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S (named ess ,Spelled 'es'- in compound words plural esses"S", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "ess," op. cit.) is the 19th letter in the and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


Northwest Semitic šîn represented a voiceless postalveolar fricative (as in ' ship'). It originated most likely as a pictogram of a tooth (שנא]]) and represented the phoneme via the acrophonic principle."corresponds etymologically (in part, at least) to original Semitic (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite" Albright, W. F., "The Early Alphabetic Inscriptions from Sinai and their Decipherment," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 110 (1948), p. 15. The interpretation as "tooth" is now prevalent, but not entirely certain. The Encyclopaedia Judaica of 1972 reported that the letter represented a "composite bow".

did not have a phoneme, so the derived Greek letter Sigma (Σ) came to represent the voiceless alveolar sibilant . While the letter shape Σ continues Phoenician šîn, its name sigma is taken from the letter , while the shape of samekh but name and position of šîn is continued in the xi. Within Greek, the name of sigma was influenced by its association with the Greek word σίζω (earlier *sigj-) "to hiss". The original name of the letter "sigma" may have been san, but due to the complicated early history of the Greek epichoric alphabets, "san" came to be identified as a separate letter, Ϻ.Woodard, Roger D. (2006). "Alphabet". In Wilson, Nigel Guy. Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. London: Routldedge. p. 38. reports that "San" was the name given by the to the same letter called "Sigma" by the ."…τὠυτὸ γράμμα, τὸ Δωριέες μὲν σὰν καλέουσι ,Ἴωνες δὲ σίγμα" ('…the same letter, which the Dorians call "San", but the Ionians "Sigma"…'; Herodotus, Histories 1.139); cf. Nick Nicholas, Non-Attic letters .

The Western Greek alphabet used in was adopted by the and Latins in the 7th century BC, over the following centuries developing into a range of Old Italic alphabets including the Etruscan alphabet and the early . In Etruscan, the value of Greek sigma (𐌔) was maintained, while san (𐌑) represented a separate phoneme, most likely (transliterated as ś). The early Latin alphabet adopted sigma, but not san, as Old Latin did not have a phoneme.

The shape of Latin S arises from Greek Σ by dropping one out of the four strokes of that letter. The (angular) S-shape composed of three strokes existed as a variant of the four-stroke letter Σ already in the epigraphy in Western Greek alphabets, and the three and four strokes variants existed alongside one another in the classical Etruscan alphabet. In other Italic alphabets (Venetic, Lepontic), the letter could be represented as a zig-zagging line of any number between three and six strokes.

The Italic letter was also adopted into , as Sowilō (), and appears with four to eight strokes in the earliest runic inscriptions, but is occasionally reduced to three strokes () from the later 5th century, and appears regularly with three strokes in .

Long s
The ſ, called the , developed in the early medieval period, within the Visigothic and Carolingian hands, with predecessors in the and scripts of . It remained standard in western writing throughout the medieval period and was adopted in early printing with movable types. It existed alongside minuscule "round" or "short" s, which was at the time only used at the end of words.

In most western orthographies, the ſ gradually fell out of use during the second half of the 18th century, although it remained in occasional use into the 19th century. In Spain, the change was mainly accomplished between the years 1760 and 1766. In France, the change occurred between 1782 and 1793. Printers in the United States stopped using the long s between 1795 and 1810. In English orthography, the London printer John Bell (1745–1831) pioneered the change. His edition of Shakespeare, in 1785, was advertised with the claim that he "ventured to depart from the common mode by rejecting the long 'ſ' in favor of the round one, as being less liable to error....."Stanley Morison, A Memoir of John Bell, 1745–1831 (1930, Cambridge Univ. Press) page 105; Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing Types, Their History, Forms, and Use – a study in survivals (2nd. ed, 1951, Harvard University Press) page 293. of London made the switch from the long to the short s with its issue of 10 September 1803. Encyclopædia Britannica's 5th edition, completed in 1817, was the last edition to use the long s.

In German orthography, long s was retained in () type as well as in standard cursive (Sütterlin) well into the 20th century, and was officially abolished in 1941. of 3 January 1941 to all public offices, signed by .

(1993). 9783874392600, H. Schmidt.
The ligature of ſs (or ſz) was retained, however, giving rise to the , ß in contemporary German orthography.

Use in writing systems
The letter is the seventh most common letter in and the third-most common consonant after and . English Letter Frequency It is the most common letter in starting and ending position.

In English and several other languages, primarily Western Romance ones like and , final is the usual mark of . It is the regular ending of English third person .

represents the voiceless alveolar or voiceless dental sibilant  in most languages as well as in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It also commonly represents the voiced alveolar or voiced dental sibilant , as in Portuguese ''mesa'' (table) or English 'rose' and 'bands', or it may represent the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative , as in most Portuguese dialects when syllable-finally, in Hungarian, in [[German|German language]] (before , ) and some English words as 'sugar', since yod-coalescence became a dominant feature, and , as in English 'measure' (also because of yod-coalescence), European Portuguese ''Islão'' ([[Islam]]) or, in many sociolects of Brazilian Portuguese, ''esdrúxulo'' ([[proparoxytone]]) in some Andalusian dialects, it merged with Peninsular Spanish  and  and is now pronounced .  In some English words of French origin, the letter  is silent, as in 'isle' or 'debris'.

The digraph for English arises in Middle English (alongside ), replacing the Old English digraph. Similarly, Old High German was replaced by in Early Modern High German orthography.

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
  • ſ : Latin letter , an obsolete variant of S
  • ẜ ẝ : Various forms of long S were used for medieval scribal abbreviations
  • ẞ ß : German Eszett or "sharp S", derived from a ligature of long s followed by either s or z
  • S with : Ś ś Ṡ ṡ ẛ Ṩ ṩ Ṥ ṥ Ṣ ṣ S̩ s̩ Ꞩ ꞩ Ŝ ŝ Ṧ ṧ Š š Ş ş S̈ s̈ ᶊ Ȿ ȿ ᵴ
  • ₛ : Subscript small s was used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet prior to its formal standardization in 1902
  • ˢ : Modifier letter small s is used for phonetic transcription
  • ꜱ : Small capital S was used in the Icelandic First Grammatical Treatise to mark
  • Ƨ ƨ : Latin letter reversed S (used in transliteration)
  • IPA-specific symbols related to S:
  • Ꞅ ꞅ : S

Derived signs, symbols, and abbreviations

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
  • 𐤔 : Semitic letter Shin, from which the following symbols originally derive
    • archaic Greek could be written with different numbers of angles and strokes. Besides the classical form with four strokes (), a three-stroke form resembling an angular Latin S () was commonly found, and was particularly characteristic of some mainland Greek varieties including Attic and several "red" alphabets.

Computing codes

Other representations

See also
  • See about Ⓢ in Enclosed Alphanumerics

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