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Ę (minuscule: ę; Polish: e z ogonkiem, "e with a little tail"; Lithuanian: e nosinė, "nasal e") is a letter in the Polish, Lithuanian and Dalecarlian alphabets. It is used in Navajo to represent the nasal vowel [ẽ]. In Latin, Irish, and Old Norse palaeography, it is known as e caudata ("tailed e").

In Polish[edit]

In Polish, ę comes after e in the alphabet. It is never at the start of a word, except for the word ęsi. It is most commonly pronounced as /ɛw̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, or /ɛ/, depending on the context.

Unlike in French, a Polish nasal vowel is "asynchronous": pronounced as an oral vowel + a nasal semivowel [ɛw̃] or a nasal vowel + a nasal semivowel. For the sake of simplicity, it is sometimes transcribed [ɛ̃].

Some examples,

  • język ("language", "tongue"), pronounced [ˈjɛw̃zɨk]
  • mięso ("meat"), [ˈmjɛw̃sɔ]
  • ciężki ("heavy"), [ˈtɕɛw̃ʂki]

Before all stops and affricates, it is pronounced as an oral vowel + nasal consonant, with /ɛn/ before most consonants, while /ɛm/ appears before p, b, w, or f; and /ɛɲ/ appears before palatal consonants ć, ; before palatal sibilants ś and ź it is either /ɛɲ/ or (more frequently) [ɛj͂]. For example,

  • więcej ("more"), pronounced [ˈvjɛntsɛj]
  • sędzia ("judge", "referee"), [ˈsɛɲdʑa], rarely (in dialects) also [ˈsɛndʑa]
  • głęboki ("deep"), [ɡwɛmˈbɔki]
  • więzi ("bonds"), [ˈvjɛj͂ʑi], or [ˈvjɛɲʑi]

If ę is the final letter of a word or followed by either l or ł, some Poles will pronounce it simply as [ɛ]. For example, będę ("I will (be)") can be either [ˈbɛndɛ] or [ˈbɛndɛ̃], and dziękuję ("thank you") can be either [dʑɛŋˈkujɛ] or [dʑɛŋˈkujɛ̃].

In dialects of some regions, ę in final position is also pronounced as /ɛm/ so robię is occasionally pronounced as [ˈrɔbjɛm]. That nonstandard form is used by the former Polish president Lech Wałęsa. Some of his sentences are respelled to reflect the pronunciation, e.g., "Nie chcem, ale muszem" (properly written "Nie chcę, ale muszę"; "I don't want to, but I have to") has entered popular language.


Polish ę evolved from short nasal a of medieval Polish, which developed into a short nasal e in the modern language. The medieval vowel, along with its long counterpart, evolved in turn from the merged nasal *ę and *ǫ of Late Proto-Slavic:

Early Proto-Slavic *em/*en and *am/*an
Late Proto-Slavic /ẽ/ and /õ/, transcribed by ⟨ę⟩ and ⟨ǫ⟩
Medieval Polish short and long /ã/, written approximately ⟨ø⟩
Modern Polish short /ã//ɛw̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, written ⟨ę⟩

long /ã//ɔw̃/, /ɔn/, /ɔm/, written ⟨ą⟩


It often alternates with ą:

  • "husband": mążmężowie ("husbands"),
    "error": błądbłędy ("errors"),
    "pigeon": gołąbgołębie ("pigeons")
  • "oak" in nominative: dąbdębem (instrumental)
  • "hands" in nominative: ręcerąk (genitive)
  • "five": pięćpiąty ("fifth")

Audio examples[edit]

In Lithuanian[edit]

For some forms of the noun, ę is used at the end of the word for the accusative case, as in eglę, accusative of eglė (spruce). It is also used to change past tense verb to the participle in the past, e.g., tempė to tempęs - somebody who has pulled.

Nasal en/em forms are now pronounced [eː], as in kęsti (to suffer) - kenčia (is suffering or suffers), so the ę is no longer nasal.

In some cases, ą, ę and į (but never ė) may be used for different forms, as in tąsa (extension) - tęsia (extends) - tįsoti (to lie extended). Finally, some verbs have the letter in the middle of the word only in the present tense, e.g., gęsta ([fire, light] is going off) but not užgeso (went off).[1]

Unlike with į or ą, no Lithuanian word is known to start with ę.[2]

Computer use[edit]

Character Ę ę
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 280 U+0118 281 U+0119
UTF-8 196 152 C4 98 196 153 C4 99
Numeric character reference Ę Ę ę ę
ISO 8859-2 / ISO 8859-4 202 CA 234 EA
ISO 8859-10 221 DD 253 FD

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gramatika". Algdo blogas-svetainė (in Lithuanian).
  2. ^ http://rimai.dainutekstai.lt/zodziai/e