Accented letters in English


English speaker - Ireland
Hi there,

Somebody here asked me this question and it got me wondering:

Are there any accented letters in English?

Thanks in advance.
  • Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Check out google for this type of information. Wikipedia says:

    "Accents are sometimes also used for poetic purposes, to indicate an unusual pronunciation: for example, spelling the word picked as pickéd to indicate the pronunciation."

    I have seen accents like this also on the word "blessed" to indicate a slight difference in pronunciation (and then it sounds like "blessED be the Lord - with an emphasis on the final "ed").

    Other accented letters are used generally in words which have been borrowed and never anglicized, like coup d'état. Ditto resumé, which has lost one of the original French accents.

    I hope this helps! :)


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Cafe can also be accented - café (although this is not compulsory as far as I know)
    Hi Jessie, and welcome to the forums!

    You're right - a number of loan-words still retain their "e acute" accents: café, cliché, fiancé...

    We also, as others have said, occasionally (generally in poetry) use the "e grave" to indicate the pronunciation of a normally-silent vowel: blessèd.

    Occasionally, we use "ü" to indicate that the vowel is pronounced as "u" rather than "w".

    But I'm ashamed to say, I can't think of an example:eek:

    EDIT: naïve is a good example of the umlaut, JoseVerde, though I don't think I'd ever use it in co-operation.


    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Occasionally, we use "ü" to indicate that the vowel is pronounced as "u" rather than "w".
    But I'm ashamed to say, I can't think of an example:eek:
    The only one I can think of off the top of my head is: "Führer," though the spelling of "Fuehrer" is also considered acceptable.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    EDIT: naïve is a good example of the umlaut, JoseVerde, though I don't think I'd ever use it in co-operation.
    I have a subscription to the New Yorker magazine and this seems to be standard practice there: they always write coöperation, coördination, reëlection, reëntry, etc., etc., when you have two vowels together but you want to signal that they're not meant to be pronounced as a diphthong. Personally I find it a bit affected, but it does seem to be an accepted usage - an alternative to separating the prefix and the rest of the word with a hyphen, I suppose.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    EeeK! That does sound rather affected to me:eek:

    I'd vote for the hyphen every time!


    Senior Member
    USA English
    Traditionally, there are no diacritical marks in English. I say traditionally, because if you look at typewriters or even modern computer keyboards, there are no characters with diacritical marks.

    Likewise, no U.S. newspapers published diacritical marks until recently and major news services have not transmitted information with diacritical marks.

    With computers, however, it is possible to generate such characters. Even with the the standared U.S. keyboard layout, one can install the U.S. International Keyboard driver, so you can write words like Führer, which, by the way is German for "leader" and not English, so that doesn't count as to the question that was asked.

    Because of computerized typesetting, some newspapers now are generating diacritical marks for foreign names or words that have been imported from other languages. Likewise, some dictionaries now accept spellings some words, e.g. "cliché" or résumé.
    (Incidentally, the spell checker integral to Mozilla Firefox accepts the first but not the second)

    Americans, however, are not accustomed to these words and unless somebody is competent in the language of the imported word, they are likely to come up with something comical.


    Senior Member
    Canada - English & French
    I refuse to use accents in English... I have far too much trying to remember them in French...

    Ok, I'm kidding a little; but whether you use them, for me, is a question of personal taste. If you ask me (and you sort of did), unless you're a real etymology snob, I would be surprised to learn that they are required.

    Not even with "Coup d'Etat" or "Cafe" or ESPECIALLY "naive".

    For what it is worth, My Canadian spell checker is balking at Coup D'Etat and Cafe and cliche but not naive or resume.


    Senior Member
    Australia English
    EDIT: naïve is a good example of the umlaut, JoseVerde, though I don't think I'd ever use it in co-operation.
    Let me put on my pedant's hat.:D
    It is not an umlaut, it is a dieresis.

    Umlaut is a concept in German, effectively meaning "change sound".
    German changes vowels for grammatical purposes - plurals and conditionals in particular, plus some comparatives and superlatives.

    Dieresis comes from the Greek to divide.
    A dieresis shows that the vowels are split, and not blended.
    citroën = citro-en, not citrown


    Senior Member
    English (US)
    Personally, I would only use accents on a couple of words and that probably stems from my having studied French. I can't stand to see "café" or "naïve" any other way. (When I see "naive", I pronounce it in my head as "nave" {with a long a} and think, "What the heck is that word!? Is it even an English word?")

    Also, from what my English professor told me, one of the major dictionaries (I can't remember which one) eliminated most hyphenated words and either kept them as separate words or pushed them together to form one. So, perhaps we will be seeing a more of our little dieresis friend over doubled vowels...

    Full Tilt Boogie

    Senior Member
    British English
    English has been described, perhaps justly, as a 'magpie' language, in that it constantly steals/acquires words from other world languages where it doesn't have one in its own lexicon.

    e.g. déjà vu, bungalow, raison d'être, née etc.

    Where these words in the original language carry accented letters, it is correct practice to carry them over when rendering them in English.

    In Middle English (in the 13th Century) when the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was writing, there were still many Old English words carried over from Anglo-Saxon which did carry both Saxon, Celtic and Viking Nordic (cf. modern day Icelandic) accents, but they have largely been removed from use.

    One of the aspects about making English words 'easy' to learn is that they are non-inflected or accented and carry no gender; in complete contrast to virtually all other European languages.


    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I used a grave accent today, Andy, in this thread ~ post #11.
    ewie in that other thread said:
    Re: trillion in the UK
    It seems to me, KevinB, that in the UK our belovèd BBC (& co.) avoid any -illion word bigger than billion, preferring to use such things as a thousand billion, a billion billion, etc.
    Do you habitually use a grave accent there, ewster? I always pronounce it as though one were there, but very rarely write it. Is this a BE thing or an EE (ewie's English) thing?


    Senior Member
    English English
    That was a deliberately ironical use of belovèd there, Nunty (I can't say I use the word particularly often otherwise): a very short shorthand way of saying the BBC, which I despise.
    On the wider question: as a person who 'studied' French for 25 years, and lived in France for 5 of those, I find myself incapable of not writing the accents on café, façade, raison d'être and so on: if I don't, they just look wrong.
    While defending the right of folk to write English however they choose, provided it conveys what they intended it to convey, I add that a small number of words (the number one example being resume/resumé/résumé) never fail ~ on first reading ~ not to convey their intended meaning to me, because of a lack of written accents.


    Senior Member
    Canada - English & French
    It's a case of what and where you studied, I suppose. And a matter of the spell checker.

    Naive with the (speak this vowel separately) whichever you wish to call it, is not only wrong to my eye, it's wrong to my spell checker. :D

    I will add too that I use a multilingual keyboard, so if I'm coding, you can be assured I'm not using any accents, even those I might regularly use, in English. In French, when I'm coding, there are enough accents that I switch back and forth. So, Ewie, if you ever find yourself reading my website... do so in French, at least there, I've made an effort to NOT offend the eye with missing accents. :D


    Senior Member
    UK — English
    I've never written beloved with an accent but have to hold my hands up as someone who would write about a learnèd gentleman being someone who has learned a lot.

    Full Tilt Boogie

    Senior Member
    British English
    As Kevin B [he being a lawyer] can confirm, the term 'learned gentleman' refers to a fellow barrister in court:

    Barrister #1: "On that point, I defer to the learned gentleman."

    Or, in the UK House of Lords (the 'upper house' in our bicameral system of government), when one Lord responds to another Lord (who is or has been been a barrister or judge), the address would be "I thank the noble and learned Lord for his answer..."
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