O (named o , plural oes)
["O" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Chambers-Happap, "oes" op. cit. Oes is the plural of the name of the letter. The plural of the letter itself is rendered Os, O's, os, o's.] is the 15th letter and the fourth vowel in the English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.
Its graphic form has remained fairly constant from Phoenician times until today. The name of the Phoenician letter was
, meaning "eye", and indeed its shape originates simply as a drawing of a human eye (possibly inspired by the corresponding Egyptian hieroglyph, cf. Proto-Sinaitic script).
Its original sound value was that of a consonant, probably , the sound represented by the cognate Arabic alphabet
The use of this Phoenician letter for a vowel sound is due to the early , which adopted the letter as Omicron to represent the vowel .
The letter was adopted with this value in the Old Italic alphabets, including the early Latin alphabet.
In Greek, a variation of the form later came to distinguish this long sound (Omega, meaning "large O") from the short o (Omicron, meaning "small o").
Greek omicron gave rise to the corresponding Cyrillic letter O and the early Italic letter to runic ᛟ.
Even alphabets that are not derived from Semitic tend to have similar forms to represent this sound; for example, the creators of the Afaka script and Ol Chiki scripts, each invented in different parts of the world in the last century, both attributed their vowels for 'O' to the shape of the mouth when making this sound.
Use in writing systems
The letter is the fourth Letter frequency
in the English alphabet
Like the other English vowel letters, it has associated "long" and "short" pronunciations. The "long" as in boat
is actually most often a diphthong
(realized dialectically anywhere from to ). In English there is also a "short" as in fox
, , which sounds slightly different in different dialects. In most dialects of British English
, it is either an open-mid back rounded vowel or an open back rounded vowel ; in American English
, it is most commonly an unrounded back to a central vowel .
Common digraphs include , which represents either or ; or , which typically represents the diphthong , and , , and which represent a variety of pronunciations depending on context and etymology.
In other contexts, especially before a letter with a minim, may represent the sound , as in 'son' or 'love'. It can also represent the semivowel as in choir or quinoa.
In English, the letter in isolation before a noun, usually capitalized, marks the vocative case, as in the titles to O Canada or O Captain! My Captain! or certain verses of the Bible.
is commonly associated with the open-mid back rounded vowel , mid back rounded vowel or close-mid back rounded vowel in many languages. Other languages use for various values, usually back vowels which are at least partly open. Derived letters such as and have been created for the alphabets of some languages to distinguish values that were not present in Latin and Greek, particularly rounded front vowels.
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, represents the close-mid back rounded vowel.
Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
Œ œ : Latin OE ligature
O with : Ø ø Ǿ ǿ ᶱ
Ö ö Ȫ ȫ Ó ó Ò ò circumflex Ố ố Ồ ồ Ổ ổ Ỗ ỗ Ộ ộ caron Ő ő breve Ȏ ȏ Ȯ ȯ Ȱ ȱ Ọ ọ Ɵ ɵ Ơ ơ Ớ ớ Ờ ờ Ỡ ỡ Ợ ợ Ở ở Hook above Ō ō Ṓ ṓ Ṑ ṑ Õ õ Ȭ ȭ Ṍ ṍ Ṏ ṏ ogonek Ȍ ȍ O̩ o̩ Ó̩ ó̩ Ò̩ ò̩ Ǭ ǭ
Ꝍ ꝍ : O with loop was used in some medieval Nordic Orthography
ⱺ : Small o with low ring inside is used in the Swedish Dialect Alphabet
IPA-specific symbols related to O:
Uralic Phonetic Alphabet-specific symbols related to O:
Teuthonista phonetic transcription-specific symbols related to O:
ₒ : Subscript small o is used in Indo-European studies
Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations
Ꝋ ꝋ : Forms of O were used for medieval scribal abbreviations
∅ : Empty set
º : Masculine ordinal indicator
Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
𐤏 : Semitic letter Ayin, from which the following symbols originally derive
Ο ο : Greek alphabet letter Omicron
: Coptic alphabet letter O, which derives from Greek omicron
О о : Cyrillic letter O, which also derives from Omicron
𐌏 : Old Italic O, which derives from Greek Omicron, and is the ancestor of modern Latin O
Օ օ : Armenian letter O