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À à
È è
Ì ì
Ǹ ǹ
Ò ò
Ù ù
Ǜ ǜ

The grave accent ( ` ) is a diacritical mark used in written Breton, Catalan, Dutch, French, Greek (until 1982; see polytonic orthography), Italian, Norwegian, Occitan, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, Vietnamese, Welsh, and other languages.

The word grave is derived from the Latin gravis (heavy). In English, the word is sometimes pronounced /ˈɡrɑːv/ grav, not like the word grave meaning "serious" or "tomb", which is pronounced greiv. It comes from French, where it is pronounced similarly; accent grave is pronounced [aksɑ̃ ɡʁav].



The grave accent was first used in the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, where it occurred only on the last syllable of a word, in cases where the normal high pitch (indicated by an acute accent) was lowered because of a following word in the same sentence. Since Modern Greek has a stress accent instead of a pitch accent, this diacritic has been replaced with an acute accent mark in the modern monotonic orthography.

Phonetically, the grave accent originally marked a heavier and louder tone, as opposed to the acute accent that marked a sharp pitch. Visually as well, it is the exact opposite of the acute accent, being its mirror image. In nearly all fonts, the accent mark is similar to a top-heavy triangle with its sharp point extending rightwards.


The grave accent marks the stressed vowel of a word in Catalan and Italian. Some examples from Italian are città "city", morì "[he/she] died", virtù "virtue", Mosè "Moses", portò "[he/she] brought, carried". Especially with capital letters, or when using a keyboard without accented letters, an apostrophe is sometimes used instead of it in Italian, thus E’ instead of È "[he/she/it] is", though this is considered (at least) inelegant and inaccurate (though the phrase un po’ meaning "a little" is never spelt un pò, because it's a truncated version of un poco).

In Italian there are pairs of words, one accented and the other not, with different pronunciation and meaning, such as pero "pear tree" and però "but", and papa "pope" and papà "dad" (the last example is also valid for Catalan).


The grave accent marks the height or openness of the vowels e and o, indicating that they are pronounced open: è [ɛ] (as opposed to é [e]); ò [ɔ] (as opposed to ó [o]), in several Romance languages:

  • Catalan uses the accent on three letters (a, e, and o).
  • French uses the accent on three letters (a, e, and u), but only with e does it serve to indicate a pronunciation change. For example, the accent mark in lève [lεv], indicates that it is not pronounced as a schwa, like in lever [ləve].
  • Italian
  • Occitan


The grave accent is used to distinguish homophones in several languages:

  • Catalan, where it distinguishes, for example, ma ("my") from ("hand").
  • French. The grave accent on the letters a and u has no effect on pronunciation and only serves to distinguish homonyms that are otherwise spelled the same. It distinguishes the preposition à ("to/belonging to/towards") from the verb a (the third-person singular present tense of avoir), as well as the adverb ("there") and the feminine definite article la; it is also used in the word déjà and the phrase çà et là ("hither and thither"; without the accent, it would literally mean "it and the"). It is used on the letter u only to distinguish ("where") and ou ("or"). È is rarely used to distinguish homonyms, except in dès/des ("since/some"), ès/es ("in/are"), and lès/les ("near/the").
  • Italian, where it distinguishes for example the conjunction e "and" from the verb è ("he/she/it is"), or the feminine article la from the adverb ("there").
  • In Norwegian (both Bokmål and Nynorsk), the grave accent is used to separate words which would otherwise be identical, for instance og (and) and òg (too). Popular usage, possibly because Norwegian rarely uses diacritics, often leads to a grave accent being used in place of an acute accent.


In Welsh, the accent is used to denote a short vowel sound in a word which would otherwise be pronounced with a long vowel sound, for example mẁg "mug" versus mwg "smoke".

In Scottish Gaelic, it denotes a long vowel (the use of acute accents is seen in older texts, but is no longer allowed according to the new orthographical conventions).


In some tonal languages such as Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese (when written in Hanyu Pinyin or Zhuyin Fuhao), the grave accent is used to indicate a falling tone. The alternative to the grave accent in Mandarin is number 4 after the syllable: pà = pa4.

In African languages, the grave accent is often used to indicate a low tone, e.g. Nobiin jàkkàr 'fish-hook', Yoruba àgbọ̀n 'chin', Hausa màcè 'woman'.

Other uses

In Portuguese, the grave accent indicates the contraction of two consecutive vowels in adjacent words (crasis). For example, instead of a (at) aquela (that) hora (hour), one says and writes àquela hora "at that hour".
In Hawaiian, the grave accent is used to place a break, or glottal stop, in a word. For more on the Hawaiian use of the grave accent, see the ‘okina.

