Å (small: å) represents various (although often very similar) sounds in several languages. It is considered a separate letter in the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish alphabets, as well as in the North Frisian, Walloon, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Chamorro, Istro-Romanian, Lule Sami, Skolt Sami, Southern Sami, and Greenlandic alphabets. Additionally, it is part of the alphabets used for the Alemannic and the Bavarian-Austrian dialects of German.
Å is often perceived as an A with a ring, interpreting the ring as a diacritical mark. However, in the languages that use it, the ring is not considered a diacritic but part of the letter. It developed as a form of semi-ligature of an A with a smaller o above it to denote a long and darker A, similar to how the umlaut mark that distinguishes Ä from A, and Ö from O, developed from a small e written above the letter in question.
The letter Å in Scandinavian alphabets represents two sounds, one short and one long.
- The short version represents IPA /ɔ/.
- In Swedish, the long version represents IPA /oː/. In Danish and Norwegian, the long version is pronounced IPA /ɔː/.
Historically, the letter Å derives from the Old Norse vowel á. This was a long /aː/ sound, but over time, the vowel developed to an [ɔ] sound. Medieval writing often used doubled letters for long vowels, and the vowel continued to be written Aa. In Old Swedish the use of the ligatures Æ and Œ that represented the sounds [æ] and [ø] respectively were gradually replaced by new letters. Instead of using ligatures, a minuscule E was placed above the letters A and O to create new graphemes. They later evolved into the modern letters Ä and Ö, where the E was simplified into two dots. This construction was also applied to construct a new grapheme where an "aa" previously had been used. A minuscule O was placed on top of an A to create a new letter. It was first used in print in the Gustav Vasa Bible that was published in 1541 and replaced Aa in the 16th century.
In an attempt to modernize the orthography, linguists tried to introduce the Å to Danish and Norwegian writing in the 19th century. Most people felt no need for the new letter, although the letter group Aa had already been pronounced like Å for centuries all over Scandinavia. Aa was usually treated as a single letter, spoken like the present Å when spelling out names or words. Orthography reforms making Å official were carried out in Norway in 1917 and in Denmark in 1948. It has been argued that the Å only made its way to official Danish spelling due to anti-German and pro-Scandinavian sentiment after World War II. Danish had been the only language apart from German and Luxembourgish to use capitalized nouns in the last decades, but abolished them at the same occasion.
In a few names of Danish cities or towns, the old spelling has been retained as an option due to local resistance, e.g. Aalborg and Aabenraa; however, Ålborg and Åbenrå are the spellings recommended by the Danish Language Board. Between 1948 and 2010, the city of Aarhus was officially spelled Århus, however in a controversial decision the local authorities have chosen to revert to the old spelling.
Icelandic and Faroese are the only Scandinavian languages not to use the letter Å. The Old Norse letter á is retained, but has become a diphthong, pronounced [au] in Icelandic and [ɔa] in Faroese. The short variation of Faroese á is pronounced [ɔ], though.
Since Å is a letter with a distinct sound, not an A with an accent, it is best to keep it when referring to Scandinavian words and names in other languages. However, in Danish and Norwegian, Aa is widely known as the old way of writing Å, used until the first part of the 20th century, and a fully functional transcription for Å when using a foreign keyboard. Due to technical troubles with the Å, Å is in internet addresses also mostly spelled as Aa. In Swedish, where this transcription is less common, Å is often rendered simply A in internet addresses. (internationalized domain names are still fairly uncommon)
Use in names 
Before 1917 some Norwegian place names contained three or four consecutive "a"s: for instance Haaa (now Håa, a river), Blaaaasen (Blååsen, 'the blå/blue ås/ridge'), and, though hypothetically, even the creek Raaaaaaa (Råååa, 'the Råå creek'; a creek).
In some names of geographical places, the old Aa spelling dominates, more often in Denmark than in Norway (where it has been abolished in official use since 1917). Locals of Aalborg and Aabenraa resist the Å, whereas Ålesund is rarely seen with Aa spelling. Official rules allow both forms in the most common cases, but Å is always correct.
In personal names, the bearer of the name uses Aa or Å according to their choice. Most people keep to the traditional Aa style, Aagaard being much more common than Ågård.
