R, or r, is the eighteenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the
ISO basic Latin alphabet The ISO basic Latin alphabet is a Latin-script alphabet A Latin-script alphabet (Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet) is an alphabet that uses Letter (alphabet), letters of the Latin script. The 21-letter archaic Latin alphabet and the 23-letter ...
. Its name in English is ''ar'' (pronounced ), plural ''ars'', or in Ireland ''or'' .



The original Semitic letter may have been inspired by an
Egyptian hieroglyph Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabary, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.There were about 1,000 graphemes in the Ol ...
for ''tp'', "head". It was used for by Semites because in their language, the word for "head" was '' rêš'' (also the name of the letter). It developed into Greek ' Ρ' (''rhô'') and Latin R. The descending diagonal stroke develops as a graphic variant in some Western Greek alphabets (writing ''rho'' as ), but it was not adopted in most
Old Italic alphabet The Old Italic scripts are a number of similar ancient writing systems used in the Italian Peninsula between about 700 and 100 BC, for various languages spoken in that time and place. The most notable member is the Etruscan alphabet The Etru ...
s; most Old Italic alphabets show variants of their ''rho'' between a "P" and a "D" shape, but without the Western Greek descending stroke. Indeed, the oldest known forms of the Latin alphabet itself of the 7th to 6th centuries BC, in the
and the Forum inscription, still write ''r'' using the "P" shape of the letter. The Lapis Satricanus inscription shows the form of the Latin alphabet around 500 BC. Here, the rounded, closing Π shape of the ''p'' and the Ρ shape of the ''r'' have become difficult to distinguish. The descending stroke of the Latin letter R has fully developed by the 3rd century BC, as seen in the Tomb of the Scipios sarcophagus inscriptions of that era. From around 50 AD, the letter ''P'' would be written with its loop fully closed, assuming the shape formerly taken by ''R''.


The minuscule (lowercase) form (''r'') developed through several variations on the capital form. Along with Latin minuscule writing in general, it developed ultimately from Roman cursive via the
uncial Uncial is a majuscule Glaister, Geoffrey Ashall. (1996) ''Encyclopedia of the Book''. 2nd edn. New Castle, DE, and London: Oak Knoll Press & The British Library The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is one of ...
script of Late Antiquity into the
Carolingian minuscule Carolingian minuscule or Caroline minuscule is a script which developed as a calligraphic standard in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), conventio ...
of the 9th century. In handwriting, it was common not to close the bottom of the loop but continue into the leg, saving an extra pen stroke. The loop-leg stroke shortened into the simple arc used in the Carolingian minuscule and until today. A calligraphic minuscule ''r'', known as r rotunda (ꝛ), was used in the sequence ''or'', bending the shape of the ''r'' to accommodate the bulge of the ''o'' (as in ''oꝛ'' as opposed to ''or''). Later, the same variant was also used where ''r'' followed other lower case letters with a rounded loop towards the right (such as ''b, h, p'') and to write the geminate ''rr'' (as ''ꝛꝛ''). Use of ''r rotunda'' was mostly tied to
blackletter Blackletter (sometimes black letter), also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 until the 17th century. It continued to be commonly used for the Danish language ...
typefaces, and the glyph fell out of use along with blackletter fonts in English language contexts mostly by the 18th century.
Insular script Insular script was a medieval script system invented in Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the ...
used a minuscule which retained two downward strokes, but which did not close the loop ("Insular ''r''", ꞃ); this variant survives in the Gaelic type popular in Ireland until the mid-20th century (but now mostly limited to decorative purposes).


