O, or o, is the fifteenth letter
in the ISO basic Latin alphabet
and the fourth vowel letter
in the modern English alphabet
. Its name in English is ''o''
(pronounced ), plural ''oes''
or early Baroque
design of an O, from 1627
Its graphic form has remained fairly constant from Phoenician alphabet|Phoenician
times until today. The name of the Phoenician
'', meaning "eye", and indeed its shape originates simply as a drawing of a human eye (possibly inspired by the corresponding Egyptian hieroglyph
, cf. Proto-Sinaitic script
Its original sound value was that of a consonant, probably , the sound is represented by the cognate Arabic letter ع ''ʿayn''
The use of this Phoenician letter for a vowel sound is due to the early Greek alphabet
s, which adopted the letter as O "omicron"
to represent the vowel . The letter was adopted with this value in the Old Italic alphabets
, including the early Latin alphabet
. 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"). Greek omicron gave rise to the corresponding Cyrillic letter O
and the early Italic letter to runic ᛟ
Even alphabets that are not derived from Semitic tend to have similar forms to represent this sound; for example, the creators of the Afaka
and Ol Chiki script
s, 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.
Use in writing systems
The letter is the fourth most common letter
in the English alphabet
. Like the other English vowel letters, it has associated "long" and "short" pronunciations. The "long" as in ''boat'' is actually most often a diphthong
(realized dialectically anywhere from to ). In English there is also a "short" as in ''fox'', , which sounds slightly different in different dialects. In most dialects of British English
, it is either an open-mid back rounded vowel
or an open back rounded vowel
; in American English
, it is most commonly an unrounded back to a central vowel .
include , which represents either or ; or , which typically represents the diphthong , and , , and which represent a variety of pronunciations depending on context and etymology.
In other contexts, especially before a letter with a minim
, may represent the sound , as in 'son' or 'love'. It can also represent the semivowel
as in ''choir'' or ''quinoa.''
In English, the letter in isolation before a noun, usually capitalized, marks the vocative case
, as in the titles to O Canada
or O Captain! My Captain!
or certain verses of the Bible
Pronunciation of the name of the letter in European languages|305x305px|left
is commonly associated with the open-mid back rounded vowel
, mid back rounded vowel
or close-mid back rounded vowel
in many languages. Other languages use for various values, usually back vowels which are at least partly open. Derived letters such as and 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
, represents the close-mid back rounded vowel
Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet
Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations
* Ꝋ ꝋ : Forms of O were used for medieval scribal abbreviation
*∅ : empty set symbol
*º : Masculine ordinal indicator
Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets
*𐤏 : Semitic
, from which the following symbols originally derive
**Ο ο : Greek
*** : Coptic
letter O, which derives from Greek omicron
***О о : Cyrillic
, which also derives from Omicron
***𐌏 : Old Italic
O, which derives from Greek Omicron, and is the ancestor of modern Latin O
***Օ օ : Armenian letter O
Category:ISO basic Latin letters