This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see Q (disambiguation).
Writing cursive forms of Q

Q (named cue /ˈkjuː/[1]) is the 17th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is a consonant, not a vowel.


Egyptian hieroglyph

The Semitic sound value of Qôp (perhaps originally qaw, "cord of wool", and possibly based on an Egyptian hieroglyph) was /q/ (voiceless uvular stop), a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in English or most Indo-European ones. In Greek, this sign as Qoppa Ϙ probably came to represent several labialized velar stops, among them /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/. As a result of later sound shifts, these sounds in Greek changed to /p/ and /pʰ/ respectively. Therefore, Qoppa was transformed into two letters: Qoppa, which stood for a number only, and Phi Φ which stood for the aspirated sound /pʰ/ that came to be pronounced /f/ in Modern Greek.

In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the two sounds /k/ and /ɡ/, which were not differentiated in writing. Of these, Q was used before a rounded vowel (e.g. EQO 'ego'), K before /a/, and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q: Q survived only to represent /k/ when immediately followed by a /w/ sound.[2] The Etruscans used Q in conjunction with V to represent /kʷ/.

Use in writing systems


In English, the digraph qu most often denotes the cluster /kw/; however, in borrowings from French, it represents /k/, as in 'plaque'. See the list of English words containing Q not followed by U. q is the second least frequent letter in the English language, with a frequency of just 0.10% in words. Only z occurs less often.

Other languages

In most European languages written in the Latin script, such as in Romance and Germanic languages, q appears almost exclusively in the digraph qu. Notable exceptions to this are Albanian, in which q represents the voiceless palatal stop [c], and Maltese and Võro, which use it to represent the glottal stop [ʔ]. In French, Occitan, Catalan and Portuguese, qu represents /k/ or /kw/; in Spanish, it represents /k/. qu replaces c for /k/ before front vowels i and e, since in those languages c represents a fricative or affricate before front vowels. In Italian qu represents [kw] (where [w] is the semivowel allophone of /u/).

It is not considered to be part of the Bosnian, Croatian, Estonian, Icelandic, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Scottish Gaelic, Slovenian, Turkish, or Welsh alphabet.

q has a wide variety of pronunciations among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet. It has the value /q/ in Aymara, Crimean Tatar, Greenlandic, Quechua, Uyghur and Uzbek. In Azerbaijani, q stands for a voiced velar stop [ɡ]. In Chinese Hanyu Pinyin, q is used to represent the sound [tɕʰ], which is close to English ch in "cheese", but pronounced further toward the front of the mouth. q in Fijian has the value of a prenasalized voiced velar stop [ŋɡ]. In Kiowa, q represents a glottalized velar stop [kʼ]. In Xhosa and Zulu, q is used for the postalveolar click [kǃ]. In transliteration of Classical Mongolian, q represents a voiceless velar fricative [x].

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses q for the voiceless uvular stop.

Other uses

The Roman numeral Q is sometimes used to represent the number 500,000.[3]

Forms and variants

A comparison of the glyphs of q and g.

The lowercase Q (q) is usually seen as a lowercase O with a descender (i.e., downward vertical tail) extending from the right side of the bowl, with or without a swash (i.e., flourish), even a reversed lowercase p. The lowercase Q's descender is usually typed without a swash due to the major style difference typically seen between the descenders of the lowercase G (a loop) and lowercase Q (vertical). The descender of the lowercase Q is sometimes handwritten finishing with a rightward swash to distinguish from the leftward facing curved descender on the lowercase G or the number 9.

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Computing codes

Character Q q
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 81 U+0051 113 U+0071
UTF-8 81 51 113 71
Numeric character reference Q Q q q
EBCDIC family 216 D8 152 98
ASCII 1 81 51 113 71
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

See also


  1. "Q" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "que," op. cit.
  2. Sihler, Andrew L. (1995), New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (illustrated ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, p. 21, ISBN 0-19-508345-8
  3. Gordon, Arthur E. (1983). Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy. University of California Press. p. 44. ISBN 9780520038981. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
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