"C" comes from the same letter as "G". The Semites named it gimel. The sign is possibly adapted from an Egyptian hieroglyph for a staff sling, which may have been the meaning of the name gimel. Another possibility is that it depicted a camel, the Semitic name for which was gamal. Barry B. Powell, a specialist in the history of writing, states "It is hard to imagine how gimel = "camel" can be derived from the picture of a camel it may show his hump, or his head and neck!".
In the Etruscan language, plosive consonants had no contrastive voicing, so the Greek Γ Gamma was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet to represent /k/. Already in the Western Greek alphabet, Gamma first took a form in Early Etruscan, then in Classical Etruscan. In Latin it eventually took the c form in Classical Latin. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters c k q were used to represent the sounds /k/ and /ɡ/ which were not differentiated in writing. Of these, q was used to represent /k/ or /ɡ/ before a rounded vowel, k before a, and c elsewhere. During the 3rd century BC, a modified character was introduced for /ɡ, and c itself was retained for /k/. The use of c and its variant g replaced most usages of k and q. Hence, in the classical period and after, g was treated as the equivalent of Greek gamma, and c as the equivalent of kappa; this shows in the romanization of Greek words, as in ΚΑΔΜΟΣ, ΚΥΡΟΣ, and ΦΩΚΙΣ came into Latin as cadmvs, cyrvs and phocis, respectively.
Other alphabets have letters homoglyphic to c but not analogous in use and derivation, like the Cyrillic letter Es С, с which derives from the lunate sigma, named due to its resemblance to the crescent moon.
1. Later use
When the Roman alphabet was introduced into Britain, ⟨c⟩ represented only /k, and this value of the letter has been retained in loanwords to all the insular Celtic languages: in Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, ⟨c⟩ represents only /k/. The Old English Latin-based writing system was learned from the Celts, apparently of Ireland; hence ⟨c⟩ in Old English also originally represented /k/ ; the Modern English words kin, break, broken, thick, and seek, all come from Old English words written with ⟨c⟩: cyn, brecan, brocen, þicc, and seoc. But during the course of the Old English period, /k/ before front vowels /e/ and /i/ were palatalized, having changed by the tenth century to, to which Old English palatalized /k/ had advanced, also occurred in French, chiefly from Latin /k/ before a. In French it was represented by the digraph ⟨ch⟩, as in champ from Latin camp-um and this spelling was introduced into English: the Hatton Gospels, written about 1160, have in Matt. i-iii, child, chyld, riche, mychel, for the cild, rice, mycel, of the Old English version whence they were copied. In these cases, the Old English ⟨c⟩ gave place to ⟨k qu ch⟩ but, on the other hand, ⟨c⟩ in its new value of /ts/ came in largely in French words like processiun, emperice, grace, and was also substituted for ts in a few Old English words, as miltse, bletsien, in early Middle English milce, blecien. By the end of the thirteenth century both in France and England, this sound /ts/ de-affricated to /s/ ; and from that time ⟨c⟩ has represented /s/ before front vowels either for etymological reasons, as in lance, cent, or to avoid the ambiguity due to the "etymological" use of ⟨s⟩ for /z, as in ace, mice, once, pence, defence.
Thus, to show etymology, English spelling has advise, devise instead of advize, devize, while advice, device, dice, ice, mice, twice, etc., do not reflect etymology; example has extended this to hence, pence, defence, etc., where there is no etymological reason for using ⟨c⟩. Former generations also wrote sence for sense. Hence, today the Romance languages and English have a common feature inherited from Vulgar Latin spelling conventions where ⟨c⟩ takes on either a "hard" or "soft" value depending on the following letter.
2.1. Use in writing systems English
In English orthography, ⟨c⟩ generally represents the "soft" value of before the letters ⟨e⟩ including the Latin-derived digraphs ⟨ae⟩ and ⟨oe⟩, or the corresponding ligatures ⟨æ⟩ and ⟨oe⟩, ⟨i⟩, and ⟨y⟩, and a "hard" value of before any other letters or at the end of a word. However, there are a number of exceptions in English: "soccer" and "Celt" are words that have where would be expected.
The "soft" ⟨c⟩ may represent the sound in the digraph ⟨ci⟩ when this precedes a vowel, as in the words delicious and appreciate, and also in the word "ocean" and its derivatives.
