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Z (named zed or zee "Z", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "zee", op. cit.) is the 26th and final letter of the and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Name and pronunciation
In most English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Zambia and Australia, the letter's name is zed , reflecting its derivation from the (this dates to Latin, which borrowed X, Y, and Z from Greek, along with their names), but in its name is zee , analogous to the names for B, C, D, etc., and deriving from a late 17th-century English dialectal form.One early use of "zee":

Another English dialectal form is izzard . This dates from the mid-18th century and probably derives from izèda or the ézed, whose reconstructed Latin form would be *idzēta, perhaps a form with a prosthetic vowel. Its variants are still used in Hong Kong English although they are usually seen as mispronunciations.

Other languages spell the letter's name in a similar way: zeta in , , , and Icelandic (no longer part of its alphabet but found in personal names), in Portuguese, zäta in , zæt in , zet in , Indonesian, , Romanian, and , Zett in (capitalised as a noun), zett in Norwegian, zède in , and zét in Vietnamese. Several languages render it as or , e.g. zeta or in . In , the name of the letter Z is pronounced , as in "zi", although the English zed and zee have become very common. In Esperanto, the name of the letter Z is pronounced .


The was the seventh letter, named , which meant "weapon" or "sword". It represented either the sound as in English and French, or possibly more like (as in Italian zeta, zero).

The Greek form of Z was a close copy of the Phoenician (), and the Greek inscriptional form remained in this shape throughout ancient times. The Greeks called it zeta, a new name made in imitation of (η) and (θ).

In earlier Greek of and Northwest Greece, the letter seems to have represented ; in Attic, from the 4th century BC onwards, it seems to have stood for and – there is no consensus concerning this issue. In other dialects, such as Elean and , the symbol seems to have been used for sounds resembling the English voiced and voiceless th (IPA and , respectively). In the common dialect () that succeeded the older dialects, ζ became , as it remains in modern Greek.

The Etruscan letter Z was derived from the Phoenician alphabet, most probably through the Greek alphabet used on the island of Ischia. In Etruscan, this letter may have represented .

The letter z was part of the earliest form of the Latin alphabet, adopted from Etruscan. Because the sound in Latin changed to by rhotacism in the fifth century BC, z was dropped and its place given to the new letter g. In the 1st century BC, z was reintroduced at the end of the Latin alphabet to represent the sound of the Greek zeta , as the letter y was introduced to represent the sound of the Greek .James Grout: Appius Claudius Caecus and the Letter Z, part of the Encyclopædia Romana

Before the reintroduction of z, the sound of zeta was written s at the beginning of words and ss in the middle of words, as in sōna for ζώνη "belt" and trapessita for τραπεζίτης "banker".

In some inscriptions, z represented a sound, likely an affricate, formed by the merging of the reflexes of , and : for example, zanuariu for ianuariu "January", ziaconus for diaconus "deacon", and oze for hodie "today".Ti Alkire & Carol Rosen, Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 61. Likewise, sometimes replaced in words like baptidiare for baptizare "to baptize". In modern Italian, z represents or , whereas the reflexes of ianuarius and hodie are written with the letter g (representing when before i and e): gennaio, oggi. In other languages, such as , further evolution of the sound occurred.

Early English
Early English used S alone for both the unvoiced and the voiced . The Latin sound imported through French was new and was not written with Z but with G or I. The successive changes can be well seen in the double forms from the same original, jealous and zealous. Both of these come from a late Latin zelosus, derived from the imported Greek ζῆλος zêlos. The earlier form is jealous; its initial sound is the , which developed to . wrote the word as gelows or ielous.

Z at the end of a word was pronounced ts, as in English assets, from asez "enough" ( assez), from ad satis ("to sufficiency").

Last letter of the alphabet
In earlier times, the used by children terminated not with Z but with or related typographic symbols. In her 1859 novel , refers to Z being followed by & when her character Jacob Storey says, "He thought it [Z] had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."George Eliot: Adam Bede. Chapter XXI. online at Project Gutenberg

Some Latin based alphabets have extra letters on the end of the alphabet. The last letter for the Icelandic, Finnish and alphabets is Ö, while it is Å for Danish and Norwegian. In the German alphabet, the umlauts ( Ä/ä, Ö/ö, and Ü/ü) and the letter ß ( Eszett or scharfes S) are regarded respectively as modifications of the vowels a/o/u and as a (standardized) variant spelling of ss, not as independent letters, so they come after the unmodified letters in the alphabetical order. The German alphabet ends with z.

