Ł or ł, described in English as L with stroke, is a letter of the West Slavic (Polish, Kashubian, and Sorbian), Łacinka (Latin Belarusian), Łatynka (Latin Ukrainian), Wymysorys, Navajo, Dene Suline, Inupiaq, Zuni, Hupa, and Dogrib alphabets, several proposed alphabets for the Venetian language, and the ISO 11940 romanization of the Thai alphabet. In Slavic languages, it represents the continuation of Proto-Slavic non-palatal l (dark L), except in Polish where it evolved further into /w/. In most non-European languages, it represents a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative or similar sound.

Glyph shape

In normal typefaces, the letter has a stroke approximately in the middle of the vertical stem, passing it at an angle between 70° and 45°, never perpendicularly. In cursive handwriting and typefaces that imitate it, the capital letter has a horizontal stroke through the middle and looks almost exactly the same as the pound sign, £. In the cursive lowercase letter, the stroke is also horizontal and placed on top of the letter instead of going through the middle of the stem, which would not be distinguishable from the letter t. The stroke is either straight or slightly wavy, depending on the style. Unlike l, the letter ł is usually written without a noticeable loop at the top. Most publicly available multilingual cursive typefaces, including commercial ones, feature an incorrect glyph for ł.[1]

A rare variant of the ł glyph is a cursive double-ł ligature, used in words such as Jagiełło or Ałłach (archaic: Allah), where the strokes at the top of the letters are joined into a single stroke.[1]


In Polish, Ł is used to distinguish historical dark (velarized) L from clear L. The Polish Ł sounds similar to the English "w".

In 1440, Jakub Parkoszowic proposed a letter resembling to represent clear L. For dark L he suggested l with a stroke running in the opposite direction as the modern version. The latter was introduced in 1514–1515 by Stanisław Zaborowski in his Orthographia seu modus recte scribendi et legendi Polonicum idioma quam utilissimus. L with stroke originally represented a velarized alveolar lateral approximant [ɫ],[2] a pronunciation that is preserved in the eastern part of Poland[3] and among the Polish minority in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. This pronunciation is similar to Russian unpalatalised Л in native words and grammar forms.

In modern Polish, Ł is normally pronounced /w/ (exactly as w in English as a consonant, as in will).[4] This pronunciation first appeared among Polish lower classes in the 16th century. It was considered an uncultured accent by the upper classes (who pronounced Ł as /ɫ/) until the mid-20th century when this distinction gradually began to fade.

The shift from [ɫ] to [w] in Polish has affected all instances of dark L, even word-initially or intervocalically, e.g. ładny ("pretty, nice") is pronounced [ˈwadnɨ], słowo ("word") is [ˈswɔvɔ], and ciało ("body") is [ˈtɕawɔ]. Ł often alternates with clear L, such as the plural forms of adjectives and verbs in the past tense that are associated with masculine personal nouns, e.g. małymali ([ˈmawɨ][ˈmali]). Alternation is also common in declension of nouns, e.g. from nominative to locative, tłona tle ([twɔ][naˈtlɛ]).

Polish final Ł also often corresponds to Ukrainian word-final В (Cyrillic) and Belarusian Ў (Cyrillic). Thus, "he gave" is "dał" in Polish, "дав" in Ukrainian, "даў" in Belarusian (all pronounced [daw]), but "дал" [daɫ] in Russian. The old pronunciation [ɫ] of Ł is still fully understandable but is considered theatrical in most regions.


Historic figures

Some examples of words with 'ł':

In contexts where Ł is not available as a glyph, basic L is used instead. Thus, the surname Małecki would be spelled Malecki in a foreign country. Similarly, the stroke is sometimes omitted on the internet, as may happen with all diacritic-enhanced letters. Leaving out the diacritic does not impede communication for native speakers, but it may be confusing for those learning Polish.

In 1980-s, with western computers available in Poland which at that times lacked Polish diacritics, it was a common practice to use a pound sterling sign (£) for Ł. This practice vanished as soon as DOS-based or Mac computers came with a proper codepage.

Other languages

In Belarusian Łacinka (both in the 1929[5] and 1962[6][7]versions), Ł corresponds to Cyrillic Л, and is normally pronounced /ɫ/ (almost exactly as in English pull).

