C (letter)

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For other uses, see the C disambiguation page.

C, c is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the third letter of most variants, being placed after B and before D, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈsiː], like see and sea, and is occasionally spelt out as cee.

C is also the Roman numeral representing the number 100.

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

Though very common in English, c has (as also in French, Portuguese, Catalan and most varieties of Spanish) no sound of its own, instead sounding either like a k (= like a q), or like an s; or, thirdly, preceding h to give the ch sound, which sounds like tsh (though there are other words in which ch simply sounds like sh, and yet others where it sounds like k).

The k sound is in the back of the throat, as in kíng, or as q in quêen: cát; the s sound is a hiss, as in that word, híss (where it is, typically, doubled) and in : cïrcle (in which the second c has the k sound: *sërkl; the accents show stress and pronunciation: see English spellings). The ch sound can be heard twice in chürch and at the beginning of choôse (*tshûz), but not at all in machìne (*məshêen).

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

The letter c is actually more common than k - and much more common than q - for the throaty sound. It occurs before back vowels a, o and u: cát, còme, còunt, cûre, côast, and liquid consonants l and r: clíck, crúst, clàss. In crícket, thícket, rácket, wícker, bícker, lócker, dócker, crácker, brácken, bráckish, lácking, the k is needed to show the throaty sound of the second c: without the k, the c would sound like an s because of the following e or i. Also, -ck is more common at the end of words as in déck and clóck. But after í, c is quite common finally: plástic, pánic, eléctric, frenétic, mûsic. Compare síc thus with síck ill. Also: mâniác, lîlac, ålmanác, blóc (no words do not end in -ec or -uc).

The hissing s sound occurs before front vowel letters i, e and y: cïrcle, céntre, cŷcle, cínema, nîce, Lâcy, Trâcy, pâcy, and also initially in the combinations caê- and coê-: Caêsar, caêcum, Caêlum, coênobitic, coêlacanth (all sêe-). For the hissing sound to remain before a back vowel, a cedilla is used in Bàrça (cf. Barcelôna, where no cedilla is needed), curaçào, soûpçon, façàde (this word is now often written without the cedilla, especially in AmE) and Provençàl (*Próvón-sàl). The famous rule "i before e except after c" applies only to the ê sound (and not to èi as in vèin): cêiling, decêit, recêive, recêipt (-êet). And then, not only after c, as it happens: sêize, wêir, wêird, Nêil, Kêith and Shêila. Compare vèil, vèin, fèint pretend (= fâint swoon), dèign condescend (= Dâne Denmark), rèign queen (= râin wet), and also théir they (= thére here).

Quite often, especially at the beginning of a word, sc is used for the hissing sound before front vowels: scêne, scîence, scént, scíssors, scîon, scintílla, scímitar, scŷthe, sciática (*sŷáttica); but scéptic is the British spelling of AmE sképtic (cf. séptic wound).

In the suffix -ésce: acquiésce, effervésce, and pronounced z in créscent (*crézzənt).

An exceptional c is found in encephalîtis, pronounced k before e (enkéf-); otherwise c is always a hiss before e, i and y.

There are silent cs in indîct, Tûcson and Connécticut. ch most typically sounds like t plus sh – not usually like sh alone. French, German and Portuguese do not have this sound, although German writes it in foreign words as ‘tsch’. Spanish does have it, whence mácho (*mátcho: it is sometimes mispronounced ‘macko’, as if Italian). ch is common in English, which has taken French words like chàrm ('charme' in French) and modified the sound of the French ch, which has the English sh sound: chéck, choôse, chânge, Ríchard and also côach, bêach, chêek, chéss, chêer, cheŵ, escheŵ (which has a rare, separately sounded, s before it). Inside a word, there is often a superfluous t before ch: ítch, dítch, cátch, mátch, bùtcher - but never after r: tŏrch, lürch, àrch, except in names: Pàrtch person = pàrch tongue. And Tchaîkovsky has the T initially.

This sound is spelt Cz, however, in Czéch Republic (= chéck determine = BrE chéque cash) and Czechoslovákia.

