Q q
Writing systemLatin script
TypeAlphabetic and Logographic
Language of originGreek language
Latin language
Phonetic usage(Table)
Unicode codepointU+0051, U+0071
Alphabetical position17
Time periodUnknown to present
Descendants • Ƣ
 • Ɋ
 • Ԛ


Փ փ
Ֆ ֆ
Other letters commonly used withq(x)
Writing directionLeft-to-Right
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Q, or q, is the seventeenth letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. Its name in English is pronounced /ˈkj/, most commonly spelled cue, but also kew, kue and que.[1]


Egyptian hieroglyph
Western Greek
Latin Q

The Semitic sound value of Qôp was /q/ (voiceless uvular stop), and the form of the letter could have been based on the eye of a needle, a knot, or even a monkey with its tail hanging down.[2][3][4] /q/ is a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in many European languages.[a] Some have even suggested that the form of the letter Q is even more ancient: it could have originated from Egyptian hieroglyphics.[5][6]

In an early form of Ancient Greek, qoppa (Ϙ) probably came to represent several labialized velar stops, among them /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/.[7] As a result of later sound shifts, these sounds in Greek changed to /p/ and /pʰ/ respectively.[8] Therefore, qoppa was transformed into two letters: qoppa, which stood for the number 90,[9] and phi (Φ), which stood for the aspirated sound /pʰ/ that came to be pronounced /f/ in Modern Greek.[10][11]

The Etruscans used Q in conjunction with V to represent /kʷ/, and this usage was copied by the Romans with the rest of their alphabet.[4] In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the two sounds /k/ and /ɡ/, which were not differentiated in writing. Of these, Q was used before a rounded vowel (e.g. ⟨EQO⟩ 'ego'), K before /a/ (e.g. ⟨KALENDIS⟩ 'calendis'), and C elsewhere.[12] Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q: Q survived only to represent /k/ when immediately followed by a /w/ sound.[13]

In Turkey the use of the letter Q was banned between 1928 and 2013. This constituted a problem for the Kurdish population in Turkey as the letter was a part of the Kurdish alphabet. The ones who used the letter Q, were able to be prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to two years.[14]

Typographic variants

The five most common typographic presentations of the capital letter Q.
A long-tailed Q as drawn by French typographer Geoffroy Tory in his 1529 book Champfleury
The printed long-tailed Q was inspired by ancient Roman square capitals: this long-tailed Q, used here in the Latin word "POPVLVSQVE", was carved into Trajan's column c. AD 113.
A short trilingual text showing the proper use of the long- and short-tailed Q. The short-tailed Q is only used when the word is shorter than the tail; the long-tailed Q is even used in all-capitals text.[15]: 77 

Uppercase "Q"

Depending on the typeface used to typeset the letter Q, the letter's tail may either bisect its bowl as in Helvetica,[16] meet the bowl as in Univers, or lie completely outside the bowl as in PT Sans. In writing block letters, bisecting tails are fastest to write, as they require less precision. All three styles are considered equally valid, with most serif typefaces having a Q with a tail that meets the circle, while sans-serif typefaces are more equally split between those with bisecting tails and those without.[17] Typefaces with a disconnected Q tail, while uncommon, have existed since at least 1529.[18] A common method among type designers to create the shape of the Q is by simply adding a tail to the letter O.[17][19][20]

Old-style serif fonts, such as Garamond, may contain two uppercase Qs: one with a short tail to be used in short words, and another with a long tail to be used in long words.[18] Some early metal type fonts included up to 3 different Qs: a short-tailed Q, a long-tailed Q, and a long-tailed Q-u ligature.[15] This print tradition was alive and well until the 19th century, when long-tailed Qs fell out of favor: even recreations of classic typefaces such as Caslon began being distributed with only short Q tails.[21][15] Not a fan of long-tailed Qs, American typographer D. B. Updike celebrated their demise in his 1922 book Printing Types, claiming that Renaissance printers made their Q tails longer and longer simply to "outdo each other".[15] Latin-language words, which are much more likely than English words to contain "Q" as their first letter, have also been cited as the reason for their existence.[15] The long-tailed Q had fallen out of use with the advent of early digital typography, as many early digital fonts could not choose different glyphs based on the word that the glyph was in, but it has seen something of a comeback with the advent of OpenType fonts and LaTeX, both of which can automatically typeset the long-tailed Q when it is called for and the short-tailed Q when it is not.[22][23]

