V or W
The origin of 'F' is the Semitic letter vâv (or waw) that represented a sound like /v/ or /w/. Graphically it originally probably depicted either a hook or a club. It may have been based on a comparable Egyptian hieroglyph such as that which represented the word mace (transliterated as ḥ(dj)):
The Phoenician form of the letter was adopted into Greek as a vowel, upsilon (which resembled its descendant 'Y' but was also the ancestor of the Roman letters 'U', 'V', and 'W'); and, with another form, as a consonant, digamma, which indicated the pronunciation /w/, as in Phoenician. Latin 'F,' despite being pronounced differently, is ultimately descended from digamma and closely resembles it in form.
After sound changes eliminated /w/ from spoken Greek, digamma was used only as a numeral. However, the Greek alphabet also gave rise to other alphabets, and some of these retained letters descended from digamma. In the Etruscan alphabet, 'F' probably represented /w/, as in Greek, and the Etruscans formed the digraph 'FH' to represent /f/. (At the time these letters were borrowed, there was no Greek letter that represented /f/: the Greek letter phi 'Φ' then represented an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive /pʰ/, although in Modern Greek it has come to represent /f/.) When the Romans adopted the alphabet, they used 'V' (from Greek upsilon) not only for the vowel /u/, but also for the corresponding semivowel /w/, leaving 'F' available for /f/. And so out of the various vav variants in the Mediterranean world, the letter F entered the Roman alphabet attached to a sound which its antecedents in Greek and Etruscan did not have. The Roman alphabet forms the basis of the alphabet used today for English and many other languages.
The lowercase ' f ' is not related to the visually similar long s, ' ſ ' (or medial s). The use of the long s largely died out by the beginning of the 19th century, mostly to prevent confusion with ' f ' when using a short mid-bar (see more at: S).
Use in writing systems
In the English writing system ⟨f⟩ is used to represent the sound //, the voiceless labiodental fricative. It is commonly doubled at the end of words. Exceptionally, it represents the voiced labiodental fricative // in the common word "of".
In the writing systems of other languages, ⟨f⟩ commonly represents /f/, [ɸ] or /v/.
- In French orthography, ⟨f⟩ is used to represent /f/. It may also be silent at the end of words.
- In Spanish orthography, ⟨f⟩ is used to represent /f/.
- In the Hepburn romanization of Japanese, ⟨f⟩ is used to represent [ɸ]. This sound is usually considered to be an allophone of /h/, which is pronounced in different ways depending upon its context; Japanese /h/ is pronounced as [ɸ] before /u/.
- In Welsh orthography, ⟨f⟩ represents /v/ while ⟨ff⟩ represents /f/.
- In Slavic languages, ⟨f⟩ is used primarily in words of foreign (Greek, Latin, or Germanic) origin.
Ancestors, descendants and siblings
- F with diacritics: Ƒ ƒ Ḟ ḟ Ꞙ ꞙ ᵮ ᶂ ᵮ
- Ꞙ ꞙ : F with stroke is used in the Teuthonista phonetic transcription system
- ꬵ : Lenis F is used in the Teuthonista phonetic transcription system
- ᶠ : Modifier letter small f is used for phonetic transcription
- ꜰ : Small capital F was used in the Icelandic First Grammatical Treatise to mark gemination
- Ꝼ ꝼ : Insular F is used in Norse and Old English contexts
- ꟻ : Reversed F was used in ancient Roman texts to stand for filia (daughter) or femina (woman)
- Ⅎ ⅎ : Claudian letters
- 𐤅: Semitic letter Waw, from which the following symbols originally derive
- Ϝ ϝ : Greek letter Digamma, from which F derives
- 𐌅 : Old Italic V/F (originally used for V, in languages such as Etruscan and Oscan), which derives from Greek Digamma, and is the ancestor of modern Latin F
- Y y : Latin letter Y, sharing its roots with F
- V v : Latin letter V, also sharing its roots with F
- U u : Latin letter U, which is descended from V
- W w : Latin letter W, also descended from V
- Ϝ ϝ : Greek letter Digamma, from which F derives
Ligatures and abbreviations
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER F||LATIN SMALL LETTER F|
|Numeric character reference||F||F||f||f|
- 1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.
|NATO phonetic||Morse code|
|Signal flag||Flag semaphore||American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling)||Braille
- Spelled eff as a verb
- "F", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); "ef", "eff", "bee" (under "bee eff"), op. cit.
- Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
- Constable, Peter (2003-09-30). "L2/03-174R2: Proposal to Encode Phonetic Symbols with Middle Tilde in the UCS" (PDF).
- Everson, Michael; Dicklberger, Alois; Pentzlin, Karl; Wandl-Vogt, Eveline (2011-06-02). "L2/11-202: Revised proposal to encode "Teuthonista" phonetic characters in the UCS" (PDF).
- Everson, Michael; Baker, Peter; Emiliano, António; Grammel, Florian; Haugen, Odd Einar; Luft, Diana; Pedro, Susana; Schumacher, Gerd; Stötzner, Andreas (2006-01-30). "L2/06-027: Proposal to add Medievalist characters to the UCS" (PDF).
- Everson, Michael (2006-08-06). "L2/06-266: Proposal to add Latin letters and a Greek symbol to the UCS" (PDF).
- Perry, David J. (2006-08-01). "L2/06-269: Proposal to Add Additional Ancient Roman Characters to UCS" (PDF).
- Everson, Michael (2005-08-12). "L2/05-193R2: Proposal to add Claudian Latin letters to the UCS" (PDF).