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? ?
(See below, Typographic)
Writing cursive forms of ?
Writing systemLatin script
Language of originMiddle English language
Latin language
Phonetic usage[g]
Unicode codepointU+021C, U+021D
Pictogram of a Camel (speculated origin)
Time period~1150 to ~1500

? ?
Transliteration equivalentsch, g, gh, j, ng, y
Variations(See below, Typographic)
Other letters commonly used withch, gh, g, j, ng y, z

The letter yogh (?ogh) (? ?; Scots: yoch; Middle English: ?ogh) was used in Middle English and Older Scots, representing y (/j/) and various velar phonemes. It was derived from the Insular form of the letter g.

In Middle English writing, tailed z came to be indistinguishable from yogh.

In Middle Scots, the character yogh became confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z when yogh was not available in their fonts.[1] Consequently, some Lowland Scots words have a z in place of a yogh--the common surname MacKenzie was originally written MacKen?ie (pronounced makenyie).

Yogh is shaped similarly to the Arabic numeral 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 Ȝ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER YOGH (HTML Ȝ) and ȝ LATIN SMALL LETTER YOGH (HTML ȝ) respectively.


Capital yogh (left), lowercase yogh (right)

In Modern English yogh is pronounced , , using short o[2] or , , , using long o.[3]

It stood for and its various allophones--including [?] and the voiced velar fricative [?]--as well as the phoneme (⟨y⟩ in modern English orthography). In Middle English, it also stood for the phoneme /x/ and its allophone [ç] as in ⟨ni?t⟩ ("night", in an early Middle English way still often pronounced as spelled so: [niçt]). Sometimes, yogh stood for /j/ or /w/, as in the word ⟨?o?elinge['jow?l?], "yowling".

In Middle Scots, it represented the sound /j/ in the clusters /lj/, /?j/ and /nj/ written l? and n?.[4] Yogh was generally used for /j/ rather than y.

In medieval Cornish manuscripts, yogh was used to represent the voiced dental fricative [ð], as in its ⟨?o?o⟩, now written ⟨dhodho⟩, pronounced [ðoðo].


Yogh used for /x/ in Middle English: God spede þe plou?: ? sende us k?rne inolk. ("God speed the plough: and send us corn enough.")

Old English

The original Germanic g sound was expressed by the gyfu rune in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc (which is itself sometimes 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 Proto-Germanic *j?r?).

With the re-introduced possibility of a /?/ 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" (/?/) from "palatalized g" (/j/) became desirable.

In the Old English period, ? was simply the way Latin g was written in the Insular script introduced at the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England by the Hiberno-Scottish mission. It only came to be used as a letter distinct from g in the Middle English period, where it evolved in appearance into ?, now considered[by whom?] a separate character.

Middle English

Some Norman scribes avoided non-Latin characters and certain spellings in English[] and therefore the digraph gh arose as an alternative to yogh; still, the variety of pronunciations persisted, as evidenced by cough, taught, and though. The process of replacing the yogh with gh was slow, and was not completed until the arrival of printing presses (which lacked yogh) in England around 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 [d?]); ghoul is Arabic, in which the gh was /?/.

The medieval author Orm used this letter in three ways when writing Early Middle English. By itself, it represented /j/, so he used this letter for the y in "yet". Doubled, it represented /i/, so he ended his spelling of "may" with two yoghs. Finally, the digraph of yogh followed by an h represented /?/.[5]

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


In words of French and Gaelic origin, the Early Scots palatal consonant /?/ had become /nj/ or in some cases /?j/, and the palatal consonant /?/ had become /lj/ by the Middle Scots period.[4] Those were variously written n?(h)e, ng?e, ny(h)e or ny(i)e, and l?(h)e, ly(i)e or lyhe (cf. gn and gli in Italian). By the Modern Scots period the yogh had been replaced by the character z, in particular for /?j/, /nj/ (n?) and /lj/ (l?), written nz and lz. The original /hj/ and /çj/ developed into /?(j)/ in some words such as ?etland or Zetland for Shetland.[1] Yogh was also used to represent /j/ in words such as ?e, ?histirday (yesterday) and ?oung but by the Modern Scots period y had replaced yogh.[6] The pronunciation of MacKenzie (and its variant spellings) (from Scottish Gaelic MacCoinnich [max'k?ç]), originally pronounced [m?'kji:] in Scots,[1] shows where yogh became z. Menzies Campbell is another example.