The digraph ⟨ch⟩ most commonly represents, but can also represent mainly in words of Greek origin or mainly in words of French origin. For some dialects of English, it may also represent in words like loch, while other speakers pronounce the final sound as. The trigraph ⟨tch⟩ always represents.
The digraph ⟨ck⟩ is often used to represent the sound after short vowels, like "wicket".
C is the eleventh least frequently used letter in the English language after G, Y, P, B, V, K, J, X, Q, and Z, with a frequency of about 2.20% in words.
2.2. Use in writing systems Other languages
In the Romance languages French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, ⟨c⟩ generally has a "hard" value of /k/ and a "soft" value whose pronunciation varies by language. In French, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish from Latin America and southern Spain, the soft ⟨c⟩ value is /s/ as it is in English. In the Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain, the soft ⟨c⟩ is a voiceless dental fricative /θ/. In Italian and Romanian, the soft ⟨c⟩ is.
All Balto-Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, as well as Albanian, Hungarian, Pashto, several Sami languages, Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, and Americanist phonetic notation and those aboriginal languages of North America whose practical orthography derives from it use ⟨c⟩ to represent /t͡s, the voiceless alveolar or voiceless dental sibilant affricate. In Hanyu Pinyin, the standard romanization of Mandarin Chinese, the letter represents an aspirated version of this sound, /t͡sʰ/.
Among non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet, ⟨c⟩ represents a variety of sounds. Yupik, Indonesian, Malay, and a number of African languages such as Hausa, Fula, and Manding share the soft Italian value of /t͡ʃ/. In Azeri, Crimean Tatar, Kurmanji Kurdish, and Turkish ⟨c⟩ stands for the voiced counterpart of this sound, the voiced postalveolar affricate /d͡ʒ/. In Yabem and similar languages, such as Bukawa, ⟨c⟩ stands for a glottal stop /ʔ/. Xhosa and Zulu use this letter to represent the click /ǀ/. In some other African languages, such as Berber languages, ⟨c⟩ is used for /ʃ/. In Fijian, ⟨c⟩ stands for a voiced dental fricative /d, while in Somali it has the value of /ʕ/.
The letter ⟨c⟩ is also used as a transliteration of Cyrillic ⟨ц⟩ in the Latin forms of Serbian, Macedonian, and sometimes Ukrainian, along with the digraph ⟨ts⟩.
2.3. Use in writing systems Other systems
As a phonetic symbol, lowercase ⟨ c ⟩ is the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA and X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal plosive, and capital ⟨C⟩ is the X-SAMPA symbol for the voiceless palatal fricative.
2.4. Use in writing systems Digraphs
There are several common digraphs with ⟨c⟩, the most common being ⟨ch⟩, which in some languages such as German is far more common than ⟨c⟩ alone. ⟨ch⟩ takes various values in other languages.
As in English, ⟨ck⟩, with the value /k, is often used after short vowels in other Germanic languages such as German and Swedish. The digraph ⟨cz⟩ is found in Polish and ⟨cs⟩ in Hungarian, both representing /t͡ʃ/. The digraph ⟨sc⟩ represents /ʃ/ in Old English, Italian, and a few languages related to Italian where this only happens before front vowels, while otherwise it represents /sk/. The trigraph ⟨sch⟩ represents /ʃ/ in German.
3. Related characters
Ancestors, descendants and siblings
- Γ γ: Greek letter Gamma, from which C derives
- : Semitic letter Gimel, from which the following symbols originally derive
- G g: Latin letter G, which is derived from Latin C
- ʗ: stretched C
- Phonetic alphabet symbols related to C
- ɕ: Small c with curl
- ᶝ: Modifier letter small c with curl
- Ꞔ ꞔ: C with palatal hook, used for writing Mandarin Chinese using the early draft version of pinyin romanization during the mid-1950s
- ᶜ: Modifier letter small c
- ᴄ: Small capital c is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet.
Add to C with diacritics
- Ↄ ↄ: Claudian letters
- C with diacritics: c ĉ Č c ḉ ƈ C̈ c̈ ȼ ç ꞔ ꞓ
Derived ligatures, abbreviations, signs and symbols
- ℃: degree Celsius
- ℭ: blackletter C
- ℂ: double struck C
- ₠: European Currency Unit CE
- ©: copyright symbol
- ¢: cent
- ₡: colon currency
- Ꜿ ꜿ: Medieval abbreviation for Latin syllables con- and com-, Portuguese -us and -os
- ₢: Brazilian cruzeiro currency
- ₵: Ghana cedi currency