F

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F (play /ˈɛf/; named ef, as a verb eff)[1] is the sixth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.

Contents

History

The origin of ‹f› is the Semitic letter vâv that represented the /v/, and originally probably represented either a hook or a club. It may have been based on a comparable Egyptian hieroglyph, such as that for the word mace:

F the Phoenician form of the letter was adopted into Greek as a vowel, upsilon (which resembled its descendant, ‹Y›, but was also ancestor to Roman letters ‹U›, ‹V›, and ‹W›); and with another form, as a consonant, digamma, which resembled ‹F›, but indicated the pronunciation /w/, as in Phoenician. (Later on, /w/ disappeared from Greek, resulting in digamma being used as a numeral only.)

In Etruscan, ‹F› also represented /w/; however, they formed the digraph ‹FH› to represent /f/; when the Romans adopted the letter, they had already borrowed ‹U› from Greek upsilon to stand for /w/. At this time, the Greek letter phi ‹Φ› represented an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive, /pʰ/ though it has now come to approximate the sound of /f/ in Modern Greek.

The lower case ‹f› is not related to the visually similar long s, ‹ſ›. The use of the long s largely died out by the beginning of the 19th century, mostly to prevent confusion with ‹f›.

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