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The letter B is the second letter of the modern Latin alphabet.



The letter B probably started as a pictogram of the floorplan of a house in Egyptian hieroglyphs or the Proto-semitic alphabet.

Egyptian hieroglyphic house
Proto-semitic house Phoenician beth Greek beta Etruscan B Roman B
Egyptian hieroglyphic house Proto-semitic house Phoenician beth Greek beta Etruscan B Roman B

By 1500 BC, the Phoenician alphabet's letter had a linear form that served as the basis for all later forms, which appeared in both the angular and more rounded forms. Its name must have corresponded closely to the Hebrew beth.

When the Ancient Greeks adopted the alphabet, they changed its name to beta and turned the letter upside-down and later added a second loop. In earlier Greek inscriptions, the letter faces to the left, but in the Greek alphabet of later times it faces to the right, although there continued to be variations between pointed and rounded loops.

The Etruscans brought the Greek alphabet to what is now Italy and left the letter unchanged. The Romans later adopted the Etruscan alphabet to write Latin, and the resulting letter, with rounded loops, has been preserved in the modern Latin alphabet used to write many languages, including English.


The modern lowercase letter b derives from later Roman times, when scribes began omitting the upper loop of the capital.

Blackletter B Uncial B
Blackletter B Uncial B
Modern Roman B Modern Italic B Modern Script B
Modern Roman B Modern Italic B Modern Script B

The letter B should not be confused with the visually similar German ess-tsett.


In English, the letter b by itself usual denotes the voiced bilabial plosive (IPA ), as in bib, and it sometimes is "silent", as in debt or comb.

In most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, the letter b denotes the voiced bilabial plosive (IPA /b/), although in Spanish, in medial position it denotes the voiced bilabial fricative (IPA /β/). However, in Estonian and in Chinese transcription, B is not voiced, and is contrasted to P, which is a geminate /pp/ in Estonian and the aspirate /ph/ in Chinese.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet and X-SAMPA, letter b denotes the voiced bilabial plosive. Variants of the letter b denote related bilabial consonants, like voiced bilabial implosive and the bilabial trill. In X-SAMPA, capital B denotes the voiced bilabial fricative.

Alternate representations

Bravo represents the letter B in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

In international Morse code the letter B is DahDitDitDit: -   

In Braille the letter B is represented as (in Unicode), the dot pattern,



In Unicode the capital B is codepoint U+0042 and the lowercase b is U+0062.

The ASCII code for capital B is 66 and for lowercase b is 98; or in binary 01000010 and 01100010, correspondingly.

The EBCDIC code for capital B is 194 and for lowercase b is 130.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "B" and "b" for upper and lower case respectively.

Meanings for B

  • As a prefix B indicates second rate (where A is first/top rate) e.g. B-movie, B-team .

See also

Last updated: 08-12-2005 09:05:49
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