Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What was the last letter added to the alphabet?

March 14, 2013

Nope, it’s not Z! It is no coincidence that I and J stand side-by-side—for centuries they were considered the same character! The letter J started as a swash, a typographical embellishment for the already existing I used to denote the conclusion of a series of ones—as in “Henry viij” for Henry the Eighth. Both I and J were used interchangeably to express the sound of both the vowel and the consonant until 1524 when Renaissance grammarian Gian Giorgio Trissino argued for poor J’s autonomy in his “Ɛpistola del Trissino de le lettere nuωvamente aggiunte ne la lingua italiana” (“Trissino’s epistle about the letters recently added in the Italian language”). After being snubbed for nearly three more centuries, J was finally acknowledged as a full-fledged letter in the nineteenth-century, making it the baby of the English alphabet.

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3 Comments

  • Reply ERVIN G ROORDA October 30, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    The Super Quiz by Ken Fisher published in today’s SEATTLE TIMES says that the last two letters added to our alphabet were “I” and “V.” Do you agree?

  • Reply Wendy September 12, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Well, not really… I have just visited the Greek alphabet AND Latin/Roman alphabet wikipedia pages and as far as one can trust easily edited information, shows that the Latin alphabet ended at 24 letters. Missing were “J” and “U”.

  • Reply Beau April 19, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    How could you have a double u (w) without a u?

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