The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The circumflex ( ˆ ) is a diacritic mark used in written Greek, French, Esperanto, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Vietnamese, Japanese romaji, Welsh, Portuguese, Italian, and other languages.

  • In French the circumflex is used on the vowels , , , and . It generally marks the former presence of the letter s in the spelling of the word – for example, hpital (hospital), fort (forest); remark that the former French spelling is current in English. Certain close homophones are distinguished by the circumflex, for instance cote and cte (the former meaning "level", "mark", the latter meaning "rib" or "coast"). is pronounced like . In the usual pronunciations of central and northern France, is pronounced like eau; in the usual pronunciations Southern France, no distinction is made between and o.
  • In Chichewa, ŵ denotes the voiced bilabial fricative (IPA: β), hence the name of the country Malaŵi.
  • In Norwegian, it is used, with the exception of loan words, on ô and ê, almost exclusively in the words "fr" (from Norse fðr), meaning "animal food", lr, meaning "skin" (Norse leðr) and "vr" (Norse veðr), meaning "weather".
  • In English the circumflex, like other diacriticals, is sometimes retained on loanwords that used it in the original language; for example, rle. In Britain in the eighteenth century, which was before the cheap penny post and a era in which paper was taxed, the circumflex was used in postal letters to save room in an analogy with the French use. Specifically, the letters "ugh" were replaced when they were silent in the most common words, e.g., "th" for "though", "thor" for "thorough", and "brt" for "brought" — a precursor of the ways in which trendy young people nowadays abbreviate text messages. This could have led to spelling simplification, but did not.
  • In Romanian, the circumflex is used on the vowels â and î to mark a sound similar to Russian 'yery'. Their names are " din a" and " din i".
  • In Slovak, circumflex (vokň) turns the letter "o" into a diphthong //.
  • In Vietnamese, the circumflex helps to distinguish three couples of vowels : &ocirc [o] and o [ɔ], &ecirc [e] and e [ɛ], &acirc [ɐ] and a [ɑ]. It is not a tonal mark, so that you can for instance find association of circumflex and tonal mark, like , which appears in the word Việt Nam
  • In Welsh the circumflex (colloquially known as the t bach -- "little roof") is used on the vowels a, e, i, o, u, w, y to differentiate between other words that have the same spelling. The circumflex in Welsh gives a vowel a long sound, for example môr versus mor.
  • In Portuguese, it is used on â, ê and &ocirc. It mainly marks the tonic syllable when the vowel is rounded (usually before -m and -n: pntano (bog), cmara (chamber or camera). It is sometimes used to distinguish homophone words, e.g. tem (he has) and têm (they have). The use of circumflex has been much reduced as a consequence of the orthographic reforms.
  • in Italian it is used in plurals of singulars ending with, thus ending them with a longer i, in modern Italian this is accomplished with a double or just a single i as in var&icirc, varj, varii, vari ("various", plural of vario).

The ISO-8859-1 character encoding includes the letters â, ê, î, ô, û, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the circumflex are available in Unicode. Unicode also provides the circumflex as a combining character.

The circumflex receives its English name from Latin circumflexus (bent about) which in turn is a translation of the Greek perispomene (περισπωμένη).

The circumflex (or caret) character is also used without a vowel to represent exponentiation in ASCII:

2^3 = 8

Circumflex is an important Dutch student union.

See also

Last updated: 05-14-2005 06:48:19