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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

Z (named zed, zee: /[unsupported input]ˈzɛd/, /ˈz/)[1] is the twenty-sixth and final letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.

Name and pronunciation

In most dialects of English, the letter's name is zed (/[unsupported input]ˈzɛd/) reflecting its derivation from the Greek zeta but in American English, its name is zee (/[unsupported input]ˈz/), deriving from a late 17th century English dialectal form.[2]

Other languages spell the letter's name in a similar way: zeta in Italian and in Spanish, zäta in Swedish, zet in Dutch, Polish, German, Romanian and Czech, zæt in Danish, zett in Norwegian, zède in French, and in Portuguese.

Several languages lacking the /z/ phoneme render it as /ts/, e.g. zeta /tsetɑ/ or /tset/ in Finnish. In Chinese (Mandarin) pinyin the name of the letter Z is pronounced [tsɛ], although the English zed and zee have become very common.

Another English dialectal form is izzard (/[unsupported input]ˈɪzərd/). It dates from the mid-18th century and probably derives from Occitan izèda or the French ézed, whose reconstructed Latin form would be *idzēta,[1] perhaps a popular form with a prosthetic vowel.


Proto-semiticZ-01.png PhoenicianZ-01.png EtruscanZ-01.svg Zeta uc lc.svg


The name of the Semitic symbol was zayin, possibly meaning "weapon", and was the seventh letter. It represented either z as in English and French, or possibly more like /dz/ (as in Italian zeta, zero).


The Greek form of Z was a close copy of the Phoenician symbol I, and the Greek inscriptional form remained in this shape throughout ancient times. The Greeks called it zeta, a new name made in imitation of eta (η) and theta (θ).

In earlier Greek of Athens and Northwest Greece, the letter seems to have represented /dz/; in Attic, from the 4th century BC onwards, it seems to have been either /zd/ or a /dz/, and in fact there is no consensus concerning this issue. In other dialects, as Elean and Cretan, the symbol seems to have been used for sounds resembling the English voiced and unvoiced th (IPA /ð/ and /θ/, respectively). In the common dialect (κοινη) that succeeded the older dialects, ζ became /z/, as it remains in modern Greek.


In Etruscan, Z may have represented /ts/.


In Old Latin, the consonant /z/ (written s) developed into /r/ by rhotacism and a symbol for /z/ became useless. It was therefore removed from the alphabet around 300 BC by the Censor Appius Claudius Caecus, and a new letter, G, was put in its place soon thereafter.

In the 1st century BC, Z was introduced again at the end of the Latin alphabet to accurately represent the sound of the Greek zeta. The letter Z appeared only in Greek words, and is the only letter besides Y that the Romans took directly from Greek, rather than from Etruscan.

Earlier zeta was transliterated as s at the beginning and ss in the middle of words, as in sōna for ζώνη "belt" and trapessita for τραπεζίτης "banker".

In Vulgar Latin, Greek zeta seems to have represented (IPA /dj/), and later (IPA /dz/); d replaced /z/ in words like baptidiare for baptizare "baptize", while conversely Z appears for /di/ in forms like zaconus, zabulus, for diaconus "deacon", diabulus, "devil". Z was also written for the consonant J, which changed from an approximant in Latin to a fricative in the Romance languages, as in zunior for junior "younger".

Last letter of the alphabet

In earlier times, the English alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols. In her 1859 novel Adam Bede, George Eliot refers to Z being followed by & when she makes Jacob Storey say, "He thought it [Z] had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."[3]

Blackletter Z

A glyph variant of Z originating in the medieval Gothic minuscules and the Early Modern Blackletter typefaces is the "tailed z" (German geschwänztes Z, also Z mit Unterschlinge). In some Antiqua typefaces, this letter is present as a standalone letter or in ligatures. Together with long s (ſ), it is the origin of the ß ligature in the German alphabet.

Z in an Antiqua typeface may be identical with the character representing 3 in other fonts.

A graphical variant of tailed Z is Ezh, as adopted into the International Phonetic Alphabet as the sign for the voiced postalveolar fricative.

