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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

H (/[unsupported input]/ or /[unsupported input]h/ named aitch, plural aitches, sometimes haitch (see below).)[1] is the eighth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.


Egyptian hieroglyph
Proto-semiticH-01.png PhoenicianH-01.png EtruscanH-01.svg Eta uc lc.svg

The Semitic letter ‹ח› (ḥêṯ) most likely represented the voiceless glottal fricative (h). The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts. The early Greek eta ‹Η› represented /h/, but later on it came to represent a long vowel, /ɛː/. In Modern Greek, this phoneme has merged with /i/, similar to the English development where Middle English /ɛː/ and /eː/ came to be both pronounced /iː/.

Etruscan and Latin had /h/ as a phoneme, but almost all Romance languages lost the sound—Romanian later re-borrowed the /h/ phoneme from its neighbouring Slavic languages, and Spanish developed a secondary /h/ from /f/, before losing it again; various Spanish dialects have developed [h] as allophone of /s/ in some Spanish-speaking countries. ‹H› is also used in many spelling systems in digraphs and trigraphs, such as ‹ch› which represents /tʃ/ in Spanish and English, /ʃ/ in French and Portuguese, /k/ in Italian, French and English, and /x/ in German, Czech, Polish and Slovak.

Name in English

In almost all dialects of English, the name for the letter is pronounced /ˈeɪtʃ/ and spelled ‹aitch›[1] or occasionally ‹eitch›. The pronunciation /ˈheɪtʃ/ and hence a spelling of ‹haitch› is often considered to be h-adding and hence nonstandard. It is, however, a feature of Hiberno-English[2] and other varieties of English, such as those of Malaysia, India and Singapore. In Northern Ireland it is a shibboleth as Protestant schools teach aitch and Catholics haitch.[3] In Australia, this has also been attributed to Catholic school teaching and is estimated to be in use by 60% of the population.[4] The perceived name of the letter affects the choice of indefinite article before initialisms beginning with H: for example "an HTML page" or "a HTML page". The pronunciation /ˈheɪtʃ/ may be a hypercorrection formed by analogy with the names of the other letters of the alphabet, most of which include the sound they represent.[5]

The non-standard haitch pronunciation of h has spread in England, being used by approximately 24% of English people born since 1982[6] and polls continue to show this pronunciation becoming more common among younger native speakers. Despite this increasing number, careful speakers of English continue to pronounce aitch in the standard way, as the non-standard pronunciation is still perceived as uneducated, at least in most of the United Kingdom.[7] The pronunciation haitch followed the introduction of Phonics and was designed to help prevent working class children from dropping the initial H in words such as hospital (otherwise pronounced as 'ospital).[citation needed]

Authorities disagree about the history of the letter's name. The Oxford English Dictionary says the original name of the letter was [ˈaha]; this became [ˈaka] in Vulgar Latin, passed into English via Old French [ˈatʃ], and by Middle English was pronounced [ˈaːtʃ]. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language derives it from French hache from Latin haca or hic.


In the International Phonetic Alphabet, variations of the letter are used to represent two sounds. The lowercase form, [h], represents the voiceless glottal fricative, and the small capital form, [ʜ], represents the voiceless epiglottal fricative. A superscript [ʰ] is used to represent aspiration.

In English, ‹h› occurs as a single-letter grapheme (being either silent or representing /h/) and in various digraphs, such as ‹ch› (/tʃ/, /ʃ/, /k/, or /x/), ‹gh› (silent, /ɡ/, or /f/), ‹ph› (/f/), ‹rh› (/r/), ‹sh› (/ʃ/), ‹th› (/θ/ or /ð/), ‹wh› (/[unsupported input]hw/[8]). ‹H› is silent in a syllable rime, as in ah, ohm, dahlia, cheetah, pooh-poohed. It is often silent in the weak form of some function words beginning with ‹h›, including had, has, have, he, her, him, his; and in some words of Romance origin and, for some speakers, also in an initial unstressed syllable, as in "an historic occasion", "an hotel".