Company names are also written as the owner decides. Sometimes the Aa spelling is used to imply a conservative or nostalgic feeling.
It is also common for people whose last name begins with "Aa" to use this in their initials. For instance, a person named Hans Aaberg could therefore use the initials "H.Aa." instead of "H.A.".
Many last names in Norway adhere to old fashioned spellings. About 240 persons in Norway (2007) have Aa as a family name (for instance the writer Brynjar Aa); it is never spelled as Å.
Place in alphabet 
Correct alphabetization in Danish and Norwegian places Aa along with Å as the last letter in the alphabet, the sequence being Æ, Ø, Å/Aa. Unless manually corrected, sorting algorithms of programs localised for Danish or Norwegian will place e.g., Aaron after Zorro. In Danish and Norwegian books, a distinction is made between foreign and local words; thus, for example, the German city Aachen would be listed under A, but the Danish city "Aabenraa" would be listed after Z.
In the Finnish alphabet, å is carried over from the Swedish alphabet, but has no native use and is treated as in Swedish. Its usage is limited to names of Swedish, Danish or Norwegian origin. In Finland there are many both Swedish- and Finnish-speaking people with Swedish surnames, and many Swedish surnames include å. The Finnish name of å is ruotsalainen o ("Swedish o").
Walloon writing 
Å was introduced to some local variants of eastern-Walloon dialect at the beginning of the 20th century, initially to note the same sound as in Danish. Its use quickly spread to all the eastern-Walloon dialects, through the cultural influence of the city of Liège, and covered three sounds, a long open o, a long close o, or a long a, depending on the local varieties. The use of a single å letter to cover those pronunciations has been embraced by the new pan-Walloon orthography, that systemizes a unique orthography for words that are the same, regardless of the local phonetic variations.
In non-standardized writings outside the Liège area, words containing the å letter are written with au, â or ô depending on the pronunciation. For example the word måjhon (house) in standardized orthography is written môjo, mâhon, mohone, maujon in dialectal writings.
Istro-Romanian writing 
Symbol for ångström 
The letter "Å" (U+00C5) is also used throughout the world as the international symbol for the non-SI unit ångström, a physical unit of length named after the Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström. It is always upper case in this context (symbols for units named after persons are generally upper-case). The Ångström is a unit of length equal to 10−10 m (one ten-billionth of a meter) or 0.1 nm.
Unicode also has encoded U+212B Å angstrom sign. However, that is canonically equivalent to the ordinary letter Å. The duplicate encoding at U+212B is due to round-trip mapping compatibility with an East-Asian character encoding, but is otherwise not to be used.[clarification needed]
On computers 
For computers, when using the ISO 8859-1 or Unicode sets, the codes for "Å" and "å" are respectively 197 and 229 in decimal representation, or C5 and E5 in hexadecimal. In UTF-8 the hexadecimal representation of Å is "c3 85" and for lower case å "c3 a5".
In (X)HTML character entity references, required in cases where the letter is not available by ordinary coding, the codes are
å. The latter codes can be used in any XML application when the letter is not directly available in the character encoding used.
Alt codes: Alt+134 = å, Alt+143 = Å
In the TeX typesetting system Å may be written as \AA and å as \aa.
False and playful uses of Å 
The logo of the Major League Baseball team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is a capital "A" with a halo. Due to the resemblance, many Angels fans often type the name as "Ångels". This usage is similar to a heavy metal umlaut. Occasionally they use "Å" and "å" in other words, such as "Ånåheim", "chåmpionship", or "rålly monkey".
See also 
- Pettersson (1996), p. 139
- Orthography rules, §3.2, sproget.dk (in Danish)
- Pettersson, Gertrud (1996), Svenska språket under sjuhundra år: en historia om svenskan och dess utforskande, Lund: Studentlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-48221-3
- "The Nordic graphemes FAQ". soc.culturee.nordic. Web link.
- The IstroRomanians in Croatia: Alphabet
- The Local: Sweden to phase out Å, Ä and Ö (April Fool's joke)
Letter A with diacritics
Letters using ring sign ( ◌̊ ◌̥ )