Z (letter)

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Z, z is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the twenty-sixth and last letter of most variants, being placed after Y, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈzed] in British English and [ˈziː] in American, and these are sometimes spelt zed and zee.

A lower case z is the symbol for redshift.

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

z, called zéd in British English and zêe in American, represents a buzzing sound more usually encountered as final s in words like hís, stŏries, dógs, hánds, líves, lîves: zíp, zôo, Azerbaijàn, quíz, púzzle, hâzy.

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

It is often doubled, especially at the end of monosyllables: fízz, búzz, whízz, jázz, fúzz and thus before certain endings: fízzle, dázzle, nózzle, embézzle, búzzer, búzzing, whízzed, jázzy, fúzzy.

There is no clear rule about doubling it: it is always doubled before -er as in búzzer, and also in búzzard and blízzard, but not in házard, lízard or wízard.

Winston Churchill used the simple z sound in Nàzi, presumably to show contempt for the German language; in English it is usually pronounced *nàhtsêe (*nàtsy, cf. BrE nàsty), the preceding t sound making z unvoiced, a hiss; this is heard in other words from German such as quårtz (*kwŏrts) and Kátz person (= cáts animals), while in wåltz (*wålse) the t is often silent.

This -ts- is also the sound of zz in words from Italian: pìzza (*pêetsə), piázza (*piátsə), paparázzi (*paparátsy), pizzicàto (*pitsicàto). And of the single z in (sk-) schízo-: schízoid, schizophrênia (*skitsəfrênia).

In ázure, z can sound like z plus semi-consonantal y plus û, but more often is heard with the zh sound, which is actually written as such in foreign (especially Russian) words: Solzhenítsyn, Brézhnev, but more often is shown as s before i or u: vísion, lêsion, pléasure, méasure, Âsian.

At the end of a word with silent e, s is more common: nôse, nŏise, clôse shut, phâse, plêase (cf. crêase, grêase, which have the hissing s sound).

But: frêeze, frôze, mâze, dâze, crâze, glâze, dòze sleep (cf. dôse quantity, unvoiced s).

Most words ending in -îse can also be spelt -îze (and are always so spelt in AmE): émphasise or émphasize; but -îze is never found in advîse, ádvertise, comprîse, cómpromise, despîse, éxercise, surmîse, or surprîse—though Jane Austen spells it *surprîze.

z does not begin clusters; s is used instead, as in mesméric mézm-.

There are redundant French z's in lâissèz-fãire (*lây-sây-fãir) and rendezvous (*róndâyvoô).

In some Scottish words z is pronounced as y: tâilzie, capercâilzie; this y sound in turn is sometimes slurred out of existence: *tâil(y)ee, *cápper-câil(y)ee. More regular pronunciations also exist (and, in the case of capercâillie, spelling).

In BrE, z may be pronounced as unvoiced th in Spanish words such as Ibìza, to mimic Castilian Spanish pronunciation, instead of an s or z sound.

Brazíl has a z, but Brasília, a much later coinage and hence import, has an s; both have s in the original Portuguese and the z sound in both languages. (This is a good example of how more recent imports to English are much less likely to change their spelling from the original.)

There is an irregular z in the Czéch of Czéch Repúblic:[1] Czéch is pronounced like chéck verify and chéque money.

Scientific uses

  • Z: impedance
  • z: generic symbol for a complex number
  1. This comes from the Polish spelling.