Owing to the allowable variation between letters Q, Q is a very distinctive feature of a typeface;[17][24] as &, Q is oft cited as a letter that gives type designers a greater opportunity at self-expression.[4]

Identifont, an automatic typeface identification service that identifies typefaces by questions about their appearance, asks about the Q tail second if the "sans-serif" option is chosen.[25] In the Identifont database, the distribution of Q tails is:[26]

Q tail type Serif Sans-serif
Bisecting 1461 2719
Meets bowl 3363 4521
Outside bowl 271 397
"2" shape () 304 428
Inside bowl 129 220
Total 5528 8285
Pie chart showing the proportion of different style Q tails in serif fonts to the total.
Pie chart showing the proportion of different style Q tails in sans-serif fonts to the total.

Some type designers prefer one "Q" design over another: Adrian Frutiger, famous for the airport typeface that bears his name, remarked that most of his typefaces feature a Q tail that meets the bowl and then extends horizontally.[20] Frutiger considered such Qs to make for more "harmonious" and "gentle" typefaces.[20] "Q" often makes the list of their favorite letters; for example, Sophie Elinor Brown, designer of Strato,[27] has listed "Q" as being her favorite letter.[28][29]

Lowercase "q"

A comparison of the glyphs of ⟨q⟩ and ⟨g⟩

The lowercase "q" is usually seen as a lowercase "o" or "c" with a descender (i.e., downward vertical tail) extending from the right side of the bowl, with or without a swash (i.e., flourish), or even a reversed lowercase p. The "q"'s descender is usually typed without a swash due to the major style difference typically seen between the descenders of the "g" (a loop) and "q" (vertical). When handwritten, or as part of a handwriting font, the descender of the "q" sometimes finishes with a rightward swash to distinguish it from the letter "g" (or, particularly in mathematics, the digit "9").

Use in writing systems

Pronunciation of ⟨q⟩ by language
Orthography Phonemes
Afar /ʕ/
Albanian //
Azeri /ɡ/
Standard Chinese (Pinyin) /t͡ɕʰ/
Dogrib[clarification needed] /ɣ/
English /k/
Fijian /ᵑɡ/
French /k/
Galician /k/
German /k/
Hadza /!/
Indonesian /k/
Italian /k/
Ket (UNA) /q/~//, /ɢ/
K'iche //
Kiowa //
Kurdish /q/
Maltese /ʔ/
Menominee /ʔ/
Mi'kmaq /x/
Mohegan-Pequot //
Nuxalk //
Portuguese /k/
Sasak /ʔ/
Somali /q/~/ɢ/
Sotho /!kʼ/
Spanish /k/
Swedish /k/
Uzbek /q/
Vietnamese /k/
Võro /ʔ/
Wolof //
Xhosa /!/
Zulu /!/


In English, the digraph ⟨qu⟩ most often denotes the cluster /kw/; however, in borrowings from French, it represents /k/, as in 'plaque'. See the list of English words containing Q not followed by U. Q is the second least frequently used letter in the English language (after Z), with a frequency of just 0.1% in words. Q has the fourth fewest English words where it is the first letter, after X, Z, and Y.