Variant and derived forms
A glyph variant of Z originating in the medieval and the Early Modern typefaces is the "tailed z" (German geschwänztes Z, also Z mit Unterschlinge). In some Antiqua typefaces, this letter is present as a standalone letter or in ligatures. Ligated with (ſ), it is part of the origin of the (ß) in the . The character (Ʒ) resembles a tailed z.

assigns codepoints and in the Letterlike Symbols and Mathematical alphanumeric symbols ranges respectively.

Image:Z-small-VA-64x88.svg|lowercase z Image:Z-small-Variante.svg| z in a sans serif typeface

There is also a variant with a stroke.

Use in writing systems

In modern English orthography, the letter usually represents the sound .

It represents in words like . More often, this sound appears as or in words such as measure, decision, etc. In all these words, developed from earlier by .

Few words in the vocabulary begin with , though it occurs in words beginning with other letters. It is the in written . It is more common in than in , due to the endings -ize vs -ise and -ization vs -isation, where the American spelling is derived from and the British from . is more common in the , as this variant prefers the more etymologically 'correct' -ize endings to -ise endings; however, -yse is preferred over -yze in Oxford spelling, as it is closer to the original Greek roots of words like analyse. One native Germanic English word that contains 'z', freeze (past froze, participle frozen) came to be spelled that way by convention, even though it could have been spelled with 's' (as with choose, chose and chosen).

is used in writing to represent the act of [[sleep]]ing (sometimes using multiple z's like ''zzzz''). It is used because closed-mouth human [[snoring]] often sounds like the pronunciation of this letter.

Other languages
stands for a voiced alveolar or voiced dental sibilant , in Albanian, [[Breton|Breton language]], [[Czech|Czech language]], [[Dutch|Dutch language]], [[French|French language]], Hungarian, [[Latvian|Latvian language]], Lithuanian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, [[Slovak|Slovak language]], and the International Phonetic Alphabet. It stands for  in Chinese [[pinyin]], [[Finnish|Finnish language]] (occurs in loanwords only), and [[German|German language]], and it likewise expressed  in [[Old Norse]]. In [[Italian|Italian language]], it represents two phonemes,  and . Castilian [[Spanish|Spanish language]] uses the letter to represent  (as English  in ''thing''), though in other dialects ([[Latin America]]n, [[Andalusia]]n) this sound has merged with . In Portuguese, it stands for  in most cases, but also for  or  (depending on the regional variant) at the end of syllables. In Basque, it represents the sound .

In Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, usually stands for the sound /s/ and thus shares the value of ; it normally occurs only in that are spelt with in the source languages.

The letter on its own represents in . It is also used in four of the seven officially recognized digraphs: (), ( or ), ( or , sometimes it represents a sequence ) and (), and is the most frequently used of the consonants in that language. (Other Slavic languages avoid digraphs and mark the corresponding phonemes with the caron]] (caron) accent: , , , ; this system has its origin in Czech orthography of the period.) Two more Polish digraphs include with diacritical marks, as accent and dot: ( or ) and ( or ). can also appear alone with diacritical marks, namely or . Similarly, Hungarian uses in the digraphs (expressing , as opposed to the value of , which is ), and (expressing ).

Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, usually stands for , such as in Azerbaijani, , Indonesian, , , , , and . represents in and Inari Sami. In , represents .

In the Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn romanisations of Japanese, stands for a phoneme whose include and .

Other systems
A graphical variant of is , which has been adopted into the International Phonetic Alphabet as the sign for the voiced postalveolar fricative.

Other uses
In , is used to denote the set of . Originally, ℤ was just a of the bold capital Z used in printing but, over time, it has come to be used more frequently in printed works too.

In , the letter Z is used to denote the proton () number of an element, such as Z=3 ().

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
  • Z with : Ź ź Ẑ ẑ Ž ž Ż ż Ẓ ẓ Ƶ ƶ ᵶ Ⱬ ⱬ
  • ß : German letter regarded as a ligature of (ſ) and short s, called scharfes S or Eszett. (In some typefaces and handwriting styles it is rather a ligature of long s and tailed z (ſʒ).)
  • Ȥ ȥ: Latin letter z with a hook, intended for the transcription of Middle High German, for instances of the letter z with a sound value of /s/.
  • Ɀ ɀ : Latin letter Z with swash tail
  • Ʒ ʒ : Latin letter
  • Ꝣ ꝣ : Visigothic Z
  • IPA-specific symbols related to Z:
  • is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet
  • Modifier letters ᶻ ᶼ ᶽ are used in phonetic transcription

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
  • 𐤆 : Semitic letter , from which the following letters derive

Computing codes

On German typewriter- and computer keyboards (in comparison to those used in the UK/US), the positions of the letters Z and Y are swapped. (In German, Y is only used in loanwords and names.)

Other representations

See also

External links
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