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The letter yogh ( ; Middle English: ), was used in Middle English and Middle Scots, representing y ( ) and various velar phonemes. It was derived from the Old English form of the letter g.

In Middle English writing, tailed z came to be indistinguishable from yogh. In Middle Scots the character yogh representing the sound came to be confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z, when yogh was not available in their fonts. Consequently some Lowland Scots words have a z in place of a yogh.

Yogh is shaped like the Arabic numeral three (3), which is sometimes substituted for the character in online reference works. There is some confusion about the letter in the literature, as the English language was far from standardised at the time. The upper and lower case letters ( , ) are represented in Unicode by code points U+021C and U+021D respectively. In HTML, they are represented by Ȝ and ȝ.


Yogh is pronounced either , , or . According to the Oxford English Dictionary the pronunciation is or . It stood for and its various allophones—including and the voiced velar fricative —as well as the phoneme (y in modern English spelling). In Middle English, it also stood for the phoneme as in (night, then pronounced as spelled: ). Sometimes, yogh stood for or , as in the word = yowling.

In medieval Cornish manuscripts, yogh is used to represent the voiced interdental fricative as in , now written dhodho, pronounced .


Yogh used for :

Old English

The original Germanic g sound was expressed by the Gyfu rune in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc (which is itself rendered as in modern transliteration). Following palatalization, both gyfu and Latin g in Old English expressed the /j/ sound before front vowels. For example, "year" was written as gear, even though the word had never had a g sound (deriving from PIE *yōr-).

With the re-introduced possibility of a /g/ sound before front vowels, notably in the form of loanwords from the Old Norse (such as gere from Norse gervi, Modern English gear), this orthographical state of affairs became a source for confusion, and a distinction of "real g" (/g/) from "palatalized g" (/j/) became desirable.

In the Old English period, the glyph was simply the way Latin g was written in the Uncial script introduced at the Christianization of England by the Irish missionaries.It only came to be used as a letter distinct from g in the Middle English period.

Middle English

Norman scribes despised non-Latin characters and certain spellings in English and therefore replaced the yogh with the digraph gh; still, the variety of pronunciations elaborated, as evidenced by cough, trough, and though. The process of replacing the yogh with gh was slow, and was not fully completed until the end of the fifteenth century. Not every English word that contains a gh was originally spelled with a yogh: for example, spaghetti is Italian, where the h makes the g hard (i.e., instead of ); ghoul is Arabic, in which the gh was .

The medieval author Orm used this letter in three ways when writing Old English. By itself, it represented , so he used this letter for the y in "yet". Doubled, it represented , so he ended his spelling of "may" with two yoghs. Finally, the digraph of yogh followed by an h represented .

In the late Middle English period, yogh was no longer used: came to be spelled night. Middle English re-imported G in its French form for .

After the development of printing

The glyph yogh can be found in surnames that start with Y in Scotland and Ireland, such as the surname Yeoman and sometimes spelled . Because the shape of the yogh was identical to some forms of the handwritten letter z, the z replaced the yogh in many Scottish words when the printing press was introduced. Most type used on presses in that era did not have the letter yogh, resulting in the substitution of the letter z.

In Unicode 1.0 the character yogh was mistakenly unified with the quite different character Ezh ( ), and yogh itself was not added to Unicode until version 3.0.

List of words containing a yogh

These are words which contain the letter yogh in their spellings. All are obsolete.

  • ("ear")
  • ("hastened")
  • ("gift")
  • ("yes")
  • ("yesterday")
  • ("yester-")
  • ("yet")
  • ("give" or "if")

Scottish words with representing >

gaberlunzie, 'a licensed beggar', tuilzie, 'a fight', capercailzie (from capall-coille, now normally spelt capercaillie in English); "Shetlandmarker" was also written "Zetland" for a number of years, possibly as a corruption of Old Norse "Hjaltiland".

  • Bunzion - pronounced bunion, Lower and Upper Bunzion are farms in the Parish of Cults, Fifemarker.
  • Culzeanmarkerculain (IPA )
  • Dalziel — pronounced deeyel (IPA ), from Gaelic Dail-gheal; also spelled Dalyell.
  • Drumelziermarker - pronounced "drumellier"
  • Finzeanmarker — pronounced fingen (IPA )
  • Glenzier — pronounced glinger (IPA )
  • MacKenzie — originally pronounced makenyie (IPA ), from Gaelic MacCoinnich; now usually pronounced with , though as late as 1946 George Black recorded the form with /j/ as standard
  • Menzies — most correctly pronounced mingis (IPA ), a variant of Manners , now controversially also pronounced with
  • Winzet — pronounced winyet (IPA )
  • Zell - Archaic spelling of "Isle of Yellmarker"
  • Zetland — the name for Shetlandmarker until the 1970s. Shetland postcodes begin with the letters ZE.

The town of Hamilton, South Lanarkshiremarker, was previously called Cadzow; and the word Cadzow continues in modern use in many streetnames and other names, eg. Cadzow Castlemarker.

In Egyptology

A Unicode-based transliteration system adopted by the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale suggests the use of the Unicode character as the transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian "aleph" glyph: AThe symbol actually used in Egyptology is , two half-rings opening to the left. Since Unicode 5.1 it has been assigned its proper codepoints (uppercase U+A722 Ꜣ, lowercase U+A723 ꜣ). It is often represented by the numeral 3 for technical reasons.


  1. Online Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989
  2. George Black, The Surnames of Scotland, 1946, p. 525.
  3. Hanks, P. (2003) Dictionary of American Family Names Oxford University Press
  4. Polices, IFAO.

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