Other languages

In most European languages written in the Latin script, such as in Romance and Germanic languages, ⟨q⟩ appears almost exclusively in the digraph ⟨qu⟩. In French, Occitan, Catalan and Portuguese, ⟨qu⟩ represents /k/ or /kw/; in Spanish, it represents /k/. ⟨qu⟩ replaces c for /k/ before front vowels ⟨i⟩ and ⟨e⟩, since in those languages ⟨c⟩ represents a fricative or affricate before front vowels. In Italian ⟨qu⟩ represents [kw] (where [w] is the semivowel allophone of /u/). In Albanian, Q represents /c/ as in Shqip.

It is not considered to be part of the Cornish (Standard Written Form), Estonian, Icelandic, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Scottish Gaelic, Slovenian, Turkish, or Welsh alphabets.

⟨q⟩ has a wide variety of other pronunciations in some European languages and in non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet.

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses ⟨q⟩ for the voiceless uvular stop.

Other uses

Main article: Q (disambiguation)

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Other representations


Character information
Preview Q q
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 81 U+0051 113 U+0071 65329 U+FF31 65361 U+FF51
UTF-8 81 51 113 71 239 188 177 EF BC B1 239 189 145 EF BD 91
Numeric character reference Q Q q q Q Q q q
EBCDIC family 216 D8 152 98
ASCII 1 81 51 113 71
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.


NATO phonetic Morse code
  ▄▄▄  ▄▄▄  ▄  ▄▄▄ 

Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) British manual alphabet (BSL fingerspelling) Braille dots-12345
Unified English Braille

