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Capital yogh (left), lowercase yogh (right)

The letter yogh (Ȝ ȝ; Middle English: yoȝ) was used in Middle English and Older Scots, representing y (/j/) and various velar phonemes. It was derived from the Old English 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.

Yogh is shaped similarly to the Hindu-Arabic numeral three (3), which is sometimes substituted for the character in online reference works. (Coincidentally, the Arabic letter Ayin (ع), representing an unvoiced pharyngeal fricative, resembles a mirror-image "3".) 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 (Ȝ, ȝ) are represented in Unicode by code points U+021C Ȝ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER YOGH (HTML Ȝ) and U+021D ȝ LATIN SMALL LETTER YOGH (HTML ȝ) respectively.


In Modern English, Yogh is pronounced either UK /ˈjɒɡ/, /ˈjɒx/, with a short o,[2] or US /ˈjɡ/, /ˈjk/, /ˈjx/, with a long o.[3] It stood for /ɡ/ and its various allophones—including [ɡ] and the voiced velar fricative [ɣ]—as well as the phoneme /j/ (⟨y⟩ in modern English spelling).

In Middle English, it also stood for the phoneme /x/ and its allophone [ç] as in ⟨niȝt⟩ ("night", then pronounced as spelled: [niçt]). Sometimes, yogh stood for /j/ or /w/, as in the word ⟨ȝoȝelinge[ˈjowəlɪŋɡə], "yowling".

In Middle Scots, it represented the sound /j/ in the clusters /lj/, /ŋj/ and /nj/ written lȝ and nȝ.[4] Yogh was also used for /j/ rather than y.

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


Yogh used for /x/: God spede þe plouȝ: & sende us kǫrne inolk.

Old English

The original Germanic g sound was expressed by the Gyfu rune in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc (which is itself rendered as ȝ 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 either ȝear or gear, even though the word had never had a g sound (deriving from Proto-Germanic *jērą).

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

In the Old English period, the ȝ glyph was simply the way Latin g was written in the Uncial script introduced at the Christianization of England by the Irish missionaries. It only came to be used as a letter distinct from g in the Middle English period.

Middle English

Norman scribes despised non-Latin characters and certain spellings in English and therefore replaced the yogh with the digraph gh; 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 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., [ɡ] instead of [dʒ]); ghoul is Arabic, in which the gh was /ɣ/.

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 /ɣ/.[5]

In Melibeus, Chaucer wrote, "Ȝe haue cast alle here wordes in an hochepoche."

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


In words of French and Gaelic origin, the Early Scots palatal consonant /ɲ/ had become /nj/ or in some cases /ŋj/, and the palatal consonant /ʎ/ had become /lj/ by the Middle Scots period.[4] Those were variously written nȝ(h)e, ngȝe, ny(h)e or ny(i)e, and lȝ(h)e, ly(i)e or lyhe. By the Modern Scots period the yogh had been replaced by the character z, in particular for /ŋj/, /nj/ (nȝ) and /lj/ (lȝ), written nz and lz. The original /hj/ and /çj/ developed into /ʃ(j)/ in some words such as Ȝetland or Zetland for Shetland.[1] Yogh was also used to represent /j/ in words such as ȝe, ȝhistirday (yesterday) and ȝoung but by the Modern Scots period y had replaced yogh.[6] The pronunciation of MacKenzie (and its variant spellings), originally pronounced [məˈkɛŋjiː],[7] shows where yogh became zed. 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 glyph yogh can be found in surnames that start with Y in Scotland and Ireland, such as the surname Yeoman and sometimes letter z, spelled Ȝeman, because the shape of the yogh was identical to some forms of the handwritten z.

In Unicode 1.0 the character yogh was mistakenly unified with the quite different character Ezh (Ʒ ʒ), 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 which contain the letter yogh in their spellings. [8]

Scots words with ⟨z⟩ for ⟨ȝ

  • Bunzion — pronounced bunion, Lower and Upper Bunzion are farms in the Parish of Cults, Fife;
  • Cadzow, the former name of the town of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; the word Cadzow continues in modern use in many street names and other names, e.g. Cadzow Castle, Kilncadzow.
  • Capercailzie (from capall-coille, now normally spelt capercaillie in English);
  • Culzeanculain (IPA /kʌˈleɪn/)'
  • Dalziel — pronounced deeyel (IPA /diːˈɛl/), from Gaelic Dail-gheal; also spelled Dalyell and Dalzell;
  • Drumelzier — pronounced "drumellier" (IPA /drʌˈmɛljɛr/);
  • Finzean — pronounced fingen (IPA /ˈfɪŋən/);
  • Funzie Girt (IPA /ˈfɪnji ɡɪrt/);
  • Gaberlunzie, a licensed beggar;
  • Gilzean - pronounced gilain, a variant of Maclean
  • Glenzier — pronounced glinger (IPA /ˈɡlɪŋər/);
  • Lenzie — now pronounced /ˈlɛnzɪ/, but previously /lɛnjɪ/ – a village near Glasgow;
  • MacKenzie — originally pronounced makenyie (IPA /məˈkɛŋji/), from Gaelic MacCoinnich; now usually pronounced with /z/, though as late as 1946 George Black recorded the form with /j/ as standard;[11]
  • Menzies — most correctly pronounced mingis (IPA /ˈmɪŋɪs/), a variant of Manners,[12] now controversially also pronounced with /z/;
  • Monzie - location in Perthshire near Crieff, pronounced "money";
  • Queenzieburn - location in North Lanarkshire, pronounced "queenieburn";
  • Ruchazie — a district of Glasgow;
  • Tuilzie — a fight;
  • Winzet — pronounced winyet (IPA /ˈwɪnjət/);
  • Zell — Archaic spelling of "Isle of Yell"'
  • Zetland — the name for Shetland until the 1970s. Shetland postcodes begin with the letters ZE.

In Egyptology

A Unicode-based transliteration system adopted by the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale[13] suggested the use of the yogh ȝ 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 Ꜣ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF, lowercase U+A723 ꜣ LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF); a fallback is the numeral 3.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Z", SND, UK: DSL<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  2. "yogh". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  4. 4.0 4.1 DOST: A History of Scots to 1700, UK: DSL<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  5. Crystal, David (2004-09-09). The Stories of English. New York: Overlook Press. p. 197. ISBN 1-58567-601-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kniezsa, V (1997), Jones, C, ed., The Edinburgh history of the Scots language, Edinburgh University Press, p. 38<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  7. SND:Z
  8. OED online<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  9. "English gilds: the original ordinances of more than one hundred early English gilds", Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, University of Michigan, retrieved 2011-06-23<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Piers Plowman, Wikisource<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  11. Black, George (1946), The Surnames of Scotland, p. 525<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  12. Hanks, P (2003), Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  13. "Polices de caractères". Institut français d’archéologie orientale - Le Caire (in French). Retrieved 13 September 2014. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Everson, Michael, "On the derivation of Yogh and Ezh", Standards (essay), Evertype<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "On the use of the letter in former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell's first name", News, UK: The BBC, 2006-01-10<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.