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One of the most common hieroglyphs, snake, was used in Egyptian writing to stand for a sound like the English ⟨J⟩, because the Egyptian word for "snake" was djet. It is speculated by many that Semitic people working in Egypt adapted hieroglyphics to create the first alphabet, and that they used the same snake symbol to represent N, because their word for "snake" may have begun with that sound. However, the name for the letter in the Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic alphabets is nun, which means "fish" in some of these languages. The sound value of the letter was /n/—as in Greek, Etruscan, Latin and modern languages.
Use in writing systems
⟨n⟩ represents a dental or alveolar nasal in virtually all languages that use the Latin alphabet, and in the International Phonetic Alphabet. A common digraph with ⟨n⟩ is ⟨ng⟩, which represents a velar nasal in a variety of languages, usually positioned word-finally in English. Often, before a velar plosive (as in ink or jungle), ⟨n⟩ alone represents a velar nasal. In Italian and French, ⟨gn⟩ represents a palatal nasal /ɲ/. The Portuguese and Vietnamese spelling for this sound is ⟨nh⟩, while Spanish and a few other languages use the letter ⟨ñ⟩. In English, ⟨n⟩ is generally silent when it is preceded by an ⟨m⟩ at the end of words, as in hymn; however, it is pronounced in this combination when occurring word medially, as in hymnal.
- N with diacritics: Ń ń Ñ ñ Ň ň Ǹ ǹ Ṅ ṅ Ṇ ṇ
- Phonetic alphabet symbols related to N (the International Phonetic Alphabet only uses lowercase, but uppercase forms are used in some other writing systems):
- Ŋ ŋ : Latin letter eng, which represents a velar nasal in the IPA
- Ɲ ɲ : Latin letter Ɲ, which represents a palatal nasal or an alveolo-palatal nasal in the IPA
- Ƞ ƞ : Latin letter Ƞ (encoded in Unicode as "N with long right leg"), a mostly obsolete letter used to transcribe various nasal sounds
- ɳ : Latin letter n with a hook, which represents a retroflex nasal in the IPA
- ɴ : Small capital N, which represents a uvular nasal in the IPA
Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
- 𐤍 : Semitic letter Nun, from which the following symbols originally derive
Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations
- ₦ : Nigerian Naira
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N||LATIN SMALL LETTER N|
|Numeric character reference||N||N||n||n|
- 1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.
- "N" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "en," op. cit.
- English Letter Frequency
- The dictionary definition of n at Wiktionary