C, or c, is the third letter in the English and ISO basic Latin alphabets. Its name in English is cee (pronounced /ˈs/), plural cees.[1]

C c
(See below)
Writing systemLatin script
Language of originLatin language
Phonetic usage[c]
Unicode codepointU+0043, U+0063
Alphabetical position3
Numerical value: 3
Variations(See below)
Associated numbers3


Old Latin
C (G)

"C" comes from the same letter as "G". The Semites named it gimel. The sign is possibly adapted from an Egyptian hieroglyph for a staff sling, which may have been the meaning of the name gimel. Another possibility is that it depicted a camel, the Semitic name for which was gamal. Barry B. Powell, a specialist in the history of writing, states "It is hard to imagine how gimel = "camel" can be derived from the picture of a camel (it may show his hump, or his head and neck!)".[2]

In the Etruscan language, plosive consonants had no contrastive voicing, so the Greek 'Γ' (Gamma) was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet to represent /k/. Already in the Western Greek alphabet, Gamma first took a '' form in Early Etruscan, then '' in Classical Etruscan. In Latin it eventually took the 'c' form in Classical Latin. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters 'c k q' were used to represent the sounds /k/ and /ɡ/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, 'q' was used to represent /k/ or /ɡ/ before a rounded vowel, 'k' before 'a', and 'c' elsewhere.[3] During the 3rd century BC, a modified character was introduced for /ɡ/, and 'c' itself was retained for /k/. The use of 'c' (and its variant 'g') replaced most usages of 'k' and 'q'. Hence, in the classical period and after, 'g' was treated as the equivalent of Greek gamma, and 'c' as the equivalent of kappa; this shows in the romanization of Greek words, as in 'ΚΑΔΜΟΣ', 'ΚΥΡΟΣ', and 'ΦΩΚΙΣ' came into Latin as 'cadmvs', 'cyrvs' and 'phocis', respectively.

Other alphabets have letters homoglyphic to 'c' but not analogous in use and derivation, like the Cyrillic letter Es (С, с) which derives from the lunate sigma, named due to its resemblance to the crescent moon.

Later use

When the Roman alphabet was introduced into Britain, c represented only /k/, and this value of the letter has been retained in loanwords to all the insular Celtic languages: in Welsh,[4] Irish, Gaelic, c represents only /k/. The Old English Latin-based writing system was learned from the Celts, apparently of Ireland; hence c in Old English also originally represented /k/; the Modern English words kin, break, broken, thick, and seek all come from Old English words written with c: cyn, brecan, brocen, þicc, and séoc. However, during the course of the Old English period, /k/ before front vowels (/e/ and /i/) were palatalized, having changed by the tenth century to [tʃ], though c was still used, as in cir(i)ce, wrecc(e)a. On the continent, meanwhile, a similar phonetic change had also been going on (for example, in Italian).

In Vulgar Latin, /k/ became palatalized to [tʃ] in Italy and Dalmatia; in France and the Iberian peninsula, it became [ts]. Yet for these new sounds c was still used before the letters e and i. The letter thus represented two distinct values. Subsequently, the Latin phoneme /kw/ (spelled qv) de-labialized to /k/ meaning that the various Romance languages had /k/ before front vowels. In addition, Norman used the letter k so that the sound /k/ could be represented by either k or c, the latter of which could represent either /k/ or /ts/ depending on whether it preceded a front vowel letter or not. The convention of using both c and k was applied to the writing of English after the Norman Conquest, causing a considerable re-spelling of the Old English words. Thus while Old English candel, clif, corn, crop, cú, remained unchanged, Cent, cǣᵹ (cēᵹ), cyng, brece, sēoce, were now (without any change of sound) spelled Kent, keȝ, kyng, breke, and seoke; even cniht ('knight') was subsequently changed to kniht and þic ('thick') changed to thik or thikk. The Old English cw was also at length displaced by the French qu so that the Old English cwēn ('queen') and cwic ('quick') became Middle English quen and quik, respectively. The sound [tʃ], to which Old English palatalized /k/ had advanced, also occurred in French, chiefly from Latin /k/ before a. In French it was represented by the digraph ch, as in champ (from Latin camp-um) and this spelling was introduced into English: the Hatton Gospels, written c.1160, have in Matt. i-iii, child, chyld, riche, mychel, for the cild, rice, mycel, of the Old English version whence they were copied. In these cases, the Old English c gave way to k, qu and ch; on the other hand, c in its new value of /ts/ appeared largely in French words like processiun, emperice and grace, and was also substituted for ts in a few Old English words, as miltse, bletsien, in early Middle English milce, blecien. By the end of the thirteenth century both in France and England, this sound /ts/ de-affricated to /s/; and from that time c has represented /s/ before front vowels either for etymological reasons, as in lance, cent, or to avoid the ambiguity due to the "etymological" use of s for /z/, as in ace, mice, once, pence, defence.