See also


  1. ^ "Q", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989).
    Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993) lists "cue" and "kue" as current. James Joyce used "kew"; it and "que" remain in use.
  2. ^ Travers Wood, Henry Craven Ord Lanchester, A Hebrew Grammar, 1913, p. 7. A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Primer and Grammar, 2000, p. 4 Archived 2017-02-04 at the Wayback Machine. The meaning is doubtful. "Eye of a needle" has been suggested, and also "knot" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology vol. 45.
  3. ^ Isaac Taylor, History of the Alphabet: Semitic Alphabets, Part 1, 2003: "The old explanation, which has again been revived by Halévy, is that it denotes an 'ape,' the character Q being taken to represent an ape with its tail hanging down. It may also be referred to a Talmudic root which would signify an 'aperture' of some kind, as the 'eye of a needle,' ... Lenormant adopts the more usual explanation that the word means a 'knot'.
  4. ^ a b c Haley, Allan. "The Letter Q". Fonts.com. Monotype Imaging Corporation. Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  5. ^ Samuel, Stehman Haldeman (1851). Elements of Latin Pronunciation: For the Use of Students in Language, Law, Medicine, Zoology, Botany, and the Sciences Generally in which Latin Words are Used. J.B. Lippincott. p. 56. Archived from the original on 2021-08-16. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  6. ^ Hamilton, Gordon James (2006). The Origins of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Scripts. Catholic Biblical Association of America. ISBN 9780915170401. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
  7. ^ Woodard, Roger G. (2014-03-24). The Textualization of the Greek Alphabet. Cambridge University Press. p. 303. ISBN 9781107729308. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  8. ^ Noyer, Rolf. "Principal Sound Changes from PIE to Greek" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania Department of Linguistics. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  9. ^ Boeree, C. George. "The Origin of the Alphabet". Shippensburg University. Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 2016-12-04. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  10. ^ Arvaniti, Amalia (1999). "Standard Modern Greek" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 2 (29): 167–172. doi:10.1017/S0025100300006538. S2CID 145606058. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. ^ Miller, D. Gary (1994-09-06). Ancient Scripts and Phonological Knowledge. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 54–56. ISBN 9789027276711. Archived from the original on 2021-08-18. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  12. ^ Bispham, Edward (2010-03-01). Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome. Edinburgh University Press. p. 482. ISBN 9780748627141. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  13. ^ Sihler, Andrew L. (1995), New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, p. 21, ISBN 0-19-508345-8, archived from the original on 2016-11-09, retrieved 2015-12-24
  14. ^ "Ban on Kurdish letters to be lifted with democracy package - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. 27 September 2013. Archived from the original on 2022-01-17. Retrieved 2022-01-17.
  15. ^ a b c d e Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1922). Printing types, their history, forms, and use; a study in survivals. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 1584560568 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ Ambrose, Gavin; Harris, Paul (2011-08-31). The Fundamentals of Typography: Second Edition. A & C Black. p. 24. ISBN 9782940411764. Archived from the original on 2021-08-19. Retrieved 2020-11-19. ...the bisecting tail of the Helvetica 'Q'.
  17. ^ a b c Willen, Bruce; Strals, Nolen (2009-09-23). Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 110. ISBN 9781568987651. Archived from the original on 2021-08-15. Retrieved 2020-11-19. The bowl of the Q is typically similar to the bowl of the O, although not always identical. The style and design of the Q's tail is often a distinctive feature of a typeface.
  18. ^ a b Vervliet, Hendrik D. L. (2008-01-01). The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance: Selected Papers on Sixteenth-century Typefaces. BRILL. pp. 58 (a) 54 (b). ISBN 978-9004169821. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  19. ^ Rabinowitz, Tova (2015-01-01). Exploring Typography. Cengage Learning. p. 264. ISBN 9781305464810. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  20. ^ a b c Osterer, Heidrun; Stamm, Philipp (2014-05-08). Adrian Frutiger – Typefaces: The Complete Works. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 97 (a) 183 (b) 219 (c). ISBN 9783038212607. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  21. ^ Loxley, Simon (2006-03-31). Type: The Secret History of Letters. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9780857730176. Archived from the original on 2022-02-21. Retrieved 2020-11-19. The uppercase roman Q...has a very long tail, but this has been modified and reduced on versions produced in the following centuries.
  22. ^ Fischer, Ulrike (2014-11-02). "How to force a long-tailed Q in EB Garamond". TeX Stack Exchange. Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  23. ^ "What are "Stylistic Sets?"". Typography.com. Hoefler & Co. Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  24. ^ Bosler, Denise (2012-05-16). Mastering Type: The Essential Guide to Typography for Print and Web Design. F+W Media, Inc. p. 31. ISBN 978-1440313714. Letters that contain truly individual parts [are] S, ... Q...[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "2: Q Shape". Identifont. Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  26. ^ "3: $ style". Identifont. Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-02. To get the numbers in the table, click Question 1 (serif or sans-serif?) or Question 2 (Q shape) and change the value. They appear under X possible fonts.
  27. ^ Hughes, Kerrie (2014-09-02). "Font of the day: Strato". Creative Bloq. Bath, Somerset: Future plc. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  28. ^ Heller, Stephen (2016-01-07). "We asked 15 typographers to describe their favorite letterforms. Here's what they told us". WIRED. Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  29. ^ Phillips, Nicole Arnett (2016-01-27). "Wired asked 15 Typographers to introduce us to their favorite glyphs". Typograph.Her. Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  30. ^ Gordon, Arthur E. (1983). Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy. University of California Press. pp. 44. ISBN 9780520038981. Retrieved 3 October 2015. roman numerals.
  31. ^ Barmeier, Severin (2015-10-10), L2/15-241: Proposal to encode Latin small capital letter Q (PDF), archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-06-14, retrieved 2018-06-19
  32. ^ Miller, Kirk; Cornelius, Craig (2020-09-25). "L2/20-251: Unicode request for modifier Latin capital letters" (PDF).
  33. ^ Miller, Kirk; Ashby, Michael (2020-11-08). "L2/20-252R: Unicode request for IPA modifier-letters (a), pulmonic" (PDF).
  34. ^ Everson, Michael; Baker, Peter; Emiliano, António; Grammel, Florian; Haugen, Odd Einar; Luft, Diana; Pedro, Susana; Schumacher, Gerd; Stötzner, Andreas (2006-01-30). "L2/06-027: Proposal to add Medievalist characters to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-09-19. Retrieved 2018-03-24.