Z z
Writing systemLatin script
TypeAlphabetic and logographic
Language of originLatin language
Phonetic usage
Unicode codepointU+005A, U+007A
Alphabetical position26
Time period~700 BC to present
Sisters Disputed:
Other letters commonly used withz(x), cz, , dz, sz, dzs, tzsch
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.

Z, or z, is the twenty-sixth and last letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. Its usual names in English are zed (/ˈzɛd/), which is most commonly used in international English and zee (/ˈz/), only used in American, sometimes Canadian and Caribbean English and with an occasional archaic variant izzard (/ˈɪzərd/).[1]


Z is for Zebra

In most English-speaking countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, the letter's name is zed /zɛd/, reflecting its derivation from the Greek letter zeta (this dates to Latin, which borrowed Y and Z from Greek), but in American English its name is zee /z/, analogous to the names for B, C, D, etc., and deriving from a late 17th-century English dialectal form.[2]

Another English dialectal form is izzard /ˈɪzərd/. This dates from the mid-18th century and probably derives from Occitan izèda or the French ézed, whose reconstructed Latin form would be *idzēta,[1] perhaps a Vulgar Latin form with a prosthetic vowel. Outside of the anglosphere, its variants are still used in Hong Kong English and Cantonese.[3]

Other languages spell the letter's name in a similar way: zeta in Italian, Basque, and Spanish, seta in Icelandic (no longer part of its alphabet but found in personal names), in Portuguese, zäta in Swedish, zæt in Danish, zet in Dutch, Indonesian, Polish, Romanian, and Czech, Zett in German (capitalised as a noun), zett in Norwegian, zède in French, zetto (ゼット) in Japanese, and giét in Vietnamese (not part of its alphabet). Several languages render it as /ts/ or /dz/, e.g. tseta /ˈtsetɑ/ or more rarely tset /tset/ in Finnish (sometimes dropping the first t altogether; /ˈsetɑ/, or /set/ the latter of which is not very commonplace). In Standard Chinese pinyin, the name of the letter Z is pronounced [tsɨ], as in "zi", although the English zed and zee have become very common. In Esperanto the name of the letter Z is pronounced /zo/.


Western Greek


The Semitic symbol was the seventh letter, named zayin, which meant "weapon" or "sword". It represented either the sound /z/ as in English and French, or possibly more like /dz/ (as in Italian zeta, zero).


The Greek form of Z was a close copy of the Phoenician Zayin (Zayin), and the Greek inscriptional form remained in this shape throughout ancient times. The Greeks called it zeta, a new name made in imitation of eta (η) and theta (θ).

In earlier Greek of Athens and Northwest Greece, the letter seems to have represented /dz/; in Attic, from the 4th century BC onwards, it seems to have stood for /zd/ and /dz/ – there is no consensus concerning this issue.[4] In other dialects, such as Elean and Cretan, the symbol seems to have been used for sounds resembling the English voiced and voiceless th (IPA /ð/ and /θ/, respectively). In the common dialect (koine) that succeeded the older dialects, ζ became /z/, as it remains in modern Greek.


The Etruscan letter Z was derived from the Phoenician alphabet, most probably through the Greek alphabet used on the island of Ischia. In Etruscan, this letter may have represented /ts/.


The letter Z was borrowed from the Greek Zeta, most likely to represent the sound /t͡s/. At c. 300 BC, Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor, removed the letter Z from the alphabet[examples needed] , allegedly due to his distaste for the letter, in that it "looked like the tongue of a corpse". A more likely explanation is the sound had disappeared from Latin, making the letter useless for spelling Latin words. It is also thought due to rhotacism, Z became a trilled R sound, /r/. Whatever the case may be, Appius Claudius' distaste for the letter Z is today credited as the reason for its removal. A few centuries later, after the Roman Conquest of Greece, Z was again borrowed to spell words from the prestigious Attic dialect of Greek.

