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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

C (/[unsupported input]s/; named cee)[1] is the third letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.


Classical Greek
Old Latin
Phoenician gimel Arabic GimArabic HHaa Hebrew gimel Classical Greek Gamma Etruscan C Old Latin

‹C› comes from the same letter as ‹g›. The Semites named it gimel. The sign is possibly adapted from an Egyptian hieroglyph for a staff sling, which may have been the meaning of the name gimel. Another possibility is that it depicted a camel, the Semitic name for which was gamal.

In the Etruscan language, plosive consonants had no contrastive voicing, so the GreekΓ› (Gamma) was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet to represent /k/. Already in the Western Greek alphabet, Gamma first took a ‹Early Etruscan C.gif› form in Early Etruscan, then ‹Classical Etruscan C.gif› in Classical Etruscan. In Latin it eventually took the ‹c› form in Classical Latin. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters ‹c k q› were used to represent the sounds /k/ and /ɡ/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, ‹q› was used to represent /k/ or /ɡ/ before a rounded vowel, ‹k› before ‹a›, and ‹c› elsewhere.[2] During the 3rd century BC, a modified character was introduced for /ɡ/, and ‹c› itself was retained for /k/. The use of ‹c› (and its variant ‹g›) replaced most usages of ‹k› and ‹q›. Hence, in the classical period and after, ‹g› was treated as the equivalent of Greek gamma, and ‹c› as the equivalent of kappa; this shows in the romanization of Greek words, as in ‹KA∆MOΣ›, ‹KYPOΣ›, and ‹ΦΩKIΣ› came into Latin as ‹cadmvs›, ‹cyrvs›, and ‹phocis›, respectively.

Other alphabets have letters identical to ‹c› in form but not in use and derivation, in particular the Cyrillic letter Es which derives from one form of the Greek letter sigma, known as the "lunate sigma" due to its resemblance to the crescent moon.

Later use

When the Roman alphabet was introduced into Britain, ‹c› represented only /k/ and this value of the letter has been retained in loanwords to all the insular Celtic languages: in Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, ‹c› represents only /k/. The Old English or "Anglo-Saxon" writing was learned from the Celts, apparently of Ireland; hence ‹c› in Old English also originally represented /k/; the Modern English words kin, break, broken, thick, and seek, all come from Old English words written with ‹c›: cyn, brecan, brocen, þicc, and séoc. But during the course of the Old English period, /k/ before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) was palatalized, having changed by the tenth century to [tʃ], though ‹c› was still used, as in cir(i)ce, wrecc(e)a. On the continent, meanwhile, a similar phonetic change had also been going on (for example, in Italian).

In Vulgar Latin, /k/ became palatalized to [tʃ] in Italy and Dalmatia; in France and the Iberian peninsula, it became [ts]. Yet for these new sounds ‹c› was still used before front vowels (‹e, i›) the letter thus represented two distinct values. Subsequently, the Latin phoneme /kʷ/ (represented by ‹qv›) de-labialized to /k/ meaning that the various Romance languages had /k/ before front vowels. In addition, Norman used the Greek letter ‹k› so that the sound /k/ could be represented by either ‹k› or ‹c› the latter of which could represent either /k/ or /ts/ depending on whether it preceded a front vowel or not. The convention of using both ‹c› and ‹k› was applied to the writing of English after the Norman Conquest, causing a considerable re-spelling of the Old English words. Thus while Old English candel, clif, corn, crop, cú, remained unchanged, Cent, cæ´ᵹ (cé´ᵹ), cyng, brece, séoce, were now (without any change of sound) spelled ‹Kent›, ‹keȝ›, ‹kyng›, ‹breke›, and ‹seoke›; even cniht ('knight') was subsequently changed to ‹kniht› and þic ('thick') changed to ‹thik› or ‹thikk›. The Old English ‹cw› was also at length displaced by the French ‹qu› so that the Old English cwén ('queen') and cwic ('quick') became Middle English ‹quen› ‹quik›, respectively. [tʃ] to which Old English palatalized /k/ had advanced, also occurred in French, chiefly from Latin /k/ before ‹a›. In French it was represented by ‹ch›, as in champ (from Latin camp-um) and this spelling was introduced into English: the Hatton Gospels, written about 1160, have in Matt. i-iii, child, chyld, riche, mychel, for the cild, rice, mycel, of the Old English version whence they were copied. In these cases, the Old English ‹c› gave place to ‹k qu ch› but, on the other hand, ‹c› in its new value of /ts/ came in largely in French words like processiun, emperice, grace, and was also substituted for ‹ts› in a few Old English words, as miltse, bletsien, in early Middle English milce, blecien. By the end of the thirteenth century both in France and England, this sound /ts/ de-affricated to /s/; and from that time ‹c› has represented /s/ before front vowels either for etymological reasons, as in lance, cent, or (in defiance of etymology) to avoid the ambiguity due to the "etymological" use of ‹s› for /z/, as in ace, mice, once, pence, defence.

Thus, to show the etymology, English spelling has advise, devise, instead of advize, devize, which while advice, device, dice, ice, mice, twice, etc., do not reflect etymology; example has extended this to hence, pence, defence, etc., where there is no etymological necessity for ‹c›. Former generations also wrote sence for sense. Hence, today the Romance languages and English have a common feature inherited from Vulgar Latin where ‹c› takes on either a "hard" or "soft" value depending on the following vowel.

In the orthographies of English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, ‹c› represents the "soft" value before ‹e› or ‹i› and a "hard" value of /k/ elsewhere. However, as with everything else regarding English spelling, there are a number of exceptions: "soccer" and "Celt" are words that have /k/ where /s/ would be expected.

The pronunciation of the "soft" value varies by language. In the orthographies of English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish from Latin America and southern Spain, the soft ‹c› value is /s/. In the Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain, soft ‹c› is voiceless dental fricative /θ/. In Italian and Romanian soft ‹c› is [t͡ʃ].

Other language orthographies use ‹c› to represent other sounds

There are several common digraphs with ‹c›, the most common being ‹ch›, which in some languages such as German is far more common than ‹c› alone. In English, ‹ch› most commonly represents /t͡ʃ/ (which it invariably has in Spanish), but can take the value /k/ or /ʃ/; some dialects of English also have /x/ in words like loch where other speakers pronounce the final sound as /k/. ‹Ch› takes various values in other languages, such as:

‹Ck›, with the value /k/, is often used after short vowels in Germanic languages such as English, German and Swedish (but some other Germanic languages use ‹kk› instead, such as Dutch and Norwegian). The digraph ‹cz› is found in Polish and ‹cs› in Hungarian, both representing /t͡ʃ/. In Old English, Italian, and a few languages related to Italian, ‹sc› represents /ʃ/ (however in Italian and related languages this only happens before front vowels, otherwise it represents /sk/).

As a phonetic symbol, lowercase ‹c› is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal plosive, and capital ‹C› is the X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal fricative.

Computing codes

Alternative representations of C
NATO phonetic Morse code
Charlie –·–·
ICS Charlie.svg Semaphore Charlie.svg ⠉
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode the capital C is codepoint U+0043 and the lower case c is U+0063.

The ASCII code for capital C is 67 and for lower case c is 99; in hexadecimal 43 and 63, respectively; or in binary 1000011 and 1100011, respectively. These codes are also used for ISO/IEC 8859 and many other encodings.

The EBCDIC code for capital C is 195 and for lowercase c is 131; or in binary 11000011 and 10000011, respectively.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "C" and "c" for upper and lower case, respectively.

See also


  1. "C" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "cee", op. cit.
  2. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0195083458.

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