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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

J (/[unsupported input]/ or //; named jay or jy)[1][2] is the tenth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.


J originated as a swash character to end some Roman numerals in place of i. A distinctive usage emerged in Middle High German.[3] Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478–1550) was the first to explicitly distinguish I and J as representing separate sounds, in his Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua italiana ("Trissino's epistle about the letters recently added in the Italian language") of 1524.[4] Originally, both I and J repesented /i/, /iː/, and /j/; but Romance languages developed new sounds (from former /j/ and /ɡ/) that came to be represented as I and J; therefore, English J, acquired from the French J, has a sound value quite different from /j/ (which represents the sound in the English word "yet").

Use in English

In English J most commonly represents the affricate /dʒ/ (as in jet). In Old English the phoneme /dʒ/ was represented orthographically as cg or .[5] Under the influence of Old French, which had a similar phoneme deriving from Latin /j/, English scribes began to use i (later j) to represent word-initial /dʒ/ of Old English (for example, iest, later jest), while using dg elsewhere (for example, hedge).[5] Later many other uses of i (later j) were added in loan words from French and other languages (e.g. adjoin, junta). The first English-language book to make a clear distinction between i and j was published in 1634.[5] In loanwords such as jam, "J" may be pronounced /ʒ/ by some, but not all, speakers. In some such cases, including raj, Taj Mahal and others, the regular /dʒ/ is actually closer to the original sound of the foreign language, making this realization a hyperforeignism.[6] Occasionally J represents other sounds, as in Hallelujah which is pronounced the same as "Halleluyah" (See the Hebrew yud for more details).

J is used relatively infrequently in the English language, though it is more commonly used than Q and Z.

Use in other languages

The great majority of Germanic languages, such as German, Dutch, Icelandic, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian use J for the palatal approximant /j/. Notable exceptions are English, Scots and Luxembourgish. J also represents /j/ in Albanian, and those Uralic, Baltic and Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, such as Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian and Lithuanian. Some languages in these families, such as Serbian, also adopted J into the Cyrillic alphabet for the same purpose. Because of this standard, the minuscule letter was chosen to be used in the IPA as the phonetic symbol for the sound.

In the Romance languages J has generally developed from its original palatal approximant value in Latin to some kind of fricative. In French, Portuguese, Catalan, and Romanian it has been fronted to the postalveolar fricative /ʒ/ (like s in English measure). In Spanish, by contrast, it has been both devoiced and backed from an earlier /ʝ/ to a present-day /x ~ h/,[7] with the actual phonetic realization depending on the speaker's dialect.

In modern standard Italian spelling, only Latin words, proper nouns (such as Jesi, Letojanni, Juventus etc.) or those of foreign languages have J. Until the 19th century, J was used instead of I in diphthongs, as a replacement for final -ii, and in vowel groups (as in Savoja); this rule was quite strict for official writing. J is also used to render /j/ in dialect, e.g. Romanesque ajo for standard aglio (–/ʎ/–) (garlic). The Italian novelist Luigi Pirandello used J in vowel groups in his works written in Italian; he also wrote in his native Sicilian language, which still retains the J.

In Basque, the diaphoneme represented by j has a variety of realizations according to the regional dialect: [j, ʝ, ɟ, ʒ, ʃ, x] (the last one is typical of the Spanish Basque Country).

Among non-European languages which have adopted the Roman alphabet, J stands for /ʒ/ in Turkish, Azerbaijani and Tatar. J stands for // in Indonesian, Somali, Malay, Igbo, Shona, Oromo and Zulu. It represents a voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/ in Konkani, Yoruba and Swahili. In Kiowa, J stands for a voiceless alveolar plosive, /t/. In Chinese Pinyin, J stands for //, an unaspirated Q.

The letter J is generally not used in the modern Celtic languages, except in loanwords. It is also not used frequently in the Native American languages; Gwich'in, Hän, Kaska, Tagish, Tlingit, Navajo, Northern and Southern Tutchone.

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of J
NATO phonetic Morse code
Juliet ·–––
ICS Juliet.svg Semaphore Juliet.svg ⠚
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode the capital J is codepoint U+004A and the lowercase j is U+006A. Unicode also has a dotless variant, ȷ (U+0237) for use with combining diacritics.

The ASCII code for capital J is 74 and for lowercase j is 106; or in binary 01001010 and 01101010, respectively.

The EBCDIC code for capital J is 209 and for lowercase j is 145.

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

In Unicode, a duplicate of j for use as a special phonetic character in historical Greek linguistics is encoded as ϳ (Unicode U+03F3). It is used to denote the palatal glide /j/ in the context of Greek script. It is called "Yot" in the Unicode standard, after the German name of the letter J.[8][9]

The letter J sometimes appears seemingly out of place in emails sent from Microsoft Outlook. In reality, it's meant to be a smiley. This happens because Outlook uses the Wingdings font to render a smiley, and the Wingdings character for a smiley stands at the code point that usually represents the letter J. (Note that there is a Unicode character for a smiley: U+263A, which renders as .)[10]


  1. "J", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989)
  2. "J" and "jay", Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993)
  3. Mittelhochdeutsches Handwörterbuch von Matthias Lexer (1878)
  4. Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua italiana, photographic reproduction by Turin University, page 5 of PDF file; publishing date in on the last page (requires login to access).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  6. Wells, John (1982). Accents of English 1: An Introduction. Cambridge, UN: Cambridge University Press. p. 108. ISBN 0521297192.
  7. Penny, Ralph John (2002). A History of the Spanish Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521011841.
  8. Nick Nicholas, "Yot"
  9. Unicode code chart for Greek
  10. Raymond Chen (23 May 2006). "That mysterious J". The Old New Thing. MSDN Blogs. Retrieved 2011-04-01.

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