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B or b (pronounced ) is the second letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It represents the voiced bilabial stop in many languages, including English. In some other languages, it is used to represent other bilabial consonants.


was originally written in runes, whose equivalent letter was , meaning "". Beorc dates to at least the 2nd-century , which is now thought to have derived from the Old Italic alphabets' either directly or via .

The and introduced by the Gregorian and Irish missions gradually developed into the ' . These Old English Latin alphabets supplanted the earlier runes, whose use was fully banned under in the early 11th century. The Norman Conquest popularized the Carolingian half-uncial forms which latter developed into . Around 1300, was increasingly distinguished, with and B taking separate meanings. Following the advent of printing in the 15th century, Germany and continued to use forms of blackletter (particularly ), while England eventually adopted the humanist and antiqua scripts developed in Renaissance Italy from a combination of Roman inscriptions and Carolingian texts. The present forms of the English cursive B were developed by the 17th century.

The Roman derived from the capital beta via its Etruscan and Cumaean variants. The Greek letter was an adaptation of the Phoenician letter bēt . The hieroglyph for the /b/ had been an image of a foot and calf , but bēt (Phoenician for "house") was a modified form of a Proto-Sinaitic probably adapted from the separate hieroglyph Pr meaning "house".It also resembles the hieroglyph for /h/ meaning "manor" or "reed shelter". The letter beth is a separate development of the Phoenician letter.

By , the Greek letter came to be pronounced /v/, so that it is known in as víta (still written βήτα). The Cyrillic letter ve represents the same sound, so a modified form known as be was developed to represent the ' /b/. (Modern Greek continues to lack a letter for the voiced bilabial plosive and transliterates such sounds from other languages using the digraph/consonant cluster , mp.)

Use in writing systems

In English, denotes the voiced bilabial stop , as in bib. In English, it is sometimes . This occurs particularly in words ending in , such as lamb and bomb, some of which originally had a /b/ sound, while some had the letter added by analogy (see Phonological history of English consonant clusters). The in debt, doubt, subtle, and related words was added in the 16th century as an , intended to make the words more like their originals ( debitum, dubito, subtilis).

As /b/ is one of the sounds subject to Grimm's Law, words which have in English and other Germanic languages may find their cognates in other Indo-European languages appearing with , , or instead. For example, compare the various cognates of the word .

Other languages
Many other languages besides English use to represent a voiced bilabial stop.

In Estonian, Icelandic, and , does not denote a voiced consonant. Instead, it represents a voiceless that contrasts with either a (in Estonian) or an aspirated (in Pinyin, Danish and Icelandic) represented by . In represents a prenasalized , whereas in and it represents an implosive , in contrast to the digraph which represents . uses only in .

Phonetic transcription
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, b is used to represent the voiced bilabial stop phone. In phonological transcription systems for specific languages, /b/ may be used to represent a lenis , not necessarily voiced, that contrasts with fortis /p/ (which may have greater aspiration, tenseness or duration).

Other uses
B is also a . In English-speaking countries, it represents Si, the 12th note of a built on C. In and , "B" is used to denote B-flat and the 12th note of the chromatic scale is denoted "H". Archaic forms of 'b', the b quadratum (square b, ) and b rotundum (round b, ) are used in as the symbols for natural and flat, respectively.

In Contracted (grade 2) English braille, 'b' stands for "but" when in isolation.

In computer science, B is the symbol for , a unit of information storage.

In engineering, B is the symbol for , a unit of level.

In chemistry, B is the symbol for , a .

Related characters

Ancestors, descendants and siblings
  • 𐤁 : Semitic letter Bet, from which the following symbols originally derive
  • Β β : letter Beta, from which B derives
  • Ⲃ ⲃ letter Bēta, which derives from Greek Beta
  • В в : letter Ve, which also derives from Beta
  • Б б : Cyrillic letter Be, which also derives from Beta
  • 𐌁 : Old Italic B, which derives from Greek Beta
  • ᛒ : letter , which probably derives from Old Italic B
  • 𐌱 : letter bercna, which derives from Greek Beta
  • IPA-specific symbols related to B:
  • B with : Ƀ ƀ Ḃ ḃ Ḅ ḅ Ɓ ɓ ᵬ
  • Ꞗ ꞗ : B with flourish
  • ᴃ ᴯ ᴮ ᵇ : Barred B and various modifier letters are used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet.
  • Ƃ ƃ : B with topbar

Derived ligatures, abbreviations, signs and symbols
  • ␢ :
  • ฿ :
  • ₿ :
  • ♭: The flat in music, mentioned above, still closely resembles lowercase b.

Computing codes

Some people use 🅱 to represent the B blood type. But the B button emoji (🅱) has also become an . People are replacing letters with the B button emoji.

Other representations

External links
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