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A cedilla (play /sɨˈdɪlə/ si-dil), also known as cedilha or cédille, is a hook ( ¸ ) added under certain letters as a diacritical mark to modify their pronunciation.



The tail originated in Spain as the bottom half of a miniature cursive z. The word "cedilla" is the diminutive of the Old Spanish name for this letter, ceda (zeta).[1] Modern Spanish, however, no longer uses this diacritic, although it is still current in Portuguese,[2] Catalan, Occitan, and French, which gives English the alternative spellings of cedille, from French "cédille", and the Portuguese form cedilha. An obsolete spelling of cedilla is cerilla.[2] The earliest use in English cited by the Oxford English Dictionary[2] is a 1599 Spanish-English dictionary and grammar.[3] Chambers' Cyclopædia[4] is cited for the printer-trade variant ceceril in use in 1738.[2] The main use in English is not universal and applies to loan words from French and Portuguese such as "cachaça", "limaçon" and "façade" (often typed "cachaca", "limacon" and "facade" due to lack of Ç keys on the keyboards of most Anglophone countries).


In Unicode, the symbol is ◌̧ U+0327 ̧ combining cedilla.

Many precomposed characters are defined too, like:

  • U+00C7 Ç latin capital letter c with cedilla (HTML: Ç Ç)
  • U+00E7 ç latin small letter c with cedilla (HTML: ç ç)
  • U+015E Ş latin capital letter s with cedilla (HTML: Ş )
  • U+015F ş latin small letter s with cedilla (HTML: ş )

Use of the cedilla with the letter C

Origin of the cedilla from the Visigothic z

The most frequent character with cedilla is "ç" ("c" with cedilla, as in façade). It was first used for the sound of the voiceless alveolar affricate /ts/ in old Spanish and stems from the Visigothic form of the letter "z" (ʒ), whose upper loop was lengthened and reinterpreted as a "c", whereas its lower loop became the diminished appendage, the cedilla.

It represents the "soft" sound /s/ where a "c" would normally represent the "hard" sound /k/ (before "a", "o", "u", or at the end of a word) in English and in certain Romance languages such as Catalan, French, Occitan, and Portuguese. In Occitan, Friulian and Catalan ç can also be found at the beginning of a word (Çubran, ço) or at the end (braç).

It represents the voiceless postalveolar affricate /tʃ/ (as in English "church") in Albanian, Azerbaijani, Friulian, Kurdish, Tatar, Turkish (as in çiçek, çam, çekirdek, Çorum), and Turkmen. It is also sometimes used this way in Manx, to distinguish it from the velar fricative.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, /ç/ represents the voiceless palatal fricative.

Use of the cedilla with the letter S

The character "ş" represents the voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ (as in "show") in several languages, including many belonging to the Turkic languages:

It is also used in some Romanizations of Arabic, Persian and Tiberian Hebrew to represent a variant of "s", (ص in the Arabic alphabet, צ in Hebrew) although the letter "" is more frequently used for this.

  • In HTML character entity references Ş and ş can be used.

Use of the cedilla in Latvian

Comparatively, some consider the diacritics on the Latvian consonants "ģ", "ķ", "ļ", "ņ", and formerly "ŗ" to be cedillas. Although their Adobe glyph names are commas, their names in the Unicode Standard are "g", "k", "l", "n", and "r" with a cedilla. They were introduced to the Unicode standard before 1992, and their name cannot be altered. The uppercase equivalent "Ģ" sometimes has a regular cedilla.

Use of the cedilla in Marshallese

Four letters in Marshallese have cedillas: "ļ", "", "ņ" and "". In standard printed text they are always cedillas, and their omission or the substitution of comma below and dot below diacritics are nonstandard.

As of 2011, many font rendering engines do not display any of these properly, for two reasons:

  • "ļ" and "ņ" usually do not display properly at all, because of the use of the cedilla in Latvian. Unicode has precombined glyphs for these letters, but most quality fonts display them with comma below diacritics to accommodate the expectations of Latvian orthography. This is considered nonstandard in Marshallese. The use of a zero-width non-joiner between the letter and the diacritic can alleviate this problem: "l‌̧" and "n‌̧" may display properly, but may not; see below.
  • "" and "" do not currently exist in Unicode as precombined glyphs, and must be encoded as the plain Latin letters "m" and "o" with the combining cedilla diacritic. Most Unicode fonts issued with Windows do not display combining diacritics properly, showing them too far to the right of the letter, as with Tahoma ("" and "") and Times New Roman ("" and ""). This mostly affects "", and may or may not affect "". But some common Unicode fonts like Arial Unicode MS ("" and ""), Cambria ("" and "") and Lucida Sans Unicode ("" and "") don't have this problem. When "" is properly displayed, the cedilla is either underneath the center of the letter, or is underneath the right-most leg of the letter, but is always directly underneath the letter wherever it's positioned.

Because of these font display issues, it is not uncommon to find nonstandard ad hoc substitutes for these letters. The Marshallese-English Dictionary (the only complete Marshallese dictionary in existence) displays the letters with dot below diacritics, all of which do exist as precombined glyphs in Unicode: "", "", "" and "". The first three exist in the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration, and "" exists in the Vietnamese alphabet, and both of these systems are supported by the most recent versions of common fonts like Arial, Courier New, Tahoma and Times New Roman. This sidesteps most of the Marshallese text display issues associated with the cedilla, but is still inappropriate for polished standard text.

