For the mathematical constant, see e (mathematical constant). For other uses, see E (disambiguation).

For technical reasons, "E#" redirects here. For E sharp, see E♯.

Writing cursive forms of E

E (named e /ˈ/, plural ees)[1] is the fifth letter and the second vowel in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is the most commonly used letter in many languages, including: Czech,[2] Danish,[2] Dutch,[2] English, Latvian[3] French,[4] German,[5] Hungarian,[2] Latin,[2] Norwegian,[2] Spanish,[6] and Swedish.[2]


Egyptian hieroglyph

The Latin letter 'E' differs little from its source, the Greek letter epsilon, 'Ε'. This in turn comes from the Semitic letter , which has been suggested to have started as a praying or calling human figure (hillul 'jubilation'), and was probably based on a similar Egyptian hieroglyph that indicated a different pronunciation. In Semitic, the letter represented /h/ (and /e/ in foreign words); in Greek, became the letter epsilon, used to represent /e/. The various forms of the Old Italic script and the Latin alphabet followed this usage.

Use in writing systems


Although Middle English spelling used e to represent long and short /e/, the Great Vowel Shift changed long /eː/ (as in 'me' or 'bee') to /iː/ while short /e/ (as in 'met' or 'bed') remained a mid vowel. In other cases, the letter is silent, generally at the end of words.

Other languages

In the orthography of many languages it represents either these or /ɛ/, or some variation (such as a nasalized version) of these sounds, often with diacritics (as: e ê é è ë ē ĕ ě ė ę ) to indicate contrasts. Less commonly, as in French, German, or Saanich, e represents a mid-central vowel /ə/. Digraphs with e are common to indicate either diphthongs or monophthongs, such as ea or ee for /iː/ or /eɪ/ in English, ei for /aɪ/ in German, and eu for /ø/ in French or /ɔɪ/ in German.

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses e for the close-mid front unrounded vowel or the mid front unrounded vowel.

Used in schools as a grading system as "Excellent".

Most common letter

'E' is the most common (or highest-frequency) letter in the English alphabet (starting off the typographer's phrase ETAOIN SHRDLU) and several other European languages, which has implications in both cryptography and data compression. In the story The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe, a character figures out a random character code by remembering that the most used letter in English is E. This makes it a hard and popular letter to use when writing lipograms. Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby (1939) is considered a "dreadful" novel, and supposedly "at least part of Wright's narrative issues were caused by language limitations imposed by the lack of E."[7] Both Georges Perec's novel A Void (La Disparition) (1969) and its English translation by Gilbert Adair omit 'e' and are considered better works.[8]

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Computing codes

Character E e
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 69 U+0045 101 U+0065
UTF-8 69 45 101 65
Numeric character reference E E e e
EBCDIC family 197 C5 133 85
ASCII 1 69 45 101 65
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

In British Sign Language (BSL), the letter 'e' is signed by extending the index finger of the right hand touching the tip of index on the left hand, with all fingers of left hand open.


  1. "E" a letter Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1993). Ees is the plural of the name of the letter; the plural of the letter itself is rendered E's, Es, e's, or es.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Kelk, Brian. "Letter frequencies". UK Free Software Network. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  3. Lewand, Robert. "Relative Frequencies of Letters in General English Plain text". Cryptographical Mathematics. Central College. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  4. "Frequency of Occurrence of Letters in French". Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  5. "Frequency of Occurrence of Letters in German". Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  6. "Frequency of Occurrence of Letters in Spanish". Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  7. Ross Eckler, Making the Alphabet Dance: Recreational Word Play. New York: St. Martin's Press (1996): 3
  8. Eckler (1996): 3. Perec's novel "was so well written that at least some reviewers never realized the existence of a letter constraint."
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