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This article is about the letter. For other uses, see K (disambiguation).
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

K (/[unsupported input]ˈk/; named kay)[1] is the eleventh letter of the English and basic modern Latin alphabet.

History and usage

In the English language, K usually represents the voiceless velar plosive; this sound is also represented by /k/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet and X-SAMPA.

Egyptian hieroglyph D Proto-Semitic K Phoenician
Etruscan K Greek
Proto-semiticK-01.png PhoenicianK-01.png EtruscanK-01.png Kappa uc lc.svg

The letter K comes from the Greek letter K (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 modern-day English slang, the word "k" is used as a substitute for the abbreviation "O.K.", or "Okay." In International Morse code it is used to mean "over".[4]

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".[5]

When Greek words were taken into Latin, the Kappa was changed to C, with a few exceptions such as the praenomen Kaeso.[2] Some words from other alphabets were also transliterated into C. Hence, the Romance languages have K only in words from 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 (though 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 do not 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 use characters with sharp angles to indicate the sound /k/ or syllables that start with a /k/, for example: Arabic ك, Hebrew כ or ק, 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 క in Telugu, ก and ค in Thai, Ք in Armenian, ክ in Geez, and C in Latin.

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of K
NATO phonetic Morse code
Kilo –·–
ICS Kilo.svg Semaphore Kilo.svg ⠅
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. 2.0 2.1 "K". The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989, online
  3. Cyrus H. Gordon: The Accidental Invention of the Phonemic Alphabet
  4. Stephen Phillips (2009-06-04). "International Morse Code". 
  5. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0195083458. 


af:K als:K ar:K an:K arc:K ast:K az:K zh-min-nan:K be:K, літара be-x-old:K (літара) bs:K br:K ca:K cs:K co:K cy:K da:K de:K et:K el:K es:K eo:K eu:K fa:K fr:K (lettre) fy:K fur:K gv:Keirn (lettyr) gd:K gl:K gan:K xal:K үзг ko:K hr:K ilo:K id:K is:K it:K he:K ka:K kw:K sw:K ht:K ku:K (herf) la:K lv:K lb:K lt:K hu:K mk:K (Латиница) mg:K mr:K mzn:K ms:K my:K nah:K nl:K (letter) ja:K no:K nrm:K uz:K (harf) pl:K pt:K ro:K qu:K ru:K (латиница) se:K stq:K simple:K sk:K sl:K sr:K (слово латинице) sh:K fi:K sv:K tl:K th:K tr:K (harf) uk:K (латиниця) vi:K vo:K war:K yi:K yo:K zh-yue:K diq:K bat-smg:K zh:K

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