Other diacritics confused with the cedilla

Several languages add a comma (virgula) to some letters, such as ș, which looks like a cedilla, but is more precisely a diacritical comma. This is particularly confusing with letters which can take either diacritic: for example, the consonant /ʃ/ is written as "ş" in Turkish but "ș" in Romanian, and Romanian writers will sometimes use the former instead of the latter because of insufficient font or character-set support.

The Polish letters "ą" and "ę" and Lithuanian letters "ą", "ę", "į", and "ų" are not made with the cedilla either, but with the unrelated ogonek diacritic, which merely resembles a reversed cedilla (opening to the right instead of the left).

A proposal for the use of the cedilla with the letter T in French

In 1868, Ambroise Firmin-Didot suggested in his book Observations sur l'orthographe, ou ortografie, française (Observations on French Spelling) that French phonetics could be better regularized by adding a cedilla beneath the letter "t" in some words. For example, it is well-known that in the suffix -tion this letter is usually not pronounced as (or close to) /t/ in either French or English. It has to be distinctly learned that in words such as French diplomatie (but not diplomatique) and English action it is pronounced /s/ and /ʃ/, respectively (but not in active in either language). A similar effect occurs with other prefixes or within words also in French and English, such as partial where t is pronounced /s/ and /ʃ/ respectively. Firmin-Didot surmised that a new character could be added to French orthography. A similar letter, the t-comma, does exist in Romanian, but it has a comma accent, not a cedilla one.


  1. ^ For cedilla being the diminutive of ceda, see definition of cedilla, Diccionario de la lengua española, 22nd edition, Real Academia Española (Spanish), which can be seen in context by accessing the site of the Real Academia and searching for cedilla. (This was accessed 27 July 2006.)
  2. ^ a b c d "cedilla". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  3. ^ Minsheu, John (1599) Percyvall's (R.) Dictionarie in Spanish and English (as enlarged by J. Minsheu) Edm. Bollifant, London, OCLC 3497853
  4. ^ Chambers, Ephraim (1738) Cyclopædia; or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences (2nd ed.) OCLC 221356381

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
Letters using cedilla sign ( ◌̧ )
Çç Ḑḑ Ȩȩ Ģģ Ḩḩ Ķķ Ļļ Ņņ Ŗŗ Şş Ţţ

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cedilla — ce*dil la (s[ e]*d[i^]l l[.a]), n. [Sp. cedilla, cf. F. c[ e]dille; dim. of zeta, the Gr. name of the letter z, because this letter was formerly written after the c, to give it the sound of s.] A mark placed under the letter c [thus, [,c]], to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cedilla — c.1600, from Sp. cedilla, zedilla, from a Latin like dim. of zeta the letter z . The mark (formerly also used in Spanish) was derived from that letter and indicates a soft sound in letters in positions that are normally hard. See ZED (Cf. zed) …   Etymology dictionary

  • cedilla — [sə dil′ə] n. [Fr cédille < Sp cedilla, dim. of zeda (< Gr zēta, a zeta or z): so called because z was written after c to give the sound of the letter s] a hooklike mark put under c, as in some French words, to indicate that it is to be… …   English World dictionary

  • cedilla — sustantivo femenino 1. Letra que se escribe como una c con una virgulilla, que se usó en español hasta el siglo XVIII. 2. Signo ortográfico semejante a una coma que se pone bajo la c para formar la ç. Sinónimo: virgulilla …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • cedilla — (Del dim. de ceda). 1. f. Signo ortográfico formado por una c y una virgulilla suscrita (ç), que en español medieval y clásico, así como en otras lenguas, representa ante las vocales a, o, u, la misma articulación que la c tiene ante e, i. 2.… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • cedilla — ► NOUN ▪ a mark (¸) written under the letter c, especially in French, to show that it is pronounced like an s (e.g. façade). ORIGIN Spanish zedilla little ‘z’ …   English terms dictionary

  • Cedilla — Ç ç Cedilla (virgulilla). La cedilla (Ç y ç) es una letra originaria del alfabeto latino usada actualmente en muchos alfabetos. Se trata de una …   Wikipedia Español

  • Cedilla — Dieser Artikel oder Abschnitt bedarf einer Überarbeitung. Näheres ist auf der Diskussionsseite angegeben. Hilf mit, ihn zu verbessern, und entferne anschließend diese Markierung. Cedille; Font …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • cedilla — (Derivado del gr. zeta, zeta.) ► sustantivo femenino 1 Denominación de una antigua letra española formada por una c con una virgulilla suscrita, que existe en otros idiomas, como el francés. 2 Virgulilla, signo gráfico que se pone bajo esta letra …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • cedilla — {{#}}{{LM C07765}}{{〓}} {{SynC07942}} {{[}}cedilla{{]}} ‹ce·di·lla› (también {{◎}}zedilla{{ ̄}}) {{《}}▍ s.f.{{》}} {{<}}1{{>}} Nombre de la letra ç. {{<}}2{{>}} Signo gráfico en forma de coma curvada que forma la parte inferior de esta letra: • ce… …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

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