Basic Latin alphabet
Aa Bb Cc Dd    
Ee Ff Gg Hh
Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn
Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt
Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

O (play /ˈ/; named o, plural oes)[1] is the fifteenth letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. The letter was derived from the Semitic `Ayin (eye), which represented a consonant, probably [ʕ], the sound represented by the Arabic letter ع called `Ayn. This Semitic letter in its original form seems to have been inspired by a similar Egyptian hieroglyph for "eye". The Greeks are thought to have come up with the innovation of vowel characters, and lacking a pharyngeal consonant, employed this letter as the Greek O to represent the vowel /o/, a sound it maintained in Etruscan and Latin. In Greek, a variation of the form later came to distinguish this long sound (Omega, meaning "large O") from the short o (Omicron, meaning "small o").

Its graphic form has also remained fairly constant from Phoenician times until today. Indeed, even alphabets constructed "from scratch", i.e. not derived from Semitic, usually have similar forms to represent this sound—for example the creators of the Afaka and Ol Chiki scripts, each invented in different parts of the world in the last century, both attributed their vowels for 'O' to the shape of the mouth when making this sound.



The letter O is the fourth most common letter in English language. O is most commonly associated with the close-mid back rounded vowel [o] in many languages. This form is colloquially termed the "long o" as in boat in English, but it is actually most often a diphthong /oʊ/ (realized dialectically anywhere from [o] to [əʊ]). In English there is a "short O" as in fox, which also has several pronunciations. In most dialects of British English, it is an open back rounded vowel [ɒ]; in American English, it is most commonly unrounded back to central vowel [ɑː] to [a].

Common digraphs include ⟨oo⟩, which represents either /uː/, /ʊ/ or /ʌ/; ⟨oi⟩ which typically represents the diphthong /ɔɪ/, like the pronunciation of ⟨oi⟩ in "boil"; and ⟨ao⟩, ⟨oe⟩, and ⟨ou⟩ which represent a variety of pronunciations depending on context and etymology.

Other languages use O for various values, usually back vowels which are at least partly open. Derived letters such as Ö and Ø have been created for the alphabets of some languages to distinguish values that were not present in Latin and Greek, particularly rounded front vowels.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, [o] represents the close-mid back rounded vowel.

Related letters and other similar characters

Computing codes

character O o


character encoding decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 79 004F 111 006F
UTF-8 79 4F 111 6F
Numeric character reference O O o o
EBCDIC family 214 D6 150 96
ASCII 1 79 4F 111 6F

1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations


  1. ^ "O" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Chambers-Happap, "oes" op. cit. Oes is the plural of the name of the letter. The plural of the letter itself is Os, O's, os, o's.

External links

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Letter O with diacritics
Óó Òò Ŏŏ Ôô Ốố Ồồ Ỗỗ Ổổ Ǒǒ Öö Ȫȫ Őő Õõ Ṍṍ Ṏṏ Ȭȭ Ȯȯ O͘o͘ Ȱȱ Øø Ǿǿ Ǫǫ Ǭǭ Ōō Ṓṓ Ṑṑ
Ỏỏ Ȍȍ Ȏȏ Ơơ Ớớ Ờờ Ỡỡ Ởở Ợợ Ọọ Ộộ Ɵɵ Ɔɔ

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