H, or h, is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is ''aitch'' (pronounced , plural ''aitches''), or regionally ''haitch'' ."H" ''Oxford English Dictionary,'' 2nd edition (1989); ''Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged'' (1993); "aitch" or "haitch", op. cit.


The original Semitic letter Heth most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative (). The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts. The Greek eta 'Η' in Archaic Greek alphabets still represented (later on it came to represent a long vowel, ). In this context, the letter eta is also known as heta to underline this fact. Thus, in the Old Italic alphabets, the letter heta of the Euboean alphabet was adopted with its original sound value . While Etruscan and Latin had as a phoneme, almost all Romance languages lost the sound—Romanian later re-borrowed the phoneme from its neighbouring Slavic languages, and Spanish developed a secondary from , before losing it again; various Spanish dialects have developed as an allophone of or in most Spanish-speaking countries, and various dialects of Portuguese use it as an allophone of . 'H' is also used in many spelling systems in digraphs and trigraphs, such as 'ch', which represents in Spanish, Galician, Old Portuguese and English, in French and modern Portuguese, in Italian, French and English, in German, Czech, Polish, Slovak, one native word of English and a few loanwords into English, and in German.

Name in English

For most English speakers, the name for the letter is pronounced as and spelled "aitch" or occasionally "eitch". The pronunciation and the associated spelling "haitch" is often considered to be h-adding and is considered nonstandard in England. It is, however, a feature of Hiberno-English, as well as scattered varieties of Edinburgh, England, and Welsh English, and in Australia and Nova Scotia. The perceived name of the letter affects the choice of indefinite article before initialisms beginning with H: for example "an H-bomb" or "a H-bomb". The pronunciation may be a hypercorrection formed by analogy with the names of the other letters of the alphabet, most of which include the sound they represent. The ''haitch'' pronunciation of ''h'' has spread in England, being used by approximately 24% of English people born since 1982, and polls continue to show this pronunciation becoming more common among younger native speakers. Despite this increasing number, the pronunciation without the sound is still considered to be standard in England, although the pronunciation with is also attested as a legitimate variant. Authorities disagree about the history of the letter's name. The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' says the original name of the letter was in Latin; this became in Vulgar Latin, passed into English via Old French , and by Middle English was pronounced . ''The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language'' derives it from French ''hache'' from Latin ''haca'' or ''hic''. Anatoly Liberman suggests a conflation of two obsolete orderings of the alphabet, one with ''H'' immediately followed by ''K'' and the other without any ''K'': reciting the former's ''..., H, K, L,...'' as when reinterpreted for the latter ''..., H, L,...'' would imply a pronunciation for ''H''.

Use in writing systems


In English, occurs as a single-letter grapheme (being either silent or representing the voiceless glottal fricative () and in various digraphs, such as , , , or ), (silent, , , , or ), (), (), (), ( or ), (). The letter is silent in a syllable rime, as in ''ah'', ''ohm'', ''dahlia'', ''cheetah'', ''pooh-poohed'', as well as in certain other words (mostly of French origin) such as ''hour'', ''honest'', ''herb'' (in American but not British English) and ''vehicle'' (in certain varieties of English). Initial is often not pronounced in the weak form of some function words including ''had'', ''has'', ''have'', ''he'', ''her'', ''him'', ''his'', and in some varieties of English (including most regional dialects of England and Wales) it is often omitted in all words (see ''-dropping). It was formerly common for ''an'' rather than ''a'' to be used as the indefinite article before a word beginning with in an unstressed syllable, as in "an historian", but use of ''a'' is now more usual (see ). In English, The pronunciation of as /h/ can be analyzed as a voiceless vowel. That is, when the phoneme /h/ precedes a vowel, /h/ may be realized as a voiceless version of the subsequent vowel. For example the word , /hɪt/ is realized as ̥ɪt H is the eighth most frequently used letter in the English language (after S, N, I, O, A, T, and E), with a frequency of about 4.2% in words. When ''h'' is placed after certain other consonants, it modifies their pronunciation in various ways, e.g. for ''ch'', ''gh'', ''ph'', ''sh'' and ''th''.

