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Merriam Webster

ŒŒ (ē), a diphthong, employed in the Latin language, and thence in the English language, as the representative of the Greek diphthong oi. In many words in common use, e alone stands instead of œ. Classicists prefer to write the diphthong oe separate in Latin words.

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Œ œ
Œ œ

Œ (minuscule: œ) is a Latin alphabet grapheme, a ligature of o and e. In medieval and early modern Latin, it was used to represent the Greek diphthong οι, a usage which continues in English and French. In French, it is also used in some non-Latin words.

It is used in the modern orthography for Old West Norse and is used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the open-mid front rounded vowel. In English runology, œ is used to transliterate the Runic letter odal Runic letter othalan.svg, and so œ is sometimes called œthel or ethel (from ēðel 'estate, ancestral home').[1]



  The word onomatopoeia with the œ ligature.

In Latin, the combination denotes a diphthong, pronounced [oi̯], that had a value similar to English oi as in coil. It was used in borrowings from Greek words having the diphthong OI (ΟΙ, οι). Both classical and modern practice is to write the letters separately, but the ligature was used in medieval and early modern writings, in part because œ was reduced to a simple vowel ([e]) in late Latin.


Borrowings into English from Latin words written with œ (which in turn are often from Greek words written οι) now largely use the letter e, especially in American English. For example, fœderal has become federal in English, while diarrhœa in American English can be spelled diarrhea only. In those words that have not changed to e, the digraph oe is often used; indeed, most recent dictionaries list only the form without a ligature. In British English the spellings generally follow the traditional spellings (e.g. "diarrhœa"). However, as most modern 'English language' keyboards lack the ligatures as separate keys, the spelling is usually changed to, for example, "diarrhoea" for ease of typing.

The most common word retaining the "OE" in American English is subpoena[citation needed].

The œ, oe, or e is generally pronounced /iː/ in syllables with word stress, or /ɛ/ when unstressed.

  Other Germanic languages

Œ is used in the modern scholarly orthography of Old West Norse, representing the long vowel /øː/, contrasting with ø, which represents the short vowel /ø/.

Œ is not used in German; borrowings using oe are rendered ö, e.g. Ösophagus. A common exception are the French word Œu­v­re[2] and its compounds (e.g. Œu­v­re­ver­zeich­nis[3]).


In French, œ (called “e dans l'o”, which means e in the o (a mnemotechnic pun used first at school, sounding like (des) œufs dans l'eau, meaning eggs in the water, sometimes “o et e collé”, literally o - e glued)) is a true linguistic ligature, not just a typographic one (like the fi or fl ligatures), reflecting etymology. It is most prominent in the words mœurs ("mores", almost exclusively employed in its plural form; mœur is masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural), cœur ("heart"), sœur ("sister"), œuf ("egg"), œuvre ("work") and œil ("eye"), in which the digraph œu, like eu, represents the sound [œ] or [ø]. French also uses œ in direct borrowings from Latin and Greek. So, "cœliac" in French is cœliaque. In such cases, the œ is pronounced [e]. In some words, e.g. phénix, the œ is changed to a more French é.

When oe occurs in French without the ligature, it is pronounced /wa/, just like words spelt with oi. The most common words of this type are poêle ("stove", "frying pan") and moelleux ("soft"). If the oe is not to be pronounced thus, then a diaeresis, acute or grave accent needs to be added in order to indicate that the vowels should be pronounced separately. For example, Noël, poésie, poète. The exception to this rule is the prefix co-, which is always pronounced /ko/ in hiatus with the following vowel, e.g. coentreprise ("joint venture") or coefficient ("ratio", "coefficient") and does not require any accent on the e to make this so.

  International Phonetic Alphabet

The symbol [œ] is used in the International Phonetic Alphabet for the open-mid front rounded vowel. This sound resembles the "eu" in the French neuf or the "ö" in the German öffnen. These contrast with French feu and German schön, which have the close-mid front rounded vowel, [ø].

The small capital variant [ɶ] represents the open front rounded vowel.


For computers, when using the Unicode character set, the codes for Œ and œ are respectively U+0152 and U+0153 in hexadecimal. In ISO-8859-15, Œ is 0xBC and œ 0xBD in hexadecimal. In HTML, the HTML character entity references Œ and œ can also be used. In Windows-1252, at positions 0x8C and 0x9C. In Mac-Roman, they are at positions 0xCE and 0xCF. The LaTeX commands are \oe and \OE .

Œ and œ were removed from ISO-8859-1 (as well as derived standards, such as IBM code page 850 and Windows-1252), a character map obsoleted by Unicode but still widespread in internet protocols and applications that do not support full Unicode. Œ is the only character in modern French that is not included in ISO-8859-1, and this has led to it becoming replaced by 'oe' in many computer-assisted publications (including printed magazines and newspapers). Another reason is that œ is also absent from most French keyboards, and as a result few people know how to input it.

There are two explanations as to the removal of Œ and œ from ISO-8859-1: one is that the ISO French delegate admitted that it was only a typographical ligature. The other is that the French delegate missed the committee session and the other delegates decided to remove it.[4]

The above-mentioned small capital ɶ of the International Phonetic Alphabet is encoded at U+0276.

  Inputting Œ and œ

The Windows ANSI codes for Œ and œ are Alt-0140 and Alt-0156, respectively. Enter them by holding down the Alt key and typing the numbers on the numerical keypad (not the number row above the letter keys).

In Microsoft Word, "œ" is entered using ctrl + shift + & then o in quick succession. Some word processors such as MS Word can automatically correct French words like soeur to sœur, but in most other applications (e.g. an instant messenger, or a browser) the word will not be corrected.

In Vim (text editor), use Ctrl-K then 'o' then 'e' in succession. (or 'O' and 'E' for upper-case).

On a DE-German Mac keyboard, use Option-ö to generate the œ. Holding down the shift key in addition to either combination will generate the capital Œ. If preferred, the Macintosh Character Palette can also be used to enter special characters.[5]

On an English Mac OS X keyboard, hold Option and push Q for œ, and Option-Shift-Q for Œ. Alternatively, on Mac OS X Lion (10.7), hold the "O" key down, then either click "œ" or press "5".

With a Compose key it's 'compose o e' for œ and 'compose O E' for Œ.

Œ and œ can be inputted using the US International keyboard with the combination AltGr+X or AltGr+x respectively.

On the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, as well as phones running Google's Android OS or Windows Mobile OS, œ and Œ are accessed by holding down "O" until a small menu is displayed.

  See also


  1. ^ John R. Clark Hall, 1962, A concise Anglo-Saxon dictionary, Cambridge University Press, p. 108, s.v. ēðel 'name of the rune for œ'.
  2. ^ Duden online
  3. ^ Duden online
  4. ^ Subject: ISO 8859-1 National Character Set FAQ
  5. ^ [1]

  External links

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz


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