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Acute accent

The acute accent (´) is a diacritic mark used in written French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician, Greek, Welsh, Hungarian, Faroese, Icelandic, Italian, Swedish, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Vietnamese, Dutch, Irish Gaelic, Croatian, Navajo and other languages.



In French and Italian, the acute accent is used only on the letter e, where it changes the vowel sound.

In French, it distinguishes é , and e [ə]. In Italian, it makes an é be pronounced as [e], in a position it would normally be pronounced as [ɛ]; it also marks the stressed vowel (mostly the last one), where the stress would normally be on another syllable (just as in Spanish).

Stress or disambiguation

In Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Galician, the acute accent is used to mark the stressed vowel of a written word that would normally be stressed on another syllable. Stress is contrastive in those languages. For example, in Spanish ánimo ["a-ni-mo] ("mood, spirit"), animo [a-"ni-mo] ("I cheer"), and animó [a-ni-"mo] ("he cheered") are three different words. In Welsh words the stress is always given on the penultimate syllable unless indicated otherwise by the use of an acute accent on the stressed vowel.

In Spanish and Dutch, the acute accent is used to disambiguate certain words which would otherwise be homographs. In Spanish, various question word / relative pronoun pairs, such as cmo & como (how), dnde & donde (where), and some other words such as t (you) & tu (your), l (he/him) & el (the); in Dutch, mainly n (one) & een (a/an).

In Dutch, the acute accent can also be used to emphasize an individual word within a sentence. For example, "Ik ben vr democratie, en was dat al vr de dood van Pim Fortuyn." In this example, "vr" is merely an emphasized form of "voor".

In Greek it is nowadays always used on the stressed syllable of a word. In Ancient Greek it more specifically indicated a syllable with a high tone, the grave accent and circumflex being used in other cases, but this distinction has disappeared in the modern language.

Openess or disambiguation

In Swedish, the acute accent is also used only on the letter e, mostly in words of French origin and in some names, and mostly on the last syllable of a word. It is used both to indicate a change in vowel sound, same as in French, and that the stress should be on this, normally unstressed, syllable. Examples include resumé (accent on the last e only!) and Linné (the title taken by Carolus Linnaeus when he was knighted). It is otherwise used in rare cases to show the accent of foreign and transcribed words (such as advniat, svobda).


In Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak the acute accent is used to mark the quantity or length of the base vowel. This is the same contrast that differentiated long and short vowels in classical Latin, or that nowadays differentiate simple and double vowels in written Finnish. In Czech and Slovak a vowel marked with an accent is called a "long vowel"; it does not have the same meaning as a "long vowel" in English. In Czech, the letter u can have an acute accent only at the beginning of a word or a word stem (after a prefix). To indicate a long u in the middle or at the end of a word, a krou~ek (ring) is used instead, to form ů. In Slovak, there are two more "long vowels" (which are consonants in the alphabet, but vowels in terms of their function) : ŕ and ĺ, which are pronounced just like ordinary syllabic r and l, only longer.

The use of the acute (see also hček) to denote long pronunciation of Latin characters was introduced by Jan Hus in the 15th century into the Czech language and today it is also used by the Slovaks, Slovenians, Croats, Upper Lusatian and Lower Lusatian Sorbs, Lithuanians, Latvians, Hungarians, Icelanders and partly by the Poles, although in many of these languages it has other function than marking the long vowels. It is also often used for international transliteration.


In Polish, the acute accent is used over several letters - four consonants and one vowel. Over the consonants, it is used to indicate palatalization, rather as the háček is used in Czech and other Slavic languages; eg. sześć /ʃεɕʨ/ (six) However, the Polish kreska is traditionally more nearly vertical than the acute. Over the vowel "" it indicates pronunciation change into [u].

Other uses

In some tonal languages such as Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese, the acute accent is used to indicate a rising tone. In others, especially African languages, it is used to indicate a high tone.

In Irish Gaelic, the acute accent, known as a sneadh fada (pronounced SHEE-na FA-da), is a sign of lenition and denotes a long vowel as opposed to a short one.

In transliterating texts written in Cuneiform, an acute accent over the vowel indicates that the original sign is the second representing that value in the canonical lists. Thus su is used to transliterate the first sign with the phonetic value /su/, while transliterates the second sign with the value /su/.

In Faroese, the acute accent is used on 5 of the vowels (a, i, o, u and y), but these letters, , , , and are considered separate letters with separate pronunciations.

  • : long [ɔa], short [ɔ] and before [a]: [õ]
  • /: long [ʊiː], short [ʊi]
  • : long [ɔu], [ɛu] or [u], short: [], except Suuroy: [ɔ]
    • When is followed by the skerping -gv, it is pronunced [ɛ], except in Suuroy where it is [ɔ]
  • : long [a], short [ʏ]
    • When is followed by the skerping -gv, it is pronunced [ɪ]

In Icelandic the acute accent is used on 6 of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u and y), and, as in Faroese, these are considered separate letters.

  • : [au(ː)]
  • : [jɛ(ː)]
  • /: [i(ː)]
  • : [ou(ː)]
  • : [u(ː)]

All can be either short or long.

Use in English

As with other diacritical marks, a number of loanwords are sometimes spelled in English with an acute accent used in the original language: these include sauté, roué, café, touché, fiancé, and fiancée. Retention of the accent is common only in the French ending é or ée, as in these examples, where its absence would tend to suggest a different pronunciation. Thus the French word résumé is commonly seen in English as resumé, with only one accent.

The word acute is derived from the Latin acutus (sharp), itself a translation of the Greek oxys ().

Technical notes

The ISO-8859-1 character encoding includes the letters á, é, í, ó, ú, ý, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the acute accent are available in Unicode. Unicode also provides the acute accent as a combining character.

See also

External links

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