Before the reintroduction of z, the sound of zeta was written s at the beginning of words and ss in the middle of words, as in sōna for ζώνη "belt" and trapessita for τραπεζίτης "banker".

In some inscriptions, z represented a Vulgar Latin sound, likely an affricate, formed by the merging of the reflexes of Classical Latin /j/, /dj/ and /gj/:[example needed] for example, zanuariu for ianuariu "January", ziaconus for diaconus "deacon", and oze for hodie "today".[5] Likewise, /di/ sometimes replaced /z/ in words like baptidiare for baptizare "to baptize". In modern Italian, z represents /ts/ or /dz/, whereas the reflexes of ianuarius and hodie are written with the letter g (representing /dʒ/ when before i and e): gennaio, oggi. In other languages, such as Spanish, further evolution of the sound occurred.

Old English

Old English used S alone for both the unvoiced and the voiced sibilant. The Latin sound imported through French was new and was not written with Z but with G or I. The successive changes can be seen in the doublet forms jealous and zealous. Both of these come from a late Latin zelosus, derived from the imported Greek ζῆλος zêlos. The earlier form is jealous; its initial sound is the [], which developed to Modern French [ʒ]. John Wycliffe wrote the word as gelows or ielous.

Z at the end of a word was pronounced ts, as in English assets, from Old French asez "enough" (Modern French assez), from Vulgar Latin ad satis ("to sufficiency").[6]

Last letter of the alphabet

In earlier times, the English alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols.[7] In her 1859 novel Adam Bede, George Eliot refers to Z being followed by & when her character Jacob Storey says, "He thought it [Z] had only been put to finish off th' alphabet like; though ampusand would ha' done as well, for what he could see."[8]

Some Latin based alphabets have extra letters on the end of the alphabet. The last letter for the Icelandic, Finnish and Swedish alphabets is Ö, while it is Å for Danish and Norwegian. In the German alphabet, the umlauts (Ä/ä, Ö/ö, and Ü/ü) and the letter ß (Eszett or scharfes S) are regarded respectively as modifications of the vowels a/o/u and as a (standardized) variant spelling of ss, not as independent letters, so they come after the unmodified letters in the alphabetical order. The German alphabet ends with z.

Typographic variants

The variant with a stroke ⟨Ƶƶ⟩ and the lower-case tailed Z ⟨ʒ⟩, though distinct characters, can also be considered to be allographs of ⟨Z⟩/⟨z⟩.

Tailed Z (German geschwänztes Z, also Z mit Unterschlinge) originated in the medieval Gothic minuscules and the Early Modern Blackletter typefaces. In some Antiqua typefaces, this letter is present as a standalone letter or in ligatures. Ligated with long s (ſ), it is part of the origin of the Eszett (ß) in the German alphabet. The character came to be indistinguishable from the yogh (ȝ) in Middle English writing.

Unicode assigns codepoints U+2128 BLACK-LETTER CAPITAL Z (ℨ, ℨ) and U+1D537 𝔷 MATHEMATICAL FRAKTUR SMALL Z (𝔷) in the Letterlike Symbols and Mathematical alphanumeric symbols ranges respectively.

Use in writing systems

Pronunciation summary
Languages in italics are not usually written using the Latin alphabet
Language Dialect(s) Pronunciation (IPA) Environment Notes
Basque //
Cantonese Guangzhou and Hong Kong /ts/ Exclusive to Jyutping romanization. Other romanizations use either ⟨j⟩, ⟨ch⟩ or ⟨ts⟩.
Catalan Standard /z/
Some Valencian dialects /s/
Mandarin Chinese Standard /ts/ Pinyin romanization
Czech /z/
Finnish /ts/ Only used in loanwords
French // Dentalized
German Standard /ts/
Galician Standard /θ/ See Galician Phonology
Central dialects /θ/ Except coda
/s/ Coda
Western dialects /s/
Hungarian /z/
Inari Sami /dz/
Indonesian /z/
Italian /dz/
Japanese /z/ Usually Romanization, see Yotsugana
/dz/ Before /ɯ/
Northern Sami /dz/
Modern Scots /z/ Usually
/g/ Some words and names From historic Yogh
/j/ Some words and names From historic Yogh
Polish /z/
Spanish Most European /θ/
American, Andalusian, Canarian /s/
Turkmen /ð/
Venetian /d/ Dialectal, archaic
/ð/ Dialectal, archaic


In modern English orthography, the letter ⟨z⟩ usually represents the sound /z/.