Other languages

In the German language, the name of the letter is pronounced . Following a vowel, it often silently indicates that the vowel is long: In the word ('heighten'), the second is mute for most speakers outside of Switzerland. In 1901, a spelling reform eliminated the silent in nearly all instances of in native German words such as ''thun'' ('to do') or ''Thür'' ('door'). It has been left unchanged in words derived from Greek, such as ('theater') and ('throne'), which continue to be spelled with even after the last German spelling reform. In Spanish and Portuguese, ("hache" in Spanish, pronounced , or ''agá'' in Portuguese, pronounced or ) is a silent letter with no pronunciation, as in ''hijo'' ('son') and ''húngaro'' ('Hungarian'). The spelling reflects an earlier pronunciation of the sound . It is sometimes pronounced with the value , in some regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Canarias, Cantabria and the Americas in the beginning of some words. also appears in the digraph , which represents in Spanish and northern Portugal, and in oral traditions that merged both sounds (the latter originarily represented by instead) e.g. in most of the Portuguese language and some Spanish-speaking places, prominently Chile, as well as and in Portuguese, whose spelling is inherited from Occitan. In French, the name of the letter is written as "ache" and pronounced . The French orthography classifies words that begin with this letter in two ways, one of which can affect the pronunciation, even though it is a silent letter either way. The ''H muet'', or "mute" , is considered as though the letter were not there at all, so for example the singular definite article ''le'' or ''la'', which is elided to ''l before a vowel, elides before an ''H muet'' followed by a vowel. For example, ''le + hébergement'' becomes ''l'hébergement'' ('the accommodation'). The other kind of is called ''h aspiré'' ("aspirated ''", though it is not normally aspirated phonetically), and does not allow elision or liaison. For example in ''le homard'' ('the lobster') the article ''le'' remains unelided, and may be separated from the noun with a bit of a glottal stop. Most words that begin with an ''H muet'' come from Latin (''honneur'', ''homme'') or from Greek through Latin (''hécatombe''), whereas most words beginning with an ''H aspiré'' come from Germanic (''harpe'', ''hareng'') or non-Indo-European languages (''harem'', ''hamac'', ''haricot''); in some cases, an orthographic was added to disambiguate the and semivowel pronunciations before the introduction of the distinction between the letters and : ''huit'' (from ''uit'', ultimately from Latin ''octo''), ''huître'' (from ''uistre'', ultimately from Greek through Latin ''ostrea''). In Italian, has no phonological value. Its most important uses are in the digraphs 'ch' and 'gh' , as well as to differentiate the spellings of certain short words that are homophones, for example some present tense forms of the verb ''avere'' ('to have') (such as ''hanno'', 'they have', vs. ''anno'', 'year'), and in short interjections (''oh'', ''ehi''). Some languages, including Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and Finnish, use as a breathy voiced glottal fricative , often as an allophone of otherwise voiceless in a voiced environment. In Hungarian, the letter has five independent pronunciations, perhaps more than in any other language, with an additional three uses as a productive and non-productive member of a digraph. H may represent /h/ as in the name of the Székely town Hargita; intervocalically it represents /ɦ/ as in "tehéz"; it represents /x/ in the word "doh"; it represents /ç/ in "ihlet"; and it is silent in "Cseh". As part of a diphthong, it represents, in archaic spelling, /t͡ʃ/ with the letter C as in the name "Széchényi; it represents, again, with the letter C, /x/ in "pech" (which is pronounced ɛx; in certain environments it breaks palatalization of a consonant, as in the name "Horthy" which is pronounced ɔrti(without the intervening H, the name "Horty" would be pronounced ɔrc; and finally, it acts as a silent component of a diphthong, as in the name "Vargha", pronounced ɒrgɒ In Ukrainian and Belarusian, when written in the Latin alphabet, is also commonly used for , which is otherwise written with the Cyrillic letter . In Irish, is not considered an independent letter, except for a very few non-native words, however placed after a consonant is known as a "séimhiú" and indicates lenition of that consonant; began to replace the original form of a séimhiú, a dot placed above the consonant, after the introduction of typewriters. In most dialects of Polish, both and the digraph always represent . In Basque, during the 20th century it was not used in the orthography of the Basque dialects in Spain but it marked an aspiration in the North-Eastern dialects. During the standardization of Basque in the 1970s, the compromise was reached that ''h'' would be accepted if it were the first consonant in a syllable. Hence, ''herri'' ("people") and ''etorri'' ("to come") were accepted instead of ''erri'' (Biscayan) and ''ethorri'' (Souletin). Speakers could pronounce the h or not. For the dialects lacking the aspiration, this meant a complication added to the standardized spelling.

Other systems

As a phonetic symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), it is used mainly for the so-called aspirations (fricative or trills), and variations of the plain letter are used to represent two sounds: the lowercase form represents the voiceless glottal fricative, and the small capital form represents the voiceless epiglottal fricative (or trill). With a bar, minuscule is used for a voiceless pharyngeal fricative. Specific to the IPA, a hooked is used for a voiced glottal fricative, and a superscript is used to represent aspiration.

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

*H with diacritics: Ĥ ĥ Ȟ ȟ Ħ ħ Ḩ ḩ Ⱨ ⱨ ẖ ẖ Ḥ ḥ Ḣ ḣ Ḧ ḧ Ḫ ḫ *IPA-specific symbols related to H: *ᴴ : Modifier letter H is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet *ₕ : Subscript small h was used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet prior to its formal standardization in 1902 *ʰ : Modifier letter small h is used in Indo-European studies *ʮ and ʯ : Turned H with fishhook and turned H with fishhook and tail are used in Sino-Tibetanist linguistics *Ƕ ƕ : Latin letter hwair, derived from a ligature of the digraph hv, and used to transliterate the Gothic letter 𐍈 (which represented the sound ʷ *Ⱶ ⱶ : Claudian letters *Ꟶ ꟶ : Reversed half h used in Roman inscriptions from the Roman provinces of Gaul

Ancestors, siblings and descendants in other alphabets

*𐤇 : Semitic letter Heth, from which the following symbols derive **Η η : Greek letter Eta, from which the following symbols derive ***𐌇 : Old Italic H, the ancestor of modern Latin H **** : Runic letter haglaz, which is probably a descendant of Old Italic H ***Һ һ : Cyrillic letter Shha, which derives from Latin H *** : Gothic letter haal

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

* : Planck constant *ℏ : reduced Planck constant *\mathbb: Blackboard bold capital H used in quaternion notation

Computing codes

1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

See also

* American Sign Language grammar * List of hieroglyphs/H


External links

* *
Lubliner, Coby. 2008. "The Story of H."
(essay on origins and uses of the letter "h") {{Latin alphabet|H} Category:ISO basic Latin letters