K

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K (play /ˈk/; named kay)[1] is the eleventh letter of the English and basic modern Latin alphabet.

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History and usage

In the English language, K usually represents the voiceless velar plosive; this sound is also represented by /k/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet and X-SAMPA.

The letter K comes from the Greek letter K (kappa), which was taken from the Semitic kap, the symbol for an open hand.[2] This in turn was likely adapted by Semites who had lived in Egypt from the hieroglyph for "hand" representing D in the Egyptian word for hand, d-r-t. The Semites evidently assigned it the sound value /k/ instead, because their word for hand started with that sound.[3] In modern-day English slang, the word "k" is used as a substitute for the abbreviation "O.K.", or "Okay." In International Morse code it is used to mean "over".[4]

In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the sounds /k/ and /g/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, Q was used to represent /k/ or /g/ before a rounded vowel, K before /a/, and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q. K survived only in a few fossilized forms such as Kalendae, "the calends".[5]

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