Use in English

The grave accent is most often used in English in poetry and song lyrics. It indicates that a vowel usually silent is to be pronounced, in order to fit the rhythm or meter. Most often, it is applied to a word ending with -ed. For instance, the word looked is usually pronounced /ˈlʊkt/ as a single syllable, with the e silent; when written as lookèd, the e is pronounced: /ˈlʊk.ɨd/ look-ed). It can also be used in this capacity to distinguish certain pairs of identically spelled words like the past tense of learn, learned /ˈlɜrnd/, from the adjective learnèd /ˈlɜrn.ɨd/.

Italics, with appropriate accents, are generally applied to foreign terms that are uncommonly used in or have not been assimilated into English: for example, vis-à-vis, pièce de résistance and crème brûlée


The ISO-8859-1 character encoding includes the letters à, è, ì, ò, ù, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the grave accent are available in Unicode.

In the ASCII character set the grave accent is encoded as character 96, hex 60. Unicode also provides the grave accent as a combining character, encoded as 768, hex 300. Outside the US, character 96 is often replaced by accented letters. In the French ISO 646 standard, the character at this position is µ. Many older UK computers, such as the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro, have the £ symbol as character 96, though the British ISO 646 variant ultimately placed this symbol at position 35 instead.

On many computer keyboards, the grave accent occupies a key by itself, and is meant to be combined with vowels as a multi-key combination or as a dead key to modify the following letter. However, programmers have used the key by itself for a number of tasks.

On a Mac, to get a character, such as à, the user must type Option-` and then the vowel. For example, to make à, the user must type Option-` and then 'a', and to make À, the user must type Option-` and then Shift-a.

On a system running the X Window System, to get a character such as à, the user should press compose, ` then the vowel. The compose key on modern keyboards is usually mapped to a Windows key or shift+AltGR.

On a US and UK QWERTY keyboard, the grave accent key is placed in the top left corner. In many PC based computer games the key is used to open the console window, allowing the user to execute commands via a CLI.

When using TeX to typeset text, the backtick character is used as a syntax to represent curly opening quotes. For example, ` is rendered as single opening curly quote (‘) and `` isa double curly opening quote (“).

Many of the Unix shells and the programming languages Mythryl, Perl, Ruby and PHP use pairs of this character—known as backquote or backtick—to indicate substitution of the standard output from one command into a line of text defining another command. For example, echo `date` might execute echo Sat Mar 1 09:43:00 GMT 2008 and print Sat Mar 1 09:43:00 GMT 2008.

In Lisp macro systems, the backquote character (called quasiquote in Scheme) introduces a quoted expression in which comma-substitution may occur. It is identical to the plain quote, except that symbols prefixed with a comma will be replaced with those symbols' values as variables. This is roughly analogous to the Unix shell's variable interpolation with $ inside double quotes.

In m4, it is used together with an apostrophe to quote strings (to suppress or defer macro expansion).

In MySQL, it is used in queries as a table and database classifier.

In Pico, the backquote is used to indicate comments in the programming language.

Microsoft Windows PowerShell uses the backquote as the escape character. For example, a newline character is denoted `n. Most commonly used programming languages use a backslash as the escape character (e.g. \n) but because Windows allows the backslash as a path separator, it would have been impractical for PowerShell to use backslash for a different purpose. To get the ` character itself, use two backticks. For example the nullable boolean of .NET is specified in PowerShell as [Nullable``1[System.Boolean]].

In the Python programming language, "backticks" are used as a synonym for the repr() function, which converts its argument to a string suitable for a programmer to view. However, this feature has been removed in Python 3.0. Backticks are also used extensively in the reStructuredText plain text markup language (implemented in the Python docutils package).

In Verilog the grave accent is used to define constants (e.g. after the line `define NUM 100, `NUM can be used as a synonym for 100) whereas the apostrophe is used in specifying sized constants (for example, 5'd10 is a 5-bit constant with the value 10). Accidental use of an apostrophe instead of a grave accent and vice versa is a source of frequent beginner mistakes in the language.

In Unlambda, the backquote character denotes function application.

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
Letters using grave accent

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

External links

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


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 Y

Ýý Ŷŷ Ÿÿ Ȳȳ Ỷỷ Ɏɏ Ƴƴ ʏ

Letters using grave accent or double grave accent


upper case (lower case )

  1. The letter Y with a grave accent.

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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