C is the third letter in the English alphabet and a letter of the of many other which inherited it from the Latin alphabet. It is also the third letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is named cee (pronounced ) in English language."C" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "cee", op. cit.
In the Etruscan language, plosive consonants had no contrastive phonation, so the Greek language 'Gamma' (Gamma) was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet to represent . Already in the Western Greek alphabet, Gamma first took a form in Early Etruscan, then in Classical Etruscan. In Latin it eventually took the 'c' form in Classical Latin. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters 'c k q' were used to represent the sounds and (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, 'q' was used to represent or before a rounded vowel, 'k' before 'a', and 'c' elsewhere.
Other alphabets have letters to 'c' but not analogous in use and derivation, like the Cyrillic script letter Es (С, с) which derives from the lunate sigma, named due to its resemblance to the crescent moon.
In Vulgar Latin, became palatalized to in Italy and Dalmatia; in France and the Iberian peninsula, it became . Yet for these new sounds was still used before the letters and . The letter thus represented two distinct values. Subsequently, the Latin phoneme (spelled ) de-labialized to meaning that the various Romance languages had before front vowels. In addition, Norman language used the letter so that the sound could be represented by either or , the latter of which could represent either or depending on whether it preceded a front vowel letter or not. The convention of using both and was applied to the writing of English after the Norman Conquest, causing a considerable re-spelling of the Old English words. Thus while Old English candel, clif, corn, crop, cú, remained unchanged, Cent, cæ´ᵹ (cé´ᵹ), cyng, brece, séoce, were now (without any change of sound) spelled 'Kent', 'keȝ', 'kyng', 'breke', and 'seoke'; even cniht ('knight') was subsequently changed to 'kniht' and þic ('thick') changed to 'thik' or 'thikk'. The Old English 'cw' was also at length displaced by the French 'qu' so that the Old English cwén ('queen') and cwic ('quick') became Middle English 'quen' 'quik', respectively. The sound , to which Old English palatalized had advanced, also occurred in French, chiefly from Latin before 'a'. In French it was represented by the digraph , as in champ (from Latin camp-um) and this spelling was introduced into English: the Hatton Gospels, written about 1160, have in Matt. i-iii, child, chyld, riche, mychel, for the cild, rice, mycel, of the Old English version whence they were copied. In these cases, the Old English gave place to but, on the other hand, in its new value of came in largely in French words like processiun, emperice, grace, and was also substituted for 'ts' in a few Old English words, as miltse, bletsien, in early Middle English milce, blecien. By the end of the thirteenth century both in France and England, this sound de-affricated to ; and from that time has represented before front vowels either for etymology reasons, as in lance, cent, or to avoid the ambiguity due to the "etymological" use of for , as in ace, mice, once, pence, defence.
Thus, to show etymology, English spelling has advise, devise (instead of advize, devize), while advice, device, dice, ice, mice, twice, etc., do not reflect etymology; example has extended this to hence, pence, defence, etc., where there is no etymological reason for using . Former generations also wrote sence for sense. Hence, today the Romance languages and English language have a common feature inherited from Vulgar Latin spelling conventions where takes on either a "hard" or "soft" value depending on the following letter.
The "soft" may represent the sound in the digraph when this precedes a vowel, as in the words 'delicious' and 'appreciate', and also in the word "ocean" and its derivatives.
The digraph most commonly represents , but can also represent (mainly in words of Greek origin) or (mainly in words of French language origin). For some dialects of English, it may also represent in words like loch, while other speakers pronounce the final sound as . The trigraph always represents .
The digraph is often used to represent the sound after short vowels.
All Balto-Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, as well as Albanian, Hungarian, Pashto language, several Sami languages, Esperanto, Ido language, Interlingua, and Americanist phonetic notation (and those aboriginal languages of North America whose practical orthography derives from it) use to represent , the voiceless alveolar or voiceless dental sibilant affricate. In Pinyin Standard Chinese, the letter represents an aspirated version of this sound, .
Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, represents a variety of sounds. Yup'ik, Indonesian, Malay language, and a number of African languages such as Hausa language, Fula language, and Manding share the soft Italian value of . In Azeri language, Crimean Tatar, Northern Kurdish, and Turkish language stands for the voiced counterpart of this sound, the voiced postalveolar affricate . In Yabem language and similar languages, such as Bukawa language, stands for a glottal stop . Xhosa language and Zulu language use this letter to represent the click . In some other African languages, such as Beninese Yoruba language, is used for . In Fijian language, stands for a voiced dental fricative , while in Somali language it has the value of .
The letter is also used as a transliteration of Cyrillic in the Latin forms of Serbian alphabet, Macedonian, and sometimes Ukrainian, along with the digraph .
As in English, , with the value , is often used after short vowels in other Germanic languages such as German and Swedish language (but some other Germanic languages use instead, such as Dutch and Norwegian). The digraph is found in Polish and in Hungarian, both representing . The digraph represents in Old English, Italian, and a few languages related to Italian (where this only happens before , while otherwise it represents ). The trigraph represents in German.