Close back unrounded vowel

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Not to be confused with the Armenian letter ա or the Cyrillic letter ш.
Close back unrounded vowel
IPA number 316
Entity (decimal) ɯ
Unicode (hex) U+026F
Kirshenbaum u-
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠥ (braille pattern dots-136)

The close back unrounded vowel, or high back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. Acoustically it is a close back-central unrounded vowel.[1] The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɯ⟩. Typographically a turned letter m, given its relation to the sound represented by the letter u it can be considered a u with an extra "bowl". It is not to be confused with ⟨⟩, a sequence of the symbols ⟨u⟩ and ⟨ɪ⟩ (which represent the close back rounded vowel and the near-close near-front unrounded vowel, respectively), which may look very similar in some fonts.

Essentially, this sound is an ordinary French/Spanish/Italian [u] (as in Spanish nunca) pronounced with unrounded lips.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, hence the name of this article. However, a large number of linguists, perhaps a majority, prefer the terms "high" and "low".


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
ɪ̈ • ʊ̈
ɯ̽ • ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
 • ø̞
ə • ɵ̞
ɤ̞ • 
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
æ • 
ɐ • ɞ̞
a • ɶ
ä • ɒ̈
ɑ • ɒ
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view
  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Note that unrounded back vowels tend to be centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-back.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Acehnese[2] eu [ɯ] 'see' Also described as closer to [ɨ].[3][4]
Alekano hanuva [hɑnɯβɑ] 'nothing'
Azeri qırx [gɯɾx] 'forty'
Bashkir ҡыҙ [qɯð] 'girl'
Chinese Hokkien Amoy dialects [tɯ] 'pig'
Some Wu dialects [vɯ] 'father'
Xiang [xɯ] 'fire'
Crimean Tatar canım [dʒanɯm] 'please'
English California[5] goose [ɡɯ̟ˑs] 'goose' Near-back;[5] corresponds to [] in other dialects.
South African[6] pill [pʰɯ̟ɫ] 'pill' Near-back; possible allophone of /ɪ/ before the velarised allophone of /l/.[6] Also described as close-mid [ɤ̟].[7] See South African English phonology
Estonian[8] kõrv [kɯrv] 'ear' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɤ⟩; can be mid central [ə] or mid back [ɤ̞] instead, depending on the speaker.[8] See Estonian phonology
Garifuna gürûgua [ɡɯˈɹɯɡwə] 'bite'
Irish Ulster caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'narrow' See Irish phonology
Kensiu[9] [häjɯ̟p] 'to know' Near-back.[9]
Korean[10] 음식/飲食 eumsik [ɯːmɕik̚] 'food' See Korean phonology
Kyrgyz кыз [qɯz] 'girl' See Kyrgyz phonology
Ongota [kuˈbuːɯ] 'dry'
Scottish Gaelic caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'thin' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Shipibo[11] [ˈkɯ̟ni̞] 'whisker' Near-back.[11]
Sundanese meunang [mɯnaŋ] 'get'
Thai[12] ขึ้น[13] [kʰɯ̟n˥˩] 'to go up' Near-back.[14]
Turkish[15][16] sığ About this sound [sɯ̟ː] 'shallow' Near-back.[15] See Turkish phonology
Turkmen ýaşyl [jäːˈʃɯl] 'green'
Tuvan Кызыл [kɯˈzɯl] 'Kyzyl'
Uyghur تىلىم [tɯlɯm] 'my language' In complementary distribution with /ɪ/. See Uyghur phonology
Vietnamese tư [tɯ] 'fourth' See Vietnamese phonology
Xumi Upper[17] [Hkɯ] 'to bake' Allophone of /ʉ/ after velar consonants.[17]
Yakut тыл [tɯl] 'tongue'

The symbol ⟨ɯ⟩ is sometimes used for Japanese /u/, but that sound is rounded, albeit with labial compression rather than protrusion. It is more accurately described as an exolabial close back vowel.

See also[edit]