Y: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Basic 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

The letter Y is the twenty-fifth and penultimate letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet, a vowel. Its name in English (pronounced /ˈwaɪ/) is spelt wye or occasionally wy, plural wyes.[1]




The ancestor of Y was the Semitic letter waw, from which also come F, U, and W. See F for details.

Y first appeared as the Greek letter upsilon. The Romans borrowed upsilon first as the letter V, representing both /u/ and its consonantal variant /w/ — U and V in Latin loan-words to English.

When pronunciation of upsilon in the prestigious Attic dialect changed to /y/, the Romans borrowed it again as Y to write Greek loan-words. Y was named Y Graeca "Greek Y". This was no doubt pronounced as I Graeca "Greek I", since Latin speakers had trouble pronouncing /y/, which was not a native sound. In Romance languages, the pronunciation became the regular name: Spanish i griega, French i grec, etc.

Old English borrowed Latin Y to write the native Old English sound /y/. When the letter came to be analyzed as a V atop an I (First Grammatical Treatise), it was renamed VI (/uː iː/),[citation needed] which was simplified to one syllable (/wiː/), and by the Great Vowel Shift became Modern English wy (/waɪ/).

By the time of Middle English, /y/ had lost its roundedness and became identical to I (/iː/ and /ɪ/). Therefore, many words that originally had I were spelled with Y, and vice-versa. A similar substitution occurred in Latin words: original silva "wood" is spelled with Y in Pennsylvania.

(Some dialects, however, retained the sound /y/ and spelled it U, following French usage.)

Likewise, Modern English vocalic Y is pronounced identically to I. But Modern English uses it in only certain places, unlike Middle and early Modern English. It has three uses: for upsilon in Greek loan-words (system: Greek σύστημα), at the end of a word (rye, city; compare cities, where S is final), and in monosyllabic stems before vowel endings (dy-ing).

When printing was introduced from the continent, Caxton and other English printers used Y in place of Þ (thorn: Modern English th), which did not exist in continental typefaces. From this convention comes the spelling of "the" as "ye" in the mock archaism "Ye Olde Shoppe". But in spite of the spelling, pronunciation was the same as for modern "the" (stressed /ðiː/, unstressed /ðə/). Ye (/jiː/) is purely a modern spelling pronunciation.

The consonantal use of Y for /j/ (year, German Jahr) is probably unrelated to vocalic use. Perhaps it was a typesetters' substitution for the Middle English letter yogh (Ȝȝ) where it represented /j/. Yogh representing the letter's other sound, /ɣ/, came to be written gh in Modern English.

Greek Latin English
Old Middle Modern
upsilon (Υ) → V
Y → Y → ~ I I (Y)
yogh → consonantal Y


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 and in Portuguese and Italian 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 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. Although in disuse nowadays, it was also called "ye", pronounced /ʝe/.

Other languages

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

In Polish and Guaraní, it represents the vowel /ɨ/.

In Welsh it is pronounced /ə/ in monosyllabic words or non-final syllables, and /ɨ/ or /i/ (depending on the accent) in final syllables.

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 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, as a consonant, it represents the palatal approximant.

In Aymara, Turkish, Quechua as in Romaji in Japanese, all Y is a palatal consonant, always denoting /j/

In Japan, Ⓨ is a symbol used for resale price maintenance.

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 –·––
ICS Yankee.svg Semaphore Yankee.svg ⠽
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.
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

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

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Y is a village in Southcentral Alaska.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

The Universal Character Set
Basic Latin U+0059
See also y, Ɏ, ¥, and Appendix:Variations of "y"



Wikipedia has an article on:



Y upper case (lower case y)

  1. The twenty-fifth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.

See also



  1. (chemistry) Symbol for yttrium
  2. (metrology) Symbol for prefix yotta-
  3. (genetics) IUPAC 1-letter abbreviation for any pyrimidine
  4. (biochemistry) IUPAC 1-letter abbreviation for tyrosine

See also

Other representations of Y:





  1. yes
  2. (the Y) YMCA or YWCA



  1. The twenty-fifth letter of the English alphabet, preceded by X and followed by Z.

American Sign Language


Y (Stokoe Y)

  1. The letter Y



  • (letter name): IPA: /ɛɪ/


Y (capital, lowercase y)

  1. The twenty-fifth letter of the Dutch alphabet.

See also

  • Previous letter: X
  • Next letter: Z




Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Y m. and f. inv.

  1. The twenty-fifth letter of the Latin alphabet



Y (upper case, lower case y)

  1. The 28th 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

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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