In the German language, the name of the letter is pronounced /haː/. Following a vowel, it often silently indicates that the vowel is long: In the word [erhöhen] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) ('heighten'), only the first ‹h› represents /h/. In 1901, a spelling reform eliminated the silent ‹h› in nearly all instances of ‹th› in native German words such as thun ('to do') or Thür ('door'). It has been left unchanged in words derived from Greek, such as [Theater] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) (theater') and [Thron] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) ('throne'), which continue to be spelled with ‹th› even after the last German spelling reform.

In Spanish and Portuguese, ‹h› is a silent letter with no pronunciation, as in hijo [ˈixo] ('son') and húngaro [ˈũɡaɾu] ('Hungarian'). The spelling reflects an earlier pronunciation of the sound /h/. The [h] sound exists in a number of dialects in Spanish, either as a syllable-final allophone of /s/ as in Andalusian esto [ˈɛht̪ɔ] ('this'), or as a dialectal realization of /x/, as in Puerto Rican caja [ˈkaha] ('box'). ‹H› also appears in the digraph ‹ch›, which represents /tʃ/ in Spanish and /ʃ/ in Portuguese and ‹nh› /ɲ/ and ‹lh› /ʎ/ in Portuguese.

In French, the name of the letter is pronounced /aʃ/. The French language classifies words that begin with this letter in two ways that must be learned to use French properly, even though it is a silent letter either way. The h muet, or "mute h", is considered as though the letter were not there at all, so for example the singular definite article le or la is elided to l'. For example, le + hébergement becomes l'hébergement ('the accommodation'). The other kind of ‹h› is called h aspiré ("aspirated h", though it is not normally aspirated phonetically), and is treated as a phantom consonant. For example in le homard ('the lobster') the article le remains unelided, and may be separated from the noun with a bit of a glottal stop. Most words that begin with an h muet come from Latin (honneur, homme) or from Greek through Latin (hécatombe), whereas most words beginning with an h aspiré come from Germanic (harpe, hareng) or non-Indo-European languages (harem, hamac, haricot); in some cases, an ‹h› was added to disambiguate the [v] and semivowel [ɥ] pronunciations before the introduction of the distinction the letters ‹v› and ‹u›: huit (from uit, ultimately from Latin octo), huître (from uistre, ultimately from Greek through Latin ostrea).

In Italian, ‹h› has no phonological value. Its most important uses are to differentiate certain short words, for example some present tense forms of the verb avere ('to have') (such as hanno, 'they have', vs. anno, 'year'), in short interjections (oh, ehi), and in the digraphs ‹ch› /k/ and ‹gh› /ɡ/.

Some languages, including English, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Finnish, use ‹h› as a breathy voiced glottal fricative [ɦ], often as an allophone of otherwise voiceless /h/ in a voiced environment.

In Ukrainian and Belarusian, when written in the Latin alphabet, ‹h› is also commonly used for /ɦ/, normally written with the Cyrillic letter ‹г›. (Note the difference from Russian pronunciation and romanisation.)

In Irish, ‹h› after a consonant indicates lenition of that consonant; it is known as a séimhiú.

In most dialects of Polish, both ‹h› and the digraph ‹ch› always represent /x/.

Computing codes

Alternative representations of H
NATO phonetic Morse code
Hotel ····
ICS Hotel.svg Semaphore Hotel.svg ⠓
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode, the capital ‹H› is codepoint U+0048 and the lower case ‹h› is U+0068.

The ASCII code for capital ‹H› is 72 and for lowercase ‹h› is 104; or in binary 01001000 and 01101000, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital ‹h› is 200 and for lowercase ‹h› is 136.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "H" and "h" for upper and lower case respectively.

The codepoint U+210E is used for the Planck constant: ℎ.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "H" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "aitch", op. cit.
  2. A dictionary of Hiberno-English, Terence Patrick Dolan page 119, Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2004
  3. Corbett, John (2000). "Literary Language and Scottish Identity". ASLS. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  4. Ab(h)ominable (H)aitch by Frederick Ludowyk, Australian National Dictionary Centre
  5. Todd, L. & Hancock I.: "International English Ipod", page 254. Routledge, 1990.
  6. John C Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, page 360, Pearson, Harlow, 2008
  7. 'Haitch' or 'aitch'? How do you pronounce 'H'?, BBC News, 98 October 2010
  8. In many dialects, /hw/ and /w/ have merged

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