The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







S is the nineteenth letter in the modern Latin alphabet.

In most writing systems that use the Latin alphabet, the letter s corresponds to a coronal fricative consonant. Semitic Šīn (bow) was pronounced as the voiceless postalveolar fricative (like the sound of the letters sh in ship). Greek did not have this sound, so the Greek sigma (Σ) came to represent the voiceless alveolar fricative (like the sound of the letter s in sit). The name "sigma" probably comes from the Semitic letter "Sāmek" and not "Šīn". In Etruscan and Latin, the [s] value was maintained, and only in modern languages has the letter been used to represent other sounds, such as voiceless postalveolar fricative [ʃ] in Hungarian or the voiced alveolar fricative [z] in English, French and German (in English rise; in French lisez (="read" imperative plural); in German lesen (="to read").

An alternative form of s, ſ, called the long s or medial s, was used at the beginning or in the middle of the word; the modern form, the short or terminal s, was used at the end of the word. For example, "sinfulness" is rendered as "ſinfulneſs" using the long s. The use of the long s died out by the beginning of the 19th century, largely to prevent confusion with the minuscule f. The ligature of ſs (or ſz) became the German ess-tsett ( ß ).

Sierra represents the letter s in the NATO phonetic alphabet. The letter s represents the voiceless alveolar fricative in the International Phonetic Alphabet.


Meanings for S

Similar letters and symbols

See also

External link

  • Wiktionary entry on S

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13