This article is about the letter of the alphabet. For other uses, see N (disambiguation).
Writing cursive forms of N

N (named en /ˈɛn/[1]) is the 14th letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


Egyptian hieroglyph
for J

One of the most common hieroglyphs, snake, was used in Egyptian writing to stand for a sound like the English J, because the Egyptian word for "snake" was djet. It is speculated by many that Semitic people working in Egypt adapted hieroglyphics to create the first alphabet, and that they used the same snake symbol to represent N, because their word for "snake" may have begun with that sound. However, the name for the letter in the Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic alphabets is nun, which means "fish" in some of these languages. The sound value of the letter was /n/—as in Greek, Etruscan, Latin and modern languages.

Use in writing systems

n represents a dental or alveolar nasal in virtually all languages that use the Latin alphabet, and in the International Phonetic Alphabet. A common digraph with n is ng, which represents a velar nasal in a variety of languages, usually positioned word-finally in English. Often, before a velar plosive (as in ink or jungle), n alone represents a velar nasal. In Italian and French, gn represents a palatal nasal /ɲ/. The Portuguese and Vietnamese spelling for this sound is nh, while Spanish and a few other languages use the letter ñ. In English, n is generally silent when it is preceded by an m at the end of words, as in hymn; however, it is pronounced in this combination when occurring word medially, as in hymnal.

n is the sixth most common letter and the second-most commonly used consonant in the English language (after t).[2]

Other uses

In mathematics, the italic form n is the common symbol for a variable quantity, especially one which represents an integer. is often used to refer to the set of natural numbers.

In statistics, the italic form n is used to denote the number of observations or replicates included in a statistical sample.

In chemistry, N represents the element nitrogen. In biochemistry, N is the one-letter code symbol for the amino acid asparagine. It is also the symbol for the SI unit of force, the newton.

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Computing codes

Character N n
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 78 U+004E 110 U+006E
UTF-8 78 4E 110 6E
Numeric character reference N N n n
EBCDIC family 213 D5 149 95
ASCII 1 78 4E 110 6E
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations


  1. "N" Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "en," op. cit.
  2. English Letter Frequency
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