After the development of printing

In Middle Scots orthography, the use of yogh became confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z when yogh was not available in their fonts.

The yogh glyph can be found in surnames that start with a Y in Scotland and Ireland; for example the surname Yeoman, which would have been spelled ?eman. Sometimes, the yogh would be replaced by the letter z, because the shape of the yogh was identical to some forms of handwritten 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 Middle English words containing a yogh

These are examples of Middle English words that contain the letter yogh in their spellings.[7]

Scots words with ⟨z⟩ for ⟨?



  • Cadzow - see placename;
  • Dalziel - pronounced deeyel (IPA ) or dehyell, from Gaelic Dail Gheal ([t?al'?al]); also spelled Dalyell and Dalzell;
  • Gilzean - pronounced gilain, a variant of Maclean, from Gaelic MacGilleEathain ([maxk'?e.]). However, many now pronounce the 'z', including footballer Alan Gilzean;[13]
  • Layamon - now pronounced as written although frequently rendered as La?amon up to the early 1900s in literary referents;[14]
  • MacKenzie - now pronounced as written, though as late as 1946 George Black recorded the original form pronounced makenyie (IPA ), from the Gaelic MacCoinnich ([max'k?ç]) as standard;[15]
  • Menzies - most correctly pronounced mingis (IPA ),[16] now also pronounced with ;
  • Winzet - pronounced winyet (IPA ).
  • McFadzean

Miscellaneous nouns

In Egyptology

A Unicode-based transliteration system adopted by the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale[17] suggested the use of the yogh ? character as the transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian "aleph" glyph:


The symbol actually used in Egyptology is Egyptian 3 symbol.png, two half-rings opening to the left. Since Unicode 5.1, it has been assigned its own codepoints (uppercase U+A722 ? LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF, lowercase U+A723 ? LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF); a fallback is the numeral 3.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Z", DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language / Dictionar o the Scots Leid, UK: DSL.
  2. ^ "yogh". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.).
  4. ^ a b DOST: A History of Scots to 1700, UK: DSL.
  5. ^ Crystal, David (2004-09-09). The Stories of English. New York: Overlook Press. p. 197. ISBN 1-58567-601-2.
  6. ^ Kniezsa, V (1997), Jones, C (ed.), The Edinburgh history of the Scots language, Edinburgh University Press, p. 38.
  7. ^ OED online.
  8. ^ "English gilds: the original ordinances of more than one hundred early English gilds", Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, University of Michigan, 1999, retrieved
  9. ^ Piers Plowman, Wikisource.
  10. ^ "Corriemulzie Estate - Scottish Highlands Lodge & Cottage - Trout & Salmon Fishing, Red Deer Stalking". corriemulzieestate.com.
  11. ^ "Dalmunzie Castle Hotel". Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Pitcalzean | Canmore". canmore.org.uk.
  13. ^ Morgan, James (17 October 2011). In Search of Alan Gilzean. BackPage Press. ISBN 9780956497116 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Eaton, Lucy Allen (1960), Studies in the fairy mythology of Arthurian romance, Burt Franklin, p. vii.
  15. ^ Black, George (1946), The Surnames of Scotland, p. 525.
  16. ^ Hanks, P (2003), Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press.
  17. ^ "Polices de caractères". Institut français d'archéologie orientale - Le Caire (in French). Retrieved 2014.

External links

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