Letter F

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Edited and extended from: Letter F Wikipedia

F (named ef /ˈɛf/) is the sixth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. In the English writing system f is used to represent the sound /f/, the voiceless labiodental fricative. It is commonly doubled at the end of words. Exceptionally, it represents the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ in the common word “of”.

History (to edit and clarify)

V or W
Roman F
Proto-semiticW-01.png PhoenicianW-01.png Digamma uc lc.svg EtruscanF-01.svg Roman F

The origin of ‘F’ is the Semitic letter vâv (or waw) that represented a sound like /v/ or /w/. Graphically it originally probably depicted either a hook or a club. It may have been based on a comparable Egyptian hieroglyph such as that which represented the word mace (transliterated as ḥ(dj)):


The Phoenician form of the letter was adopted into Greek as a vowel, upsilon (which resembled its descendant ‘Y’ but was also the ancestor of the Roman letters ‘U’, ‘V’, and ‘W’); and, with another form, as a consonant, digamma, which indicated the pronunciation /w/, as in Phoenician. Latin ‘F,’ despite being pronounced differently, is ultimately descended from digamma and closely resembles it in form.

After sound changes eliminated /w/ from spoken Greek, digamma was used only as a numeral. However, the Greek alphabet also gave rise to other alphabets, and some of these retained letters descended from digamma. In theEtruscan alphabet, ‘F’ probably represented /w/, as in Greek, and the Etruscans formed the digraph ‘FH’ to represent /f/. (At the time these letters were borrowed, there was no Greek letter that represented /f/: the Greek letterphi ‘Φ’ then represented an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive /pʰ/, although in Modern Greek it has come to represent /f/.) When the Romans adopted the alphabet, they used ‘V’ (from Greek upsilon) not only for the vowel /u/, but also for the corresponding semivowel /w/, leaving ‘F’ available for /f/. And so out of the various vav variants in the Mediterranean world, the letter F entered the Roman alphabet attached to a sound which its antecedents in Greek and Etruscan did not have. The Roman alphabet forms the basis of the alphabet used today for English and many other languages.

The lowercase ‘ f ‘ is not related to the visually similar long s, ‘ ſ ‘ (or medial s). The use of the long s largely died out by the beginning of the 19th century, mostly to prevent confusion with ‘ f ‘ when using a short mid-bar (see more at: S).

  • F with diacritics: Ƒ ƒ Ḟ ḟ
  • : Semitic letter Waw, from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Ϝ ϝ : Greek letter Digamma, from which F derives
      •  : Old Italic V/F (originally used for V, in languages such as Etruscan and Oscan), which derives from Greek Digamma, and is the ancestor of modern Latin F
      • Y y : Latin letter Y, sharing its roots with F
      • V v : Latin letter V, also sharing its roots with F
      • U u : Latin letter U, which is descended from V
      • W w : Latin letter W, also descended from V

Other uses

In English-language online slang, “F” (with the pronunciation spelling eff) is used as an initialism for fuck. (e.g. F U, meaning fuck you). The F-word refers to the word fuck itself.

In school grading “F” stands for Fail.

Related characters

Ligatures and abbreviations

Other languages

In the writing systems of other languages, f commonly represents /f/, [ɸ] or /v/.

  • In French orthography, f is used to represent /f/. It may also be silent at the end of words.
  • In Spanish orthography, f is used to represent /f/. In standard speech this is realized as [f] but a common nonstandard pronunciation is [ɸ]. It may merge with /x/ before /w/ in some dialects. See Spanish phonology.
  • In the Hepburn romanization of Japanese, f is used to represent [ɸ]. This sound is usually considered to be an allophone of /h/, which is pronounced in different ways depending upon its context; Japanese /h/ is pronounced as [ɸ] before /u/.
  • In Welsh orthography, f represents /v/ while ff represents /f/.
  • In Slavic languages, f is used primarily in words of foreign (Greek, Latin, or Germanic) origin.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Foxtrot ··–·
ICS Foxtrot.svg Semaphore Foxtrot.svg ⠋
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

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