This article is about the grapheme that is a ligature of a and e. For the Irish writer with the pseudonym Æ, see George William Russell. For the satirical website whose name is sometimes abbreviated æ, see Encyclopedia Dramatica. For the place formerly called Æ, see Ae, Scotland. For other uses of "AE", see AE (disambiguation).
"Æsh" redirects here. For the calculator input method AESH, see hierarchical algebraic entry system.
Æ in Helvetica and Bodoni

Æ (minuscule: æ) is a grapheme named æsc or ash, formed from the letters a and e, originally a ligature representing a Latin diphthong. It has been promoted to the full status of a letter in the alphabets of some languages, including Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese. As a letter of the Old English Latin alphabet, it was called æsc ("ash tree") after the Anglo-Saxon futhorc rune () which it transliterated; its traditional name in English is still ash /æʃ/. It was also used in Old Swedish before being changed to ä. Variants include Ǣ ǣ Ǽ ǽ.

Æ alone and in context
Vanuatu's domestic airline operated under the name Air Melanesiæ in the 1970s.


In Classical Latin, the combination AE denotes the diphthong [ai̯], which had a value similar to the long i in fine as pronounced in most dialects of Modern English.[1] Both classical and present practice is to write the letters separately, but the ligature was used in medieval and early modern writings, in part because æ was reduced to the simple vowel [ɛ] during the Roman Empire. In some medieval scripts, the ligature was simplified to ę, an e with ogonek, the e caudata. That was further simplified into a plain e, which may have influenced or been influenced by the pronunciation change. However, the ligature is still relatively common in liturgical books and musical scores.


The digraph ae was used in Latin to transliterate the Greek diphthong αι (alpha iota). Modern scientific vocabulary that borrows from Greek continues to use Latin transliteration conventions.


In the modern French alphabet, æ is used to spell Latin and Greek borrowings like tænia and ex æquo. It was greatly popularized in Serge Gainsbourg's song Elaeudanla Téïtéïa (i.e. "L, A, E dans l'A, T, I, T, I, A"), which is the spelling in French of the name Lætitia.

Germanic languages


In English, usage of the ligature varies in different places. In modern typography, and where technological limitations make its use difficult (such as in use of typewriters, first telegraphs, or ASCII), æ is often eschewed in favour of the digraph ae. Usage experts often consider that incorrect, especially for foreign words in which æ is considered a letter (such as Æsir, Ærø) or brand names that use the ligature or a variation of it (e.g., Æon Flux, Encyclopædia Britannica, Aetna, Inc.). In the United States, the problem of the ligature is sidestepped in many cases by use of a simplified spelling with "e", as happened with œ as well. Usage, however, may vary; for example, medieval is now more common than mediaeval (and the now old-fashioned mediæval) even in the United Kingdom,[2] but archaeology is preferred over archeology even in the US.[3]

Given their long history, ligatures are sometimes used to invoke archaism or in literal quotations of historic sources; for instance, words such as dæmon or æther are often treated so.

The ligature is seen on gravestones of the 19th century, short for "ætate" ("at the age of"): "Æ xxYs, yyMs, zzDs." It is also common in formal typography (invitations, resolutions, announcements, and some government documents).

Old English

In Old English, æ represented a sound between a and e (/æ/), a sound very much like the short a of cat in many dialects of Modern English. If long vowels are distinguished from short vowels, the long version /æː/ is marked with a macron (ǣ) or less commonly an acute (ǽ).

Old Norse

In Old Norse, æ represents the long vowel /ɛː/. The short version of the same vowel, /ɛ/, if it is distinguished from /e/, is written as ę.


In most varieties of Faroese, æ is pronounced as follows:

One of its etymological origins is Old Norse é (the other is Old Norse æ), which is particularly evident in the dialects of Suðuroy, where Æ is IPA: [eː] or [ɛ]:


In Icelandic, æ signifies the diphthong [ai].

Danish and Norwegian

In Danish and Norwegian, æ is a separate letter of the alphabet that represents a monophthong. In Norwegian, there are four ways of pronouncing the letter:

West of the red line, classic Danish dialects use æ as the definite article.

In many western, northern, and southwestern Norwegian dialects and in the western Danish dialects of Thy and Southern Jutland, æ has a significant meaning: the first person singular pronoun I. It is thus a normal spoken word; usually, it is written as æ when such dialects are rendered in writing.

In western and southern Jutish dialects of Danish, æ is also the proclitic definite article: æ hus (the house), as opposed to Standard Danish and all other Nordic varieties which have enclitic definite articles (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian: huset, Icelandic, Faroese: húsið (the house)). The dialects are rarely committed to writing except for some dialect literature.


In the normalized spelling of Middle High German æ is used to represent a long vowel [ɛː]. The actual spelling in mediaeval text varies, however.


Ossetic used the letter æ when it was written using the Latin script from 1923 to 1938. Since then, Ossetian has used a Cyrillic alphabet with an identical-looking letter (Ӕ and ӕ). It is pronounced as a mid-central vowel (schwa).

South American languages

The letter æ is used in the official orthography of Kawésqar spoken in Chile and also in that of the Fuegian language Yaghan.

International Phonetic Alphabet

The symbol [æ] is also used in the International Phonetic Alphabet to denote a near-open front unrounded vowel like in the word cat in many dialects of Modern English, which is the sound that was most likely represented by the Old English letter. In the IPA, it is l always in lowercase.

Computer encodings and entering

Danish keyboard with keys for Æ, Ø and Å.
On Norwegian keyboards the Æ and Ø trade places.
The Æ character (among others, including Å and ø) is accessible using AltGr+z on a modern US-International keyboard
Character Æ æ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 198 U+00C6 230 U+00E6
UTF-8 195 134 C3 86 195 166 C3 A6
Numeric character reference Æ Æ æ æ
Named character reference Æ æ

See also


  1. James Morwood (1999). Latin Grammar, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860199-9, p. 3
  2. The spelling medieval is given priority in both Oxford and Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Accessed September 22, 2014.
  3. Merriam-Webster Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Accessed September 22, 2014.
Look up Category:English terms spelled with Æ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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