In some words more recently taken from French, ch sounds exactly like sh in shê: machìne, nìche, pastìche, BrE moustàche, AmE moústáche, párachute, créche, Chicàgo and nónchalant, in which AmE French-style silences the t: *nonshalàn.

In other words, mostly from Greek, ch is pronounced k: chord, chémist, psŷchê, dichótomy, schême, àrchive, synécdochê, schoôner, and Mîchael, which rhymes with cŷcle. In various Celtic words ch can sound like the Arabic kh, e.g. lóch, Dócherty - but many non-Celts simply make the k sound here. And in the variant spelling Dóherty, the h sounds like itself alone - or like kh or k. The same sound occurs in initial position in the Hebrew/Yiddish word chùtzpah, where many English-speakers pronounce it as h.

Åuchinleck in Scotland is pronounced *Áffleck.

In yacht, ch is silent: *yót.

ci before a vowel can have the sh sound: atrôcious (*atrôshəss), précious (*préshəss), magícian (*məjíshən), Confûcius (*Kənfyoôshəss) - but never the zh sound, which is restricted to si: confûsion (*cənfyûzhən).

In the musical term acciacatûra, from Italian, cci is pronounced with the ch sound.

Double c has the k sound before back vowels (but for this, ck is far more common medially and finally): accŏrd, tobácco, accommodâtion, áccolâde, sóccer.

cc has the x sound before i and e: áccent, accépt, áccident, fláccid, áccess, succêed, succéss, succínct, váccine, Óccitan. Åltrincham is pronounced as if spelt *Åltringham.

The second c in concërto/concérto is most often pronounced as sh, though it may also have the original Italian pronunciation, ch.

c begins consonant clusters: accépt (x sound, while accŏrd has no cluster, only the k sound), acknówledge, táckle, clûe, ácmê, ácnê, acquîre, cróss, áct.

Mc- and Mac-, etc.

In names beginning Mc- and Mac- before another c, k or g, the c is silent, while the sometimes invisible a is in most cases pronounced with the schwa sound. It is as if the c itself were being pronounced schwa: McGóugh (*MəGóff), McCúrry, McCŏrmack, McKénzie = Mackénzie. This is sometimes the case before W: McWhínney *MəWhínney.

Either Mác or Mc can be stressed in a smaller number of names: MácIlvoy, McEnroe. In the latter the stressed syllable is an invisible á: *Máckənrô.

The c is always hard, even when not followed by a capital or k: McIntosh = MácIntosh = Máckintosh. When capitalising, the c is best kept small: McINTOSH.

nc has the ng sound of the n in úncle and accidentally in páncake. In Åltrincham, the c itself is not pronounced, merely modifying the n, as if the spelling were *Åltringham.

Final c is rare, except for the suffix -ic: plástic, jurássic, elástic, chrónic (k-) mánic; and Éric, chìc (sh-), Cádillac, Póntiac, Potômac and in abbreviations: tálc, mác. But *téc is téch.

To keep the c hard and prevent it becoming a hiss, a k is added to -ic before -ing and -ed: frólicking, pánicking, políticking, tráfficked.

But ck is much more common in monosyllables: síck, thíck, píck, wíck, críck, báck, déck, sóck, lúck, and as in jácket, crícket, píckle, níckel, pécker, lúcky.

After two vowel letters, k alone is always used: toòk, spoôk, sêek, roòk, wêek, lêak liquid = lêek vegetable, wêek, spêak, breâk, shrìêk.

Use in Turkish

In Turkish, c is pronounced like an English j (IPA [dʒ]), and ç like an English ch ([tʃ]).

Scientific uses

  • C is the symbol for the chemical element carbon.
  • c: speed of light in vacuum

Computer character encoding

In Unicode the capital C is codepoint U+0043 and the lowercase c is U+0063.

The ASCII code for capital C is 67 and for lowercase c is 99; or in binary 01000011 and 01100011, respectively.

The EBCDIC code for capital C is 195 for lowercase c is 131.

The numeric character references in HTML and XML are "C" and "c" for upper and lower case respectively.