Unicode assigns codepoints for "BLACK-LETTER CAPITAL Z" and "FRAKTUR SMALL Z" in the Letterlike Symbols and Mathematical alphanumeric symbols ranges, at U+2128 and U+1D537 𝖟, respectively.


In Italian, Z represents two phonemes, /ts/ and /dz/; in German, it stands for /ts/; in Castilian Spanish it represents /θ/ (as English th in thing), though in other dialects (Latin American, Andalusian) this sound has merged with /s/.


Early English used S alone for both the unvoiced and the voiced sibilant. The Latin sound imported through French was new and was not written with Z but with G or I. The successive changes can be well seen in the double forms from the same original, jealous and zealous. Both of these come from a late Latin zelosus, derived from the imported Greek ζῆλος zêlos. The earlier form is jealous; its initial sound is the [dʒ] which developed to Modern French [ʒ]. John Wycliffe wrote the word as gelows or ielous.

Z at the end of a word was pronounced ts, as in English assets, from Old French asez "enough" (Modern French assez), from Vulgar Latin ad satis ("to sufficiency").[4]

Z represents /ʒ/ in words like azure, seizure. More often, this sound appears as su or si in words such as measure, decision, etc. In all these words, /ʒ/ developed from earlier /zj/ by yod-coalescence.

Few words in the Basic English vocabulary begin with Z, though it occurs in words beginning with other letters. It is the most rarely used letter in written English.[5] It is more common in American English than in British English, as with the endings -ize/-ise and -ization/-isation, where the American spelling is derived from Greek and the British from French. One native Germanic English word that contains z, freeze (past froze, participle frozen) came to be spelled that way by convention, even though it could have been spelled with s (as with choose, chose, chosen).

Zzz or zzzz is used in writing to represent the act of sleeping. It is used because human snoring often sounds like the pronunciation of the letter.[citation needed]


In Finnish, Z is pronounced /ts/. Officially the sound [z] would appear in certain select loanwords such as azeri, but in practice [z] is heard and pronounced as /s/ in such words. The use of Z to denote /ts/ is discouraged in official language, as in the case of pitsa ("pizza").


In Chinese (Mandarin) pinyin ‹z› is pronounced [ts] (unaspirated pinyin ‹c› - "halfway" between beds and bets).


In the Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn romanisations of Japanese, ‹z› stands for a phoneme whose allophones include [z] and [dz]

International Phonetic Alphabet

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses [z] for the voiced alveolar sibilant.


Z is used in six of the seven officially recognized digraphs in the Polish language, and is the most frequently used of the consonants in that language.


Z was replaced with s in Icelandic in 1973, as in íslenska "Icelandic (language)" (formerly íslenzka in Old Icelandic). Here the combination of the d of Ísland and the s of -(i)sk was spelled z, representing ts.


In mathematics, boldface Z or blackboard bold <math>\mathbb{Z}</math> U+2124 is used to denote the set of integers.

Codes for computing

Alternative representations of Z
NATO phonetic Morse code
Zulu ––··
ICS Zulu.svg Semaphore Zulu.svg ⠵
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In Unicode, the capital Z is codepoint U+005A and the lower case z is U+007A.

The EBCDIC code for capital Z is 233 and for lowercase z is 169.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "&#90;" and "&#122;" for upper and lower case respectively.


Zh is used in English to transliterate the Cyrillic letter Ж, for instance in the surnames of Leonid Brezhnev and Marshal Zhukov.

In English-transliterated Tamil script, zh is used to represent ழ U+0BB4 (, [ɹ]).

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Z" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International
  2. One early use of "zee": Lye, Thomas (1969) [2nd ed., London, 1677]. A new spelling book, 1677. Menston, (Yorks.) Scolar P. p. 24. LCCN 70-407159. Zee Za-cha-ry, Zion, zeal
  3. George Eliot: Adam Bede. Chapter XXI. online at Project Gutenberg
  4. "asset". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 3rd ed. 2001.
  5. English letter frequencies

External links

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