It represents /ʒ/ in words like seizure. More often, this sound appears as ⟨su⟩ or ⟨si⟩ in words such as measure, decision, etc. In all these words, /ʒ/ developed from earlier /zj/ by yod-coalescence.

Few words in the Basic English vocabulary begin or end with ⟨z⟩, though it occurs within other words. It is the least frequently used letter in written English,[9] with a frequency of about 0.08% in words. ⟨z⟩ is more common in the Oxford spelling of British English than in standard British English, as this variant prefers the more etymologically 'correct' -ize endings, which are closer to Greek, to -ise endings, which are closer to French; however, -yse is preferred over -yze in Oxford spelling, as it is closer to the original Greek roots of words like analyse. The most common variety of English it is used in is American English, which prefers both the -ize and -yze endings. One native Germanic English word that contains 'z', freeze (past froze, participle frozen) came to be spelled that way by convention, even though it could have been spelled with 's' (as with choose, chose and chosen).

⟨z⟩ is used in writing to represent the act of sleeping (often using multiple z's, like zzzz), as an onomatopoeia for the sound of closed-mouth human snoring.[10]

Other languages

⟨z⟩ stands for a voiced alveolar or voiced dental sibilant /z/, in Albanian, Breton, Czech, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovak. It stands for /t͡s/ in Chinese pinyin and Jyutping, Finnish (occurs in loanwords only), and German, and is likewise expressed /ts/ in Old Norse. In Italian, it represents two phonemes, /t͡s/ and /d͡z/. In Portuguese, it stands for /z/ in most cases, but also for /s/ or /ʃ/ (depending on the regional variant) at the end of syllables. In Basque, it represents the sound /s/.

Castilian Spanish uses the letter to represent /θ/ (as English ⟨th⟩ in thing), though in other dialects (Latin American, Andalusian) this sound has merged with /s/. Before voiced consonants, the sound is voiced to [ð] or [z], sometimes debbucalized to [ɦ] (as in the surname Guzmán [ɡuðˈman], [ɡuzˈman] or [ɡuɦˈman]). This is the only context in which ⟨z⟩ can represent a voiced sibilant [z] in Spanish, though ⟨s⟩ also represents [z] (or [ɦ], depending on the dialect) in this environment.

In Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, ⟨z⟩ usually stands for the sound /s/ and thus shares the value of ⟨s⟩; it normally occurs only in loanwords that are spelt with ⟨z⟩ in the source languages.

The letter ⟨z⟩ on its own represents /z/ in Polish. It is also used in four of the seven officially recognized digraphs: ⟨cz⟩ (/t͡ʂ/), ⟨dz⟩ (/d͡z/ or /t͡s/), ⟨rz⟩ (/ʐ/ or /ʂ/, sometimes it represents a sequence /rz/) and ⟨sz⟩ (/ʂ/), and is the most frequently used of the consonants in that language. (Other Slavic languages avoid digraphs and mark the corresponding phonemes with the háček (caron) diacritic: ⟨č⟩, ⟨ď⟩, ⟨ř⟩, ⟨š⟩; this system has its origin in Czech orthography of the Hussite period.) ⟨z⟩ can also appear with diacritical marks, namely ⟨ź⟩ and ⟨ż⟩, which are used to represent the sounds /ʑ/ and /ʐ/. They also appear in the digraphs ⟨dź⟩ (/d͡ʑ/ or /t͡ɕ/) and ⟨dż⟩ (/d͡ʐ/ or /t͡ʂ/).