In Navajo, Ł is used for a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative /ɬ/, like the Welsh Ll.[8]

Ł is used in orthographic transcription of Ahtna, an Athabaskan language spoken in Alaska; it represents a breathy lateral fricative.[9][10] It is also used in Tanacross, a related Athabaskan language.[11]

In Venetian Ł is used as substitution for L in many words in which the pronunciation of L has become different for several varieties of the language, such as becoming mute, or becoming the sound of the shorter vowel corresponding to /ɰ/ or /ɛ/. For example: "la gondoła" can be pronounced as (in Venetian dialects) "la góndola", or "la góndoa", or "la góndoea" with such shorter /ɛ̆/.

When writing IPA for some Scandinavian dialects where the pronunciation of a retroflex flap /ɽ/ exists, for example in Eastern Norwegian dialects, authors may employ Ł.

Computer usage

The Unicode codepoints for the letter are U+0142 for the lower case, and U+0141 for the capital.[12] In the LaTeX typesetting system Ł and ł may be typeset with the commands \L{} and \l{}, respectively. The HTML-codes are Ł and ł for Ł and ł, respectively.

Character encodingdecimalhexdecimalhex
UTF-8197 1290xC5 0x81197 1300xC5 0x82
Numeric character referenceŁŁłł
CP 8521579D13688
CP 775173AD13688
Windows-1250, ISO-8859-2163A3179B3
Windows-1257, ISO-8859-13217D9249F9
Mac Central European252FC184B8


The Ł symbol is often associated with the Litecoin crypto-currency. It represents the largest and most common denomination of Litecoin.

See also


  1. 1 2 Adam Twardoch (2009-03-09). "Kreska ukośna". Polish Diacritics: how to?. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  2. Teslar, Joseph Andrew; Teslar,, Jadwiga (1962). A New Polish Grammar (8th Edition, Revised ed.). Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, Ltd. pp. 4 – 5. ł = English l hard, dental ; ... It is true, of course, that the majority of Poles nowadays pronounce this sound with the lips, exactly like the English w. But this is a careless pronunciation leading eventually to the disappearance of a sound typically Polish (and Russian also ; it has already disappeared from the other Slavonic languages, Czech and Serbian) ... In articulating l, your tongue ... projects considerably beyond the horizontal line separating the gums from the teeth and touches the gums or the palate. To pronounce ł ... the tongue should be held flat and rigid in the bottom of the mouth with the tip just bent upwards sufficiently to touch the edge of the front upper teeth. (On no account should the tongue extend beyond the line separating the teeth from the gums.) Holding the tongue rigidly in this position, a speaker should then pronounce one of the vowels a, o or u, consciously dropping the tongue on each occasion, to obtain the hard ł quite distinct from the soft l.
  3. Swan, Oscar E. (1983). First Year Polish (2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded ed.). Columbus: Slavica Publishers. p. xix. ł (so-called barrel l) is not pronounced like an l except in Eastern dialects and, increasingly infrequently, in stage pronunciation. It is most often pronounced like English w in way, how. "łeb, dała, był, piłka.
  4. Mazur,, B. W. (1983). Colloquial Polish. London: Routledge. p. 5. The sounds below exist in English but are pronounced or rendered differently: c ... h[, ] ch ... j ... ł as w in wet[, ] łach ład słowo[; ] r ... w
  5. Тарашкевіч, Б. (1991). Беларуская граматыка для школ. – Вільня (Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае ed.). Беларуская друкарня ім. Фр. Скарыны, 1929 ; Мн. : «Народная асвета».
  6. Станкевіч, Ян (1962). Які мае быць парадак літараў беларускае абэцады.
  7. Станкевіч, Ян (2002). Збор твораў у двух тамах. 2. Энцыклапедыкс. ISBN 985-6599-46-6.
  8. Campbell, George L. (1995). Concise Compendium of the World's Languages. London: Routledge. p. 354.
  9. "Ahtna Pronunciation Guide". Native Languages of the Americas. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  10. Tuttle, Siri G. "Syllabic obstruents in Ahtna Athabaskan" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 23, 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  11. Holton, Gary (April 2004). "Writing Tanacross Without Special Fonts". Alaska Native Language Center. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  12. "Unicode Character 'LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH STROKE' (U+0142)". FileFormat.info. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
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