Letters that fell out of the alphabet

Mental Floss had an interesting article called 12 letters that didn’t make the alphabet. A more accurate title might be 12 letters that fell out of the modern English alphabet.

I thought it would have been better if the article had included the Unicode values of the letters, so I did a little research and created the following table.

Name Capital Small
Thorn U+00DE U+00FE
Wynn U+01F7 U+01BF
Yogh U+021C U+021D
Ash U+00C6 U+00E6
Eth U+00D0 U+00F0
Ampersand U+0026
Insular g U+A77D U+1D79
Thorn with stroke U+A764 U+A765
Ethel U+0152 U+0153
Tironian ond U+204A
Long s U+017F
Eng U+014A U+014B


Once you know the Unicode code point for a symbol, you can find out more about it, for example, here.

Related posts:

Entering Unicode characters in Windows and Linux.

To enter a Unicode character in Emacs, you can type C-x 8 <return>, then enter the value.

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Posted in Typography
8 comments on “Letters that fell out of the alphabet
  1. Adrien Lamarque says:

    Indeed, ash and ethel are still (to this day) official letters in French. They’re known here as “l’e dans l’a” and “l’e dans l’o” (“the e inside the a” / “the e inside the o”) and in many words, they are commonly mispronounced with regars to their original pronounciation.

    (As far as I know, Icelandic also uses both thorn and eth).

  2. Matt says:

    Re: Unicode in Emacs.

    C-x 8 is set to ‘ucs-insert’ in emacs 23 and later. With earlier versions you need to just do M-x ucs-insert , then enter the code.

  3. Gunnar says:

    Ash (or Æ, as we call it) is a fairly common letter in Danish and Norwegian. In Danish Wordfeud it only gives 4 points. It took some effort to get it recognized in the Unicode standard a letter (LETTER AE) and not just a ligature (two letters printed very close). The HTML entity is “æ”, somthing that annoys me every day :-).

    Long S gets OCR’ed as lowercase f, with some interesting results when trying to the historical use of the F-word.

  4. Gunnar says:

    That last “æ” should be “&ampaelig”. This &#x17Fucks.

  5. John says:

    The long S is where the integral sign comes from, S for “sum.”

  6. Dave Tate says:

    I’m not sure how reliable that site is. It got the pronunciations of edh and thorn backwards, and I’m really skeptical about the idea that the insular form of ‘g’ was somehow used for a different sound, except in the sense that many latin letters represent different sounds in Erse than they do in (say) English or Latin.

    ‘That’ wasn’t a letter; it’s one of very many shorthand abbreviations common in the days when parchment or vellum was scarce, and copying by hand was tedious. You might as well claim that the ubiquitous mediaeval tilde over vowels (to indicate a missing ‘m’ or ‘n’) somehow defined a bunch of separate letters.

    I’m surprised they didn’t mention the tradition of writing a double ‘s’ as a long s followed by a modern s — which is where the German ‘Eszett’ (ß) character comes from. It’s just a ligature of the long and short s.

  7. Chris Morgan says:

    Some designs of Ampersand are still clearly stylised “Et” combinations. You can see these in the Robert Bringhurst book on typography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Typographic_Style

    A good book which explains about English losing letters as it transitioned to latinate print is The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/books/01book.html?_r=0

  8. Garry says:

    Good Post, many useful comments, thank you all.

    @ Dave Tate: No, the German ‘Eszet’ comes from the long s (‘Es’) and a Form of z (‘Zet’) with a downward line like a ‘g’ has. (look up Sütterlin (Suetterlin) alphabet or Fraktur alphabet for examples of this form of z and the resulting ß.)