Cedilla: Wikis


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Ç ç
Ȩ ȩ
Ģ ģ
Ķ ķ
Ļ ļ
Ņ ņ
Æ̧ æ̧
Ŗ ŗ
Ş ş
Ţ ţ

A cedilla (pronounced /sɨˈdɪlə/) or cedille[citation needed] is a hook ( ¸ ) added under certain consonant letters as a diacritical mark to modify their pronunciation.



The tail originated in Spain as the bottom half of a miniature cursive "z" (zed). The word "cedilla" is the diminutive of the Old Spanish name for this letter, ceda (zeta).[1] Modern Spanish, however, no longer uses this diacritic, although it is still current in Portuguese,[2] Catalan, Occitan, and French, which gives English the alternative spelling of cedille, from French cédille. An obsolete spelling of cedilla is cerilla.[2] The earliest use in English cited by the Oxford English Dictionary[2] is a 1599 Spanish-English dictionary and grammar.[3] Chambers' Cyclopædia[4] is cited for the printer-trade variant ceceril in use in 1738.[2] The main use in English is not universal and applies to loan words from French and Portuguese such as "façade" (often typed "facade" due to lack of ç keys on the keyboards of most Anglophone countries).

Use of the cedilla with the letter C

Origin of the cedilla from the Visigothic z

The most frequent character with cedilla is "ç" ("c" with cedilla, as in façade). It was first used for the sound of the voiceless alveolar affricate /ts/ in old Spanish and stems from the Visigothic form of the letter "z" (ʒ), whose upper loop was lengthened and reinterpreted as a "c", whereas its lower loop became the diminished appendage, the cedilla.

It represents the "soft" sound /s/ where a "c" would normally represent the "hard" sound /k/ (before "a", "o", "u", or at the end of a word), in certain Romance or Romance-influenced languages such as Basque, Catalan, (occasionally) English, French, Occitan, and Portuguese.

It represents the voiceless postalveolar affricate /tʃ/ (as in English "church") in Turkish (as in Çorum), Albanian, Friulian, Kurdish, Tatar, Azerbaijani, and Turkmen.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, /ç/ represents the voiceless palatal fricative.

Use of the cedilla with the letter S

The character "ş" represents the voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ (as in "show") in several languages:

It is also used in some Romanizations of Arabic, Persian and Tiberian Hebrew to represent a pharyngealized "s", (ص in the Arabic alphabet, צ in Hebrew) although the letter "" is more frequently used for this.

A proposal for the use of the cedilla with the letter T

In 1868, Ambroise Firmin-Didot suggested in his book Observations sur l'orthographe, ou ortografie, française (Observations on French Spelling) that French phonetics could be better regularized by adding a cedilla beneath the letter "t" in some words. For example, it is well-known that in the suffix -tion this letter is usually not pronounced as (or close to) /t/ in either French or English. It has to be distinctly learned that in words such as French diplomatie (but not diplomatique) and English action it is pronounced /s/ and /ʃ/, respectively (but not in active in either language). A similar effect occurs with other prefixes or within words also in French and English, such as partial where t is pronounced /s/ and /ʃ/ respectively. Firmin-Didot surmised that a new character could be added to French orthography. A similar letter does exist in Romanian (see below).

Use of the cedilla in Latvian

In Latvian, the cedilla is used on the letters "ģ", "ķ", "ļ", "ņ", and historically also "ŗ", to indicate palatalization. Because the lowercase letter "g" has a descender, the cedilla is rotated 180° and placed over the letter. The uppercase equivalent "Ģ" has a normal cedilla. However, from the typographical point of view, these diacritics are commas. For input "Ģ" use Alt 290 and Alt 291 sequences, for "Ķ" use Alt 310 and Alt 311, for "Ļ" use Alt 315 and Alt 316, for "Ņ" use Alt 325 and Alt 326.

Other diacritical marks confused with the cedilla

Several languages add a diacritical comma (virgula) to various letters, such as ș, ģ, and ķ. These marks resemble cedillas, and some sources consider them to be cedillas, but they are officially considered commas. This is particularly confusing for characters which can adopt both diacritics: for example, the consonant /ʃ/ is written as ş in Turkish but ș in Romanian, and Romanian writers will sometimes use the former instead of the latter because of insufficient font or character-set support.

The Polish letters ą and ę and Lithuanian letters ą, ę, į, and ų are not made with the cedilla, but with the unrelated ogonek diacritic; superficially, an ogonek resembles a reversed cedilla (opening to the right instead of the left), but the exact shape is quite different.


  1. ^ For cedilla being the diminutive of ceda, see definition of cedilla, Diccionario de la lengua española, 22nd edition, Real Academia Española (Spanish), which can be seen in context by accessing the site of the Real Academia and searching for cedilla. (This was accessed 27 July 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d "cedilla". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  3. ^ Minsheu, John (1599) Percyvall's (R.) Dictionarie in Spanish and English (as enlarged by J. Minsheu) Edm. Bollifant, London, OCLC 3497853
  4. ^ Chambers, Ephraim (1738) Cyclopædia; or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences (2nd ed.) OCLC 221356381

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
Letters using cedilla sign

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

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