I i
Writing systemLatin script
Language of originLatin language
Phonetic usage

(English variations)
Unicode codepointU+0049, U+0069
Alphabetical position9
Time period~-700 to present
Descendants • Î
 • J
 • Ɉ
 • İ ı
 • Tittle



Other letters commonly used withi(x), ij, i(x)(y)
Writing directionLeft-to-Right

I, or i, is the ninth letter and the third vowel letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. Its name in English is i (pronounced /ˈaɪ/), plural ies.


In English, the name of the letter is the "long I" sound, pronounced /ˈaɪ/. In most other languages, its name matches the letter's pronunciation in open syllables.

Pronunciation of the name of the letter ⟨i⟩ in European languages


Egyptian hieroglyph ꜥ Phoenician
Western Greek
Egyptian Hieroglyph describing an arm Latin I

In the Phoenician alphabet, the letter may have originated in a hieroglyph for an arm that represented a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/) in Egyptian, but was reassigned to /j/ (as in English "yes") by Semites, because their word for "arm" began with that sound. This letter could also be used to represent /i/, the close front unrounded vowel, mainly in foreign words.

The Greeks adopted a form of this Phoenician yodh as their letter iota (⟨Ι, ι⟩) to represent /i/, the same as in the Old Italic alphabet. In Latin (as in Modern Greek), it was also used to represent /j/ and this use persists in the languages that descended from Latin. The modern letter 'j' originated as a variation of 'i', and both were used interchangeably for both the vowel and the consonant, coming to be differentiated only in the 16th century.

Typographic variants

In some sans serif typefaces, the uppercase ⟨I⟩ may be difficult to distinguish from the lowercase letter L, 'l', the vertical bar character '|', or the digit one '1'. In serifed typefaces, the capital form of the letter has both a baseline and a cap height serif, while the lowercase L generally has a hooked ascender and a baseline serif.

The dot over the lowercase 'i' is sometimes called a tittle. The uppercase I does not have a dot while the lowercase i does in most Latin-derived alphabets. The dot can be considered optional, and is usually removed when applying other diacritics. However, some schemes, such as the Turkish alphabet, have two kinds of I: dotted and dotless. In Turkish, dotted İ and dotless I are considered separate letters, representing a front and back vowel, respectively, and both have uppercase ('I', 'İ') and lowercase ('ı', 'i') forms.

The uppercase I has two kinds of shapes, with serifs () and without serifs (). Usually these are considered equivalent, but they are distinguished in some extended Latin alphabet systems, such as the 1978 version of the African reference alphabet. In that system, the former is the uppercase counterpart of ɪ and the latter is the counterpart of 'i'.

Use in writing systems

Pronunciation of ⟨i⟩ by language
Orthography Phonemes
Standard Chinese (Pinyin) /i/
English /ɪ/, /aɪ/, /ə/, /ɜː/, /aɪə/, /j/
Esperanto /i/
French /i/, /j/
German /ɪ/, //, /i/
Italian /i/, //, /j/
Kurmanji (Hawar) /ɪ/
Portuguese /i/, /j/
Spanish /i/, /ʝ/
Turkish /ɯ/ for dotless ⟨I, ı⟩
/i/ for dotted ⟨İ, i⟩


In Modern English spelling, ⟨i⟩ represents several different sounds, either the diphthong /aɪ/ ("long" ⟨i⟩) as in kite, the short /ɪ/ as in bill, or the ⟨ee⟩ sound /iː/ in the last syllable of machine. The diphthong /aɪ/ developed from Middle English /iː/ through a series of vowel shifts. In the Great Vowel Shift, Middle English /iː/ changed to Early Modern English /ei/, which later changed to /əi/ and finally to the Modern English diphthong /aɪ/ in General American and Received Pronunciation. Because the diphthong /aɪ/ developed from a Middle English long vowel, it is called "long" ⟨i⟩ in traditional English grammar.

The letter ⟨i⟩ is the fifth most common letter in the English language.

The English first-person singular nominative pronoun is "I", pronounced /aɪ/ and always written with a capital letter. This pattern arose for basically the same reason that lowercase ⟨i⟩ acquired a dot: so it wouldn't get lost in manuscripts before the age of printing:

The capitalized "I" first showed up about 1250 in the northern and midland dialects of England, according to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology.

Chambers notes, however, that the capitalized form didn't become established in the south of England "until the 1700s (although it appears sporadically before that time).

Capitalizing the pronoun, Chambers explains, made it more distinct, thus "avoiding misreading handwritten manuscripts."

Other languages

In many languages' orthographies, ⟨i⟩ is used to represent the sound /i/ or, more rarely, /ɪ/.

Other systems

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, ⟨i⟩ represents the close front unrounded vowel. The small caps ⟨ɪ⟩ represents the near-close near-front unrounded vowel.

Other uses

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Other representations


Character information
Preview I i ı
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 73 U+0049 105 U+0069 305 U+0131 65321 U+FF29 65353 U+FF49
UTF-8 73 49 105 69 196 177 C4 B1 239 188 169 EF BC A9 239 189 137 EF BD 89
Numeric character reference I I i i ı ı I I i i
Named character reference ı, ı
EBCDIC family 201 C9 137 89
ASCII1 73 49 105 69
ISO 8859-3 73 49 105 69 185 B9
ISO 8859-9 73 49 105 69 253 FD
1Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.


NATO phonetic Morse code

Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) British manual alphabet (BSL fingerspelling) Braille dots-24
Unified English Braille

See also


  1. ^ Brown & Kiddle (1870) The institutes of English grammar, p. 19.
    Ies is the plural of the English name of the letter; the plural of the letter itself is rendered I's, Is, i's, or is.
  2. ^ Calvert, J. B. (8 August 1999). "The Latin Alphabet". University of Denver. Archived from the original on Sep 21, 2022.
  3. ^ "Frequency Table". Cornell University. Archived from the original on Jun 17, 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  4. ^ O'Conner, Patricia T.; Kellerman, Stewart (2011-08-10). "Is capitalizing "I" an ego thing?". Grammarphobia. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  5. ^ Gordon, Arthur E. (1983). Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy. University of California Press. pp. 44. ISBN 9780520038981. Retrieved 3 October 2015. roman numerals.
  6. ^ King, David A. (2001). The Ciphers of the Monks. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 282. ISBN 9783515076401. In the course of time, I, V and X became identical with three letters of the alphabet; originally, however, they bore no relation to these letters.
  7. ^ Svetunkov, Sergey (2012-12-14). Complex-Valued Modeling in Economics and Finance. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461458760.
  8. ^ Boyd, Stephen; Vandenberghe, Lieven (2018). Introduction to Applied Linear Algebra: Vectors, Matrices, and Least Squares. Cambridge University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-108-56961-3.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.
  10. ^ Everson, Michael; et al. (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.
  11. ^ Miller, Kirk (2020-07-11). "L2/20-125R: Unicode request for expected IPA retroflex letters and similar letters with hooks" (PDF).
  12. ^ Anderson, Deborah (2020-12-07). "L2/21-021: Reference doc numbers for L2/20-266R "Consolidated code chart of proposed phonetic characters" and IPA etc. code point and name changes" (PDF).
  13. ^ Cruz, Frank da (2000-03-31). "L2/00-159: Supplemental Terminal Graphics for Unicode". Unicode.
  14. ^ Suignard, Michel (2017-05-09). "L2/17-076R2: Revised proposal for the encoding of an Egyptological YOD and Ugaritic characters" (PDF). Unicode.

External links

Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article "I".