Circumflex Explained


The circumflex (ˆ) (often called a "caret", from the non-diacritical sign (^) of a similar shape) is a diacritic mark used in written Serbian, Croatian, Esperanto, French, Frisian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Vietnamese, Romanized Japanese, Romanized Persian, Welsh, Portuguese, Italian, Afrikaans, Turkish and other languages. It received its English name from Latin circumflexus (bent about)—a translation of the Greek περισπωμένη (perispōménē). In French, it usually denotes the absence of a trailing "s" (as in côte, which means coast in English).


The circumflex accent was first used in the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, where it occurred (subject to certain rules) on the accented syllable of a word, on long vowels, and where there was a rise and then a fall in pitch. Sometimes it takes the form of a tilde or an inverted breve. Since Modern Greek has a stress accent instead of a pitch accent, this diacritic has been replaced with an acute accent in the modern monotonic orthography. The circumflex accent placed over a vowel symbol may also indicate, in some languages, that the vowel or the syllable containing it is to be pronounced in a certain way. For example, in French, the mark ^ indicates that the vowel so marked is both of a certain quality and long. In Albanian, ˘ indicates that the vowel is nasalized and stressed. In Classical Greek, the mark ~ shows that the syllable beneath bears the word accent and is pronounced, according to the ancient grammarians, with a rise and fall in pitch.


The circumflex accent marks a long vowel in the orthography or transliteration of several languages.

In Old Tupi, the circumflex indicated a semivowel.


The circumflex is also used to indicate the relative height of some vowels:

Letter extension


In some African languages, the grave accent is used to indicate a falling tone.

Other regular uses

Exceptional use


The circumflex is also used to identify unit vectors; for instance î (colloquially read "i-hat") stands for a unit vector in the direction of the x-axis, ĵ ("j-hat") for one on the y-axis, and ("k-hat," not directly supported in Unicode) for one on the z-axis.

Technical notes

The ISO-8859-1 character encoding includes the letters â, ê, î, ô, û, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the circumflex are available in Unicode. Unicode also uses the circumflex as a combining character with the code points U+0302.

See also



External links