Thus, to show etymology, English spelling has advise, devise (instead of *advize, *devize), while advice, device, dice, ice, mice, twice, etc., do not reflect etymology; example has extended this to hence, pence, defence, etc., where there is no etymological reason for using c. Former generations also wrote sence for sense. Hence, today the Romance languages and English have a common feature inherited from Vulgar Latin spelling conventions where c takes on either a "hard" or "soft" value depending on the following letter.

Pronunciation and use

Pronunciations of Cc
Most common pronunciation: /ts/

Languages in italics do not use the Latin alphabet

Language Dialect(s) Pronunciation (IPA) Environment Notes
Azeri /dʒ/
Berber /ʃ/ Latinization
Bukawa /ʔ/
Catalan /k/
/s/ Before e, i
Crimean Tatar /dʒ/
Czech /ts/
English /k/
/s/ Before e, i, y
Fijian /ð/
French /k/
/s/ Before e, i, y
Fula /tʃ/
Hausa /tʃ/
Hungarian /ts/
Indonesian /tʃ/
Irish /k/
/c/ Before e, i; or after i
Italian /k/
/tʃ/ Before e, i
Kurdish Kurmanji /dʒ/
Latvian /ts/
Malay /tʃ/
Mandarin Standard /tsʰ/ Pinyin latinization
Manding /tʃ/
Polish /ts/
Portuguese /k/
/s/ Before e, i, y
Romanian /tʃ/ Before e, i
Scottish Gaelic /kʰ/
/kʰʲ/ Before e, i; or after i
Serbo-Croatian /ts/
Slovak /ts/
Slovene /ts/
Somali /ʕ/
Spanish All /k/
Most of European /θ/ Before e, i, y
American, Andalusian, Canarian /s/ Before e, i, y
Turkish /dʒ/
Welsh /k/
Xhosa /ǀ/
Yabem /ʔ/
Yup'ik /tʃ/
Zulu /ǀ/


In English orthography, c generally represents the "soft" value of /s/ before the letters e (including the Latin-derived digraphs ae and oe, or the corresponding ligatures æ and œ), i, and y, and a "hard" value of /k/ before any other letters or at the end of a word. However, there are a number of exceptions in English: "soccer" and "Celt" are words that have /k/ where /s/ would be expected.

The "soft" c may represent the /ʃ/ sound in the digraph ci when this precedes a vowel, as in the words 'delicious' and 'appreciate', and also in the word "ocean" and its derivatives.

The digraph ch most commonly represents //, but can also represent /k/ (mainly in words of Greek origin) or /ʃ/ (mainly in words of French origin). For some dialects of English, it may also represent /x/ in words like loch, while other speakers pronounce the final sound as /k/. The trigraph tch always represents //.

The digraph ck is often used to represent the sound /k/ after short vowels, like "wicket".

C is the eleventh least frequently used letter in the English language (after G, Y, P, B, V, K, J, X, Q, and Z), with a frequency of about 2.20% in words.

Other languages

In the Romance languages French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, c generally has a "hard" value of /k/ and a "soft" value whose pronunciation varies by language. In French, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish from Latin America and some places in Spain, the soft c value is /s/ as it is in English. In the Spanish spoken in most of Spain, the soft c is a voiceless dental fricative /θ/. In Italian and Romanian, the soft c is [t͡ʃ].

Germanic languages usually use c for Romance loans or digraphs, such as ch and ck, but the rules vary across languages. Dutch uses c the most, for all Romance loans and the digraph ch, but unlike English, does not use c for native Germanic words like komen, "come". German uses c in the digraphs ch and ck, and the trigraph sch, but only by itself in unassimilated loanwords. Danish keeps soft c in Romance words but changes hard c to k. Swedish has the same rules for soft and hard c as Danish, and also uses c in the digraph ck and the very common word och, "and". Norwegian, Afrikaans, and Icelandic are the most restrictive, replacing all cases of c with k or s, and reserving c for unassimilated loanwords and names.