The name of the letter in Latin was (), following the pattern of other letters representing continuants, such as F, L, M, N and S. This name is preserved in French language, French and many other languages. In Middle English, the name of the letter changed from to , following a pattern exhibited in many other words such as ''farm'' (compare French ''ferme'') and ''star'' (compare German ''Stern''). In Hiberno-English the letter is called or , somewhat similar to ''oar'', ''ore'', ''orr''. The letter R is sometimes referred to as the (literally 'canine letter', often rendered in English as the dog's letter). This Latin term referred to the Latin R that was Trill consonant, trilled to sound like a growling dog, a spoken style referred to as ('dog voice'). A good example of a trilled R is in the Spanish word for dog, ''perro''. In William Shakespeare's ''Romeo and Juliet'', such a reference is made by Juliet's nurse in Act 2, scene 4, when she calls the letter R "the dog's name". The reference is also found in Ben Jonson's ''English Grammar''.

Pronunciation and use


The letter is the eighth most common letter in English language, English and the fourth-most common consonant (after , , and ). The letter is used to form the ending "-re", which is used in certain words such as ''centre'' in some varieties of English spelling, such as British English. Canadian English also uses the "-re" ending, unlike American English, where the ending is usually replaced by "-er" (''center''). This does not affect pronunciation.

Other languages

represents a rhotic consonant in many languages, as shown in the table below. Other languages may use the letter in their alphabets (or Latin transliterations schemes) to represent rhotic consonants different from the alveolar trill. In Haitian Creole, it represents a sound so weak that it is often written interchangeably with , e.g. 'Kweyol' for 'Kreyol'. Brazilian Portuguese language, Portuguese has a great number of allophones of such as , , , , , and , the latter three ones can be used only in certain contexts ( and as ; in the syllable coda, as an allophone of according to the European Portuguese norm and according to the Brazilian Portuguese norm). Usually at least two of them are present in a single dialect, such as Rio de Janeiro's , , and, for a few speakers, .

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses several variations of the letter to represent the different rhotic consonants; represents the alveolar trill.

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

*R with diacritics: Ŕ, Ŕ ŕ R with stroke, Ɍ ɍ Ř, Ř ř Cedilla, Ŗ ŗ Dot (diacritic), Ṙ ṙ Double grave accent, Ȑ ȑ Ȓ, Ȓ ȓ Ṛ, Ṛ ṛ Ṝ, Ṝ ṝ Ṟ, Ṟ ṟ Ꞧ, Ꞧ ꞧ R with tail, Ɽ ɽ R̃, R̃ r̃ ᵲ ᶉ *International Phonetic Alphabet-specific symbols related to R: ʶ R-colored vowel, ˞ ʴ *Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet: ɼ ɿ *Uralic Phonetic Alphabet-specific symbols related to R: ** ** ** ** *Teuthonista phonetic transcription-specific symbols related to R: ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** *ⱹ : Turned r with tail is used in the Swedish Dialect Alphabet *Other variations of R used for phonetic transcription: ʳ ʵ

Calligraphic variants in the Latin alphabet

*Ꝛ ꝛ : R rotunda *Ꞃ ꞃ : "Insular" R (Gaelic type)

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

*𐤓 : Phoenician alphabet, Semitic letter Resh, from which the following letters derive **Ρ ρ : Greek alphabet, Greek letter Rho (letter), Rho, from which the following letters derive ***𐌓 : Old Italic script, Old Italic letter R, the ancestor of modern Latin R ****ᚱ : Runes, Runic letter Raido ***Р р : Cyrillic letter Er (Cyrillic), Er ***𐍂 : Gothic alphabet, Gothic letter Reda (letter), Reda

Abbreviations, signs and symbols

*℟: symbol for "Response (liturgy), response" in liturgy *℞ : Medical prescription Rx *₽ : Russian ruble#Currency symbol, Ruble symbol *® : Registered trademark symbol



* In a chemical formula, used to indicate a substituent, also known as an "R group". For example, "Na(OR)". * In the preferred IUPAC name for a chemical, used to indicate a specific enantiomer. For example, "(R)-2-(4-Chloro-2-methylphenoxy)propanoic acid" is one of the enantiomers of mecoprop.


: 1

Other representations

See also

* Guttural R


External links

* * * {{Latin alphabet, R} ISO basic Latin letters