Hungarian uses ⟨z⟩ in the digraphs ⟨sz⟩ (expressing /s/, as opposed to the value of ⟨s⟩, which is ʃ), and ⟨zs⟩ (expressing ʒ). The letter ⟨z⟩ on its own represents /z/.

In Modern Scots ⟨z⟩ is used in place of the obsolete letter ⟨ȝ⟩ (yogh) and should be pronounced as a hard 'g'. Whilst there are a few common nouns which use ⟨z⟩ in this manner, such as brulzie (pronounced 'brulgey' meaning broil), z as a yogh substitute is more common in people's names and place-names. Often the names are mispronounced to follow the apparent English spelling so Mackenzie is commonly pronounced with a 'z' sound. Menzies, however, still retains the correct pronunciation of 'Mingus'.

Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, ⟨z⟩ usually stands for [z], such as in Azerbaijani, Igbo, Indonesian, Shona, Swahili, Tatar, Turkish, and Zulu. ⟨z⟩ represents [d͡z] in Northern Sami and Inari Sami. In Turkmen, ⟨z⟩ represents [ð].

In the Nihon-shiki, Kunrei-shiki, and Hepburn romanisations of Japanese, ⟨z⟩ stands for a phoneme whose allophones include [z] and [dz]. Additionally, in the Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki systems, ⟨z⟩ is used to represent that same phoneme before /i/, where it's pronounced [d͡ʑ ~ ʑ].

Other systems

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, ⟨z⟩ represents the voiced alveolar sibilant. The graphical variant ʒ was adopted as the sign for the voiced postalveolar fricative.

Other uses

Main article: Z (disambiguation)

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Other representations


Character information
Preview Z z Ƶ ƶ ʒ
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 90 U+005A 122 U+007A 437 U+01B5 438 U+01B6 658 U+0292 65338 U+FF3A 65370 U+FF5A
UTF-8 90 5A 122 7A 198 181 C6 B5 198 182 C6 B6 202 146 CA 92 239 188 186 EF BC BA 239 189 154 EF BD 9A
Numeric character reference Z Z z z Ƶ Ƶ ƶ ƶ ʒ ʒ Z Z z z
Named character reference Ƶ
EBCDIC family 233 E9 169 A9
ASCII 1 90 5A 122 7A
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-1356
Unified English Braille

See also


  1. ^ a b "Z", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "zee", op. cit.
  2. ^ One early use of "zee": Lye, Thomas (1969) [2nd ed., London, 1677]. A new spelling book, 1677. Menston, (Yorkshire) Scolar Press. p. 24. LCCN 70407159. Zee Za-cha-ry, Zion, zeal
  3. ^ Chugani, Michael (2014-01-04). "又中又英——Mispronunciations are prevalent in Hong Kong". Headline Daily. Archived from the original on 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  4. ^ Henry George Liddell; Robert Scott. "ζῆτα". An Intermediate Greek–English Lexicon. Archived from the original on March 6, 2020. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Ti Alkire & Carol Rosen, Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 61.
  6. ^ "asset". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  7. ^ "alphabet-e1309627843933.jpg". Archived from the original on 2016-04-23. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  8. ^ George Eliot: Adam Bede. Chapter XXI. online Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine at Project Gutenberg
  9. ^ "English letter frequencies". Archived from the original on 2010-06-09.
  10. ^ "How Z-z-z-z-z-z Became Synonymous With Sleep and Snoring". 24 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Why has the letter Z become the symbol of war for Russia?". The Guardian. 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  12. ^ "Ivan Kuliak: Why has 'Z' become a Russian pro-war symbol?". BBC News. 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  13. ^ Constable, Peter (2003-09-30). "L2/03-174R2: Proposal to Encode Phonetic Symbols with Middle Tilde in the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  14. ^ a b West, Andrew; Chan, Eiso; Everson, Michael (2017-01-16). "L2/17-013: Proposal to encode three uppercase Latin letters used in early Pinyin" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  15. ^ a b Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  16. ^ Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-03-24.