All Balto-Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, as well as Albanian, Hungarian, Pashto, several Sami languages, Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, and Americanist phonetic notation (and those aboriginal languages of North America whose practical orthography derives from it) use c to represent /t͡s/, the voiceless alveolar or voiceless dental sibilant affricate. In Hanyu Pinyin, the standard romanization of Mandarin Chinese, the letter represents an aspirated version of this sound, /t͡sh/.

Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, c represents a variety of sounds. Yup'ik, Indonesian, Malay, and a number of African languages such as Hausa, Fula, and Manding share the soft Italian value of /t͡ʃ/. In Azeri, Crimean Tatar, Kurmanji Kurdish, and Turkish c stands for the voiced counterpart of this sound, the voiced postalveolar affricate /d͡ʒ/. In Yabem and similar languages, such as Bukawa, c stands for a glottal stop /ʔ/. Xhosa and Zulu use this letter to represent the click /ǀ/. In some other African languages, such as Berber languages, c is used for /ʃ/. In Fijian, c stands for a voiced dental fricative /ð/, while in Somali it has the value of /ʕ/.

The letter c is also used as a transliteration of Cyrillic ц in the Latin forms of Serbian, Macedonian, and sometimes Ukrainian, along with the digraph ts.

Other systems

As a phonetic symbol, lowercase c is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal plosive, and capital C is the X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal fricative.


There are several common digraphs with c, the most common being ch, which in some languages (such as German) is far more common than c alone. ch takes various values in other languages.

As in English, ck, with the value /k/, is often used after short vowels in other Germanic languages such as German and Swedish (other Germanic languages, such as Dutch and Norwegian, use kk instead). The digraph cz is found in Polish and cs in Hungarian, representing /t͡ʂ/ and /t͡ʃ/ respectively. The digraph sc represents /ʃ/ in Old English, Italian, and a few languages related to Italian (where this only happens before front vowels, while otherwise it represents /sk/). The trigraph sch represents /ʃ/ in German.

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

A curled C in the coat of arms of Porvoo
  • 𐤂 : Semitic letter Gimel, from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Γ γ : Greek letter Gamma, from which C derives
      • G g : Latin letter G, which is derived from Latin C
        • Ȝ ȝ : Latin letter Ȝ, which is derived from Latin G
  • Phonetic alphabet symbols related to C:
    • ɕ : Small c with curl
    • ʗ : stretched C
  •  : Modifier letter small c[5]
  •  : Modifier letter small c with curl[5]
  •  : Small capital c is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet.[6]
  • Ꞔ ꞔ : C with palatal hook, used for writing Mandarin Chinese using the early draft version of pinyin romanization during the mid-1950s[7]

Add to C with diacritics

  • C with diacritics: Ć ć Ĉ ĉ Č č Ċ ċ Ḉ ḉ Ƈ ƈ C̈ c̈ Ȼ ȼ Ç ç Ꞔ ꞔ Ꞓ ꞓ
  • Ↄ ↄ : Claudian letters[8]

Derived ligatures, abbreviations, signs and symbols

  • © : copyright symbol
  •  : degree Celsius
  • ¢ : cent
  •  : colón (currency)
  •  : Brazilian cruzeiro (currency)
  •  : Ghana cedi (currency)
  •  : European Currency Unit CE
  •  : blackboard bold C, denoting the complex numbers
  •  : blackletter C
  • Ꜿ ꜿ : Medieval abbreviation for Latin syllables con- and com-, Portuguese -us and -os[9]

Computing codes

Character information
Numeric character referenceCCcc
EBCDIC family195C313183
ASCII 167439963
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

In Unicode, C is also encoded in various font styles for mathematical purposes; see Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code

Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) Braille dots-14
Unified English Braille

See also


  1. "C" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "cee", op. cit.
  2. Powell, Barry B. (27 Mar 2009). Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization. Wiley Blackwell. p. 182. ISBN 978-1405162562.
  3. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-19-508345-8.
  4. "Reading Middle Welsh -- 29 Medieval Spelling". www.mit.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  5. Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF).
  6. Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF).
  7. West, Andrew; Chan, Eiso; Everson, Michael (2017-01-16). "L2/17-013: Proposal to encode three uppercase Latin letters used in early Pinyin" (PDF).
  8. Everson, Michael (2005-08-12). "L2/05-193R2: Proposal to add Claudian Latin letters to the UCS" (PDF).
  9. 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).
  • Media related to C at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of C at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of c at Wiktionary
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