F

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This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see F (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the letter "ſ" (Long s (ſ)).
For technical reasons, "F#" redirects here. For other uses, see F-sharp.
Writing cursive forms of F

F (named ef[1] /ˈɛf/)[2] is the sixth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

History

Proto-Semitic
W
Phoenician 
waw
Greek
Digamma
Etruscan
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)):

T3

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 the Etruscan 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 letter phi '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).

Use in writing systems

English

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".

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 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 systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses ⟨f⟩ to represent the voiceless labiodental fricative.

Related characters

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

  • F with diacritics: Ƒ ƒ Ḟ ḟ
  • 𐤅: Semitic letter Waw, from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Ϝ ϝ : Greek letter Digamma, from which F derives
      • 𐌅 : 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

Ligatures and abbreviations

Computing codes

Character F f
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER F     LATIN SMALL LETTER F
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 70 U+0046 102 U+0066
UTF-8 70 46 102 66
Numeric character reference F F f f
EBCDIC family 198 C6 134 86
ASCII 1 70 46 102 66
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Foxtrot ··–·
ICS Foxtrot.svg Semaphore Foxtrot.svg ⠋
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille
dots-124

Footnotes

Notes

References

  1. ^ Spelled eff as a verb
  2. ^ "F", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); "ef", "eff", "bee" (under "bee eff"), op. cit.

External links

  • Media related to F at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of F at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of f at Wiktionary
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