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Basic Latin alphabet

K (and k) is the eleventh letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet. Its name in English (pronounced /keɪ/) is spelled kay.[1]


History and usage

Egyptian hieroglyph D Proto-Semitic K Phoenician K Etruscan K Greek Kappa

The letter K comes from the Greek Κ (kappa), which was taken from the Semitic kap, the symbol for an open hand.[2] This in turn was likely adapted by Semites who had lived in Egypt from the hieroglyph for "hand" representing D in the Egyptian word for hand, d-r-t. The Semites evidently assigned it the sound value /k/ instead, because their word for hand started with that sound.[3]

In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the sounds /k/ and /g/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, Q was used to represent /k/ or /g/ before a rounded vowel, K before /a/, and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q. K survived only in a few fossilized forms such as Kalendae, "the calends".[4]

When Greek words were taken into Latin, the Kappa was converted to C, with a few exceptions such as the praenomen Kaeso.[2] Some words from other alphabets were also transliterated into C. Therefore, the Romance languages have K only in words from still other language groups. The Celtic languages also chose C over K, and this influence carried over into Old English. Today, English is the only Germanic language to productively use hard C in addition to K (although Dutch use it in learned words of Latin origin and follows the same "hard / soft" distinction in such words as does French and English – but not in native words).

Some English linguists prefer to reverse the Latin transliteration process for proper names in Greek, spelling Hecate as "Hekate", for example. And the writing down of languages that don't have their own alphabet with the Latin one has resulted in a standardization of the letter for this sound, as in Kwakiutl.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [k] is the symbol for the voiceless velar plosive.

Several other alphabets also use characters with sharp angles to indicate the sound /k/ or syllables that start with a /k/, for example: Arabic ك, Hebrew כ (in some fonts), Korean ㄱ. This kind of phonetic-visual association was studied by Wolfgang Köhler. However, there are also many examples of rounded letters for /k/, like ค in Thai, Ք in Armenian and C in Latin.

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of K
NATO phonetic Morse code
Kilo –·–
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode, the capital K is codepoint U+004B and the lower case k is U+006B.

The ASCII code for capital K is 75 and for lowercase k is 107; or in binary 01001011 and 01101011, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital K is 210, and for lowercase k, 146.

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

See also


  1. ^ "K" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "kay," op. cit.
  2. ^ a b "K". The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989, online [1]
  3. ^ Cyrus H. Gordon: The Accidental Invention of the Phonemic Alphabet
  4. ^ Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 21. ISBN 0195083458. 
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 K with diacritics

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


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 K

Ḱḱ Ǩǩ Ķķ Ḵḵ Ƙƙ Ⱪⱪ ᶄᶄ Ꝁꝁ

Letters using caron sign

Ǎǎ Čč Ďď Ěě Ǧǧ Ȟȟ Ǐǐ J̌ǰ Ǩǩ Ľľ Ňň Ǒǒ Řř Šš Ťť Ǔǔ Žž Ǯǯ DŽDždž


ǩ lower case (upper case Ǩ)

  1. The Latin letter k with caron. Languages that use this letter include Romani (ǩ = /kʰ/) and Skolt Sami (ǩ = /c​͡ç/).

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

K is the eleventh (number 11) letter in the English alphabet.

K or kappa is the tenth (number 10) letter in the Greek alphabet

Meanings for K

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 11, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on K, which are similar to those in the above article.

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