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Æ in "Helvetica and "Bodoni

Æ ("minuscule: æ) is a "grapheme named æsc or ash, formed from the letters a and e, originally a "ligature representing the "Latin "diphthong ae. It has been promoted to the full status of a "letter in the alphabets of some languages, including "Danish, "Norwegian, "Icelandic, and "Faroese. As a letter of the "Old English Latin alphabet, it was called æsc ("ash tree")[1] after the "Anglo-Saxon futhorc "rune " ( ""Runic letter ansuz.svg ) which it "transliterated; its traditional name in English is still ash "/æʃ/. It was also used in "Old Swedish before being changed to "ä. In recent times, it is also used to represent a long A sound.["citation needed] Variants include Ǣ ǣ Ǽ ǽ æ̀.

Æ alone and in context
Vanuatu's domestic airline operated under the name "Air Melanesiæ in the 1970s.



In "Classical Latin, the combination AE denotes the "diphthong "[ai̯], which had a value similar to the long i in fine as pronounced in most dialects of Modern English.[2] Both classical and present practice is to write the letters separately, but the ligature was used in medieval and early modern writings, in part because æ was reduced to the simple vowel "[ɛ] during the "Roman Empire. In some medieval scripts, the ligature was simplified to ę, an e with "ogonek, the "e caudata. That was further simplified into a plain e, which may have influenced or been influenced by the pronunciation change. However, the ligature is still relatively common in "liturgical books and musical scores.


The digraph ae was used in Latin to transliterate the "Greek diphthong αι ("alpha "iota), but not for ᾳ (alpha "iota subscript). Modern scientific vocabulary that borrows from Greek continues to use Latin transliteration conventions.


In the modern "French alphabet, æ is used to spell Latin and Greek borrowings like tænia and ex æquo. It was greatly popularized in "Serge Gainsbourg's song Elaeudanla Téïtéïa (i.e. "L, A, E dans l'A, T, I, T, I, A"), which is the spelling in "French of the name "Lætitia.


In "English, usage of the ligature varies in different places. In modern typography, if technological limitations make its use difficult (such as in use of "typewriters, first telegraphs, or ASCII), æ is often eschewed in favour of the "digraph "ae. Usage experts often consider that incorrect, especially for foreign words in which æ is considered a letter (such as "Æsir, "Ærø) or brand names that use the ligature or a variation of it (such as "Æon Flux, "Encyclopædia Britannica, "Ætna, Inc.).

In the "United States, the problem of the ligature is sidestepped in many cases by use of a "simplified spelling with "e", as happened with "œ as well. Usage, however, may vary; for example, medieval is now more common than mediaeval (and the now old-fashioned mediæval) even in the "United Kingdom,[3] but archaeology is preferred over archeology, even in the US.[4]

Given their long history, ligatures are sometimes used to invoke archaism or in literal quotations of historic sources; for instance, words such as dæmon or æther are often treated so.

The ligature is seen on gravestones of the 19th century, short for ætate ("at the age of"): "Æ xxYs, yyMs, zzDs." It is also common in formal typography (invitations, resolutions, announcements and some government documents).

In "Old English, æ represented a sound between a and e (/"æ/), very much like the short a of cat in many dialects of Modern English. If long vowels are distinguished from short vowels, the long version /æː/ is marked with a "macron (ǣ) or, less commonly, an "acute (ǽ).

Other Germanic languages[edit]

In "Old Norse, æ represents the long vowel /"ɛː/. The short version of the same vowel, /ɛ/, if it is distinguished from /e/, is written as ę.

In most varieties of "Faroese, æ is pronounced as follows:

One of its etymological origins is "Old Norse é (the other is Old Norse æ), which is particularly evident in the dialects of "Suðuroy, where Æ is Faroese pronunciation: "[eː] or "[ɛ]:

In "Icelandic, æ represents the "diphthong "[ai].

It follows "Z" in the "Dano-Norwegian alphabet and is followed by "Ø" and finally "Å". All three are vowels.

In "Danish and "Norwegian, æ is a separate letter of the alphabet that represents a "monophthong. In Norwegian, there are four ways of pronouncing the letter:

West of the red line, classic "Danish dialects use æ as the "definite article.

In many western, northern and southwestern Norwegian dialects and in the western Danish dialects of "Thy and "Southern Jutland, æ has a significant meaning: the first person singular pronoun "I. It is thus a normal spoken word and is usually written æ when such dialects are rendered in writing.

In western and southern "Jutish dialects of Danish, æ is also the "proclitic "definite article: æ hus (the house), as opposed to "Standard Danish and all other Nordic varieties which have en"clitic definite articles (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian: huset, Icelandic, Faroese: húsið (the house)). The dialects are rarely committed to writing, except for some dialect literature.

The equivalent letter in "German and "Swedish is "ä", but it is not located at the same place within the alphabet. In German, it is not a separate letter from "A" but in Swedish, it is the second-last letter (between å and ö).

In the normalised spelling of "Middle High German, æ represents a long vowel [ɛː]. The actual spelling in the manuscripts varies, however.


"Ossetic Latin script; part of a page from a book published in 1935

"Ossetic used the letter æ when it was written using the Latin script from 1923 to 1938. Since then, Ossetian has used a "Cyrillic alphabet with an identical-looking letter ("Ӕ and ӕ). It is pronounced as a mid-central vowel (schwa).

South American languages[edit]

The letter æ is used in the official orthography of "Kawésqar spoken in "Chile and also in that of the "Fuegian language "Yaghan.

International Phonetic Alphabet[edit]

The symbol [æ] is also used in the "International Phonetic Alphabet to denote a "near-open front unrounded vowel like in the word cat in many dialects of Modern English, which is the sound that was most likely represented by the Old English letter. In the IPA, it is always in "lowercase.

Uralic Phonetic Alphabet[edit]

The "Uralic Phonetic Alphabet (UPA) uses several additional æ-related symbols:[5]

Computer encodings and entering[edit]

Danish keyboard with keys for Æ, Ø and Å.
On Norwegian keyboards the Æ and Ø trade places.
The Æ character (among others, including "Å and "ø) is accessible using "AltGr+z on a modern "US-International keyboard
Character Æ æ Ǣ ǣ Ǽ ǽ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
"Unicode 198 U+00C6 230 U+00E6 482 U+01E2 483 U+01E3 508 U+01FC 509 U+01FD
"UTF-8 195 134 C3 86 195 166 C3 A6 199 162 C7 A2 199 163 C7 A3 199 188 C7 BC 199 189 C7 BD
"Numeric character reference Æ Æ æ æ Ǣ Ǣ ǣ ǣ Ǽ Ǽ ǽ ǽ
"Named character reference Æ æ


The Latin letters are frequently used in place of the "Cyrillic "Ӕ and ӕ in Cyrillic texts (such as on Ossetian sites on the Internet).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harrison, James A.; Baskervill, W. M., eds. (1885). "æsc". A Handy Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Based on Groschopp's Grein. A. S. Barnes. p. 11. 
  2. ^ James Morwood (1999). Latin Grammar, Oxford University Press. "ISBN "978-0-19-860199-9, p. 3
  3. ^ The spelling medieval is given priority in both Oxford and Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Accessed September 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Accessed September 22, 2014.
  5. ^ "Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). 

External links[edit]

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