N Explained

N (; named en[1]) is the fourteenth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

History of the forms

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 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 —as in Greek, Etruscan, Latin and all modern languages.



Dental or alveolar nasal in virtually all languages that use the Latin 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 languages like Italian and French, ⟨gn⟩ represents a palatal nasal . The Portuguese 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, ⟨n⟩ is pronounced in this combination when occurring word medially, as in hymnal.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the lowercase represents the alveolar nasal sound. A small capital represents the uvular nasal.

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


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.

Related letters and other similar characters

П п) : Cyrillic letter Pe Н н) : Cyrillic letter En И и) : Cyrillic letter I

Computing codes

character encodingdecimalhexdecimalhex
Numeric character reference&
  1. 78;
  1. x004E;
  1. 110;
  1. x006E;
EBCDIC family213D514995
ASCII 1784E1106E
1 and all encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Notes and References

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