel in Vietnamese, the letter y represents the close front unrounded vowel. When used as a monophthong, it is functionally equivalent to the Vietnamese letter i. Thus, Mỹ Lai does not rhyme but mỳ Lee does. There have been efforts to replace all such uses with i altogether, but they have been largely unsuccessful.

In Quechua and Aymara, Y is always /j/.

Significance in the IPA

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [y] corresponds to the close front rounded vowel, and the slightly different character [ʏ] corresponds to the near-close near-front rounded vowel.

It is indicative of the rarity of front rounded vowels that [y] is the rarest sound represented in the IPA by a letter of the Latin alphabet, being cross-linguistically less than half as frequent as [q] or [c] and only about a quarter as frequent as [x].

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of Y
NATO phonetic Morse code
Yankee –·––
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode the capital Y is codepoint U+0059 and the lower case y is U+0079.

The ASCII code for capital Y is 89 and for lowercase y is 121; or in binary 01011001 and 01111001, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital Y is 232 and for lowercase y is 168.

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

See also

  • Υ, υ, the Greek upsilon
  • У, у, the Cyrillic U
  • ы, ы, the Cyrillic Yeru
  • Ү, ү, the Cyrillic Ue (Straight U)
  • ¥, a currency symbol


  1. ^ "Y" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "wy," op. cit.
  2. ^ C. M. Millward, A Biography of the English Language 2nd ed., Wadsworth (1996), p. 159, ISBN 0-1550-1645-8.
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 Y with diacritics
Two-letter combinations
Letter-digit & Digit-letter combinations
   Y0Y1Y2Y3Y4Y5Y6Y7Y8Y9    0Y1Y2Y3Y4Y5Y6Y7Y8Y9Y   

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

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

Y is the twenty-fifth (number 25) letter in the English alphabet. It is sometimes considered a vowel. In words like say, yell, and they, the Y is a consonant. In words like sty, cry, and fly, the Y is considered a vowel

Meanings for Y

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