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This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see B (disambiguation).
For technical reasons, "B#" redirects here. For B-sharp, see B♯.
B cursiva.gif

B (named bee /ˈb/[1]) is the second letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is used to represent a variety of bilabial sounds (depending on language), but most commonly a voiced bilabial stop.


The capital letter 'B' may have started as a pictogram of the floorplan of a house in Egyptian hieroglyphs. By 1050 BC, the Phoenician alphabet's letter beth had a linear form.

Egyptian hieroglyph
Egyptian hieroglyphic house Phoenician beth Greek beta Etruscan B Roman B

Typographic variants

The modern lowercase 'b' derives from later Roman times, when scribes began omitting the upper loop of the capital.

Uncial B Blackletter B Modern Roman B Modern Italic B Modern Script B
Uncial B Blackletter B Modern Roman B Modern Italic B Modern Script B


In English, most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, and the International Phonetic Alphabet, 'b' denotes the voiced bilabial plosive /b/, as in 'bib'. In English it is sometimes silent; most instances are derived from old monosyllablic words with the 'b' final and immediately preceded by an 'm', such as 'lamb' and 'bomb'; a few are examples of etymological spelling to make the word more like its Latin original, such as 'debt' or 'doubt'.

In Estonian, Icelandic, and Chinese pinyin, 'b' does not denote a voiced consonant; instead, it represents a voiceless /p/ that contrasts with either a geminated /p:/ (in Estonian) or an aspirated /pʰ/ (in Chinese, Danish and Icelandic), represented by 'p'. In Fijian 'b' represents a prenasalized /mb/, whereas in Zulu and Xhosa it represents an implosive /ɓ/, in contrast to the digraph 'bh' which represents /b/.

Finnish only uses 'b' in loanwords.

'B' is also a musical note. Its value varies depending on the region; a 'b' in Anglophone countries represents a note that is a semitone higher than the B note in Northern Continental Europe. (Anglophone B is represented in Northern Europe with 'H'.) Archaic forms of 'b', the b quadratum (square b, ) and b rotundum (round b, ) remain in use for musical notation as the symbols for natural and flat, respectively.

In Contracted (grade 2) English braille, 'b' stands for "but" when in isolation.

Related letters and other similar characters

Computing codes

Character B b
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 66 U+0042 98 U+0062
UTF-8 66 42 98 62
Numeric character reference B B b b
EBCDIC family 194 C2 130 82
ASCII 1 66 42 98 62
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Bravo –···
ICS Bravo.svg Semaphore Bravo.svg ⠃
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

See also



  1. ^ "B" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "bee", op. cit.

External links

  • Media related to B at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of B at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of b at Wiktionary