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F (letter)

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F (letter)

This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see F (disambiguation).

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

History

Proto-Semitic
W
Phoenician 
waw
Etruscan
V or W
Greek
Digamma
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 ancestor to Roman letters 'U', 'V', and 'W'); and with another form, as a consonant, digamma, which resembled 'F', but indicated the pronunciation /w/, as in Phoenician. (After /w/ disappeared from Greek, digamma was used as a numeral only.)

In Etruscan, 'F' probably represented /w/, as in Greek; and the Etruscans formed the digraph 'FH' to represent /f/. When the Romans adopted the alphabet, they used 'V' (from Greek upsilon) to stand for /w/ as well as /u/, leaving 'F' available for /f/. (At that time, the Greek letter phi 'Φ' represented an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive /pʰ/, though in Modern Greek it approximates the sound of /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).

Related letters and other similar characters

Computing codes

1

Other representations

References

External links

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