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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 Arabic numeral three (3), which is sometimes substituted for the character in online reference works. 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 orthography).

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 dental fricative [ð], as in ⟨ȝoȝo⟩, now written ⟨dhodho⟩, pronounced [ðoðo].


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

Old EnglishEdit

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 Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England by the Hiberno-Scottish mission. It only came to be used as a letter distinct from g in the Middle English period.

Middle EnglishEdit

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 The Tale of Melibee, Geoffrey 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) (from Scottish Gaelic MacCoinnich), originally pronounced [məˈkɛŋjiː],[7] shows where yogh became zed. Menzies Campbell is another example.

After the development of printingEdit

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 yogh glyph can be found in surnames that start with a Y in Scotland and Ireland; for example the surname Yeoman, which would have been spelled Ȝeman. Sometimes, the yogh would be replaced by the letter z, because the shape of the yogh was identical to some forms of 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 yoghEdit

These are examples of Middle English words that contain the letter yogh in their spellings.[8]

Scots words with ⟨z⟩ for ⟨ȝEdit



  • Dalziel — pronounced deeyel (IPA /dˈɛl/), from Gaelic Dail-gheal; also spelled Dalyell and Dalzell;
  • Gilzean — pronounced gilain, a variant of Maclean;
  • MacKenzie — now pronounced as written, though as late as 1946 George Black recorded the original form pronounced makenyie (IPA /məˈkɛŋji/), from the Gaelic MacCoinnich as standard;[12]
  • Menzies — most correctly pronounced mingis (IPA /ˈmɪŋɪs/), a variant of Manners,[13] now controversially also pronounced with /z/;
  • Winzet — pronounced winyet (IPA /ˈwɪnjət/);

Miscellaneous nounsEdit

In EgyptologyEdit

A Unicode-based transliteration system adopted by the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale[14] suggested the use of the yogh ȝ character as the transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian "aleph" glyph:


The symbol actually used in Egyptology is  , 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. ^ a b "Z", SND, UK: DSL, archived from the original on April 4, 2012 .
  2. ^ "yogh". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) .
  4. ^ a b DOST: A History of Scots to 1700, UK: DSL .
  5. ^ Crystal, David (2004-09-09). The Stories of English. New York: Overlook Press. p. 197. ISBN 1-58567-601-2. 
  6. ^ Kniezsa, V (1997), Jones, C, ed., The Edinburgh history of the Scots language, Edinburgh University Press, p. 38 .
  7. ^ SND:Z Archived April 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ OED online .
  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 
  10. ^ Piers Plowman, Wikisource .
  11. ^ Corriemulzie Estate
  12. ^ Black, George (1946), The Surnames of Scotland, p. 525 .
  13. ^ Hanks, P (2003), Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press .
  14. ^ "Polices de caractères". Institut français d’archéologie orientale - Le Caire (in French). Retrieved 13 September 2014. 

External linksEdit

  • Everson, Michael, "On the derivation of Yogh and Ezh", Standards (essay), Evertype 
  • "On the use of the letter in former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell's first name", News, UK: The BBC, 2006-01-10 .