E (named e , plural ees)
["E" a letter Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1993). Ees is the plural of the name of the letter; the plural of the letter itself is rendered E's, Es, e's, or es.] is the fifth letter and the second vowel in the English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is the most commonly used letter in many languages, including Czech language, Danish language, Dutch language, English language, French language, German language, Hungarian, Latin language, Latvian language, Norwegian, Spanish language, and Swedish language.
The Latin letter 'E' differs little from its source, the Greek alphabet letter epsilon, 'Ε'. This in turn comes from the Semitic alphabet letter hê, which has been suggested to have started as a praying or calling human figure ( hillul 'jubilation'), and was probably based on a similar Egyptian hieroglyph that indicated a different pronunciation. In Semitic, the letter represented (and in foreign words); in Greek, hê became the letter epsilon, used to represent . The various forms of the Old Italic script and the Latin alphabet followed this usage.
Use in writing systems
Although Middle English
spelling used to represent long and short , the Great Vowel Shift changed long /eː/ (as in 'me' or 'bee') to /iː/ while short (as in 'met' or 'bed') remained a mid vowel
. In other cases, the letter is Silent e
, generally at the end of words.
In the orthography of many languages it represents either , , , or some variation (such as a Nasal vowel
version) of these sounds, often with diacritics (as: ) to indicate contrasts. Less commonly, as in French, German, or Saanich, represents a mid-central vowel /ə/. Digraphs with are common to indicate either
, such as or for or in English, for in German language
, and for in French language
or in German.
The International Phonetic Alphabet uses for the close-mid front unrounded vowel or the mid front unrounded vowel.
Most common letter
'E' is the most common (or highest-frequency) letter in the English alphabet (starting off the typographer's phrase ETAOIN SHRDLU
) and several other European languages
, which has implications in both cryptography
and data compression
. In the story "The Gold-Bug
" by Edgar Allan Poe, a character figures out a random character code by remembering that the most used letter in English is E. This makes it a hard and popular letter to use when writing
. Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby
(1939) is considered a "dreadful" novel, and supposedly "at least part of Wright's narrative issues were caused by language limitations imposed by the lack of E
[Ross Eckler, Making the Alphabet Dance: Recreational Word Play. New York: St. Martin's Press (1996): 3]
Both Georges Perec
's novel A Void
( La Disparition
) (1969) and its English translation by Gilbert Adair omit 'e' and are considered better works.
[Eckler (1996): 3. Perec's novel "was so well written that at least some reviewers never realized the existence of a letter constraint."]
Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
E with : Breve Ḝ ḝ Ȇ ȇ Ê ê Ê̄ ê̄ Ê̌ ê̌ Ề ề Ế ế Ể ể Ễ ễ Ệ ệ Ẻ ẻ Ḙ ḙ Caron Ɇ ɇ Ė ė Ė́ ė́ Ė̃ ė̃ Ẹ ẹ Ë ë È è È̩ è̩ Ȅ ȅ É é É̩ é̩ Ē ē Ḕ ḕ Ḗ ḗ Ẽ ẽ Ḛ ḛ Ę ę Ę́ ę́ Ę̃ ę̃ Ȩ ȩ E̩ e̩ ᶒ
ⱸ : E with notch is used in the Swedish Dialect Alphabet
Æ æ : Latin AE ligature
Œ œ : Latin OE ligature
The umlaut diacritic ¨ used above a vowel letter in German and other languages to indicate a fronted or front vowel (this sign originated as a superscript e)
Phonetic alphabet symbols related to E (the International Phonetic Alphabet only uses lowercase, but uppercase forms are used in some other writing systems):
Ɛ ɛ : Latin letter epsilon / open e, which represents an open-mid front unrounded vowel in the IPA
ᶓ : Epsilon / open e with retroflex hook
Ɜ ɜ : Latin letter reversed epsilon / open e, which represents an open-mid central unrounded vowel in the IPA
ɝ : Latin small letter reversed epsilon / open e with hook, which represents an R-colored vowel in the IPA
ᶔ : Reversed epsilon / open e with retroflex hook
ᶟ : Modifier letter small reversed epsilon / open e
ɞ : Latin small letter closed reversed open e, which represents an open-mid central rounded vowel in IPA (shown as ʚ on the 1993 IPA chart)
Ə ə : Latin letter schwa, which represents a mid central vowel in the IPA
Ǝ ǝ : Latin letter turned e, which is used in the writing systems of some African languages
ɘ : Latin letter reversed e, which represents a close-mid central unrounded vowel in the IPA
The Uralic Phonetic Alphabet uses various forms of e and epsilon / open e:
ₑ : Subscript small e is used in Indo-European studies
Teuthonista phonetic transcription system symbols related to E:
Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
𐤄 : Semitic letter He (letter), from which the following symbols originally derive
Ε ε : Greek alphabet letter Epsilon, from which the following symbols originally derive
Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations
€ : Euro sign.
℮ : Estimated sign (used on prepackaged goods for sale within the European Union).
∃ : existential quantifier in predicate logic.
∈ : the symbol for set membership in set theory.
ℯ : the base of the natural logarithm.
ℇ : the Euler–Mascheroni constant.
In British Sign Language (BSL), the letter 'e' is signed by extending the index finger of the right hand touching the tip of index on the left hand, with all fingers of left hand open.