|Writing system||Latin script|
|Type||Alphabetic and Logographic|
|Language of origin||Greek language|
|Time period||Unknown to present|
|Descendants|| • Ƣ|
|Other letters commonly used with||q(x)|
The Semitic sound value of Qôp was /q/ (voiceless uvular stop), and the form of the letter could have been based on the eye of a needle, a knot, or even a monkey with its tail hanging down. /q/ is a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in many European languages.[a] Some have even suggested that the form of the letter Q is even more ancient: it could have originated from Egyptian hieroglyphics.
In Greek, qoppa (Ϙ) probably came to represent several labialized velar stops, among them /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/. As a result of later sound shifts, these sounds in Greek changed to /p/ and /pʰ/ respectively. Therefore, qoppa was transformed into two letters: qoppa, which stood for the number 90, and phi (Φ), which stood for the aspirated sound /pʰ/ that came to be pronounced /f/ in Modern Greek.
The Etruscans used Q in conjunction with V to represent /kʷ/, and this usage was copied by the Romans with the rest of their alphabet. In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the two sounds /k/ and /ɡ/, which were not differentiated in writing. Of these, Q was used before a rounded vowel (e.g. ⟨EQO⟩ 'ego'), K before /a/ (e.g. ⟨KALENDIS⟩ 'calendis'), and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q: Q survived only to represent /k/ when immediately followed by a /w/ sound.
Depending on the typeface used to typeset the letter Q, the letter's tail may either bisect its bowl as in Helvetica, meet the bowl as in Univers, or lie completely outside the bowl as in PT Sans. In writing block letters, bisecting tails are fastest to write, as they require less precision. All three styles are considered equally valid, with most serif typefaces having a Q with a tail that meets the circle, while sans-serif typefaces are more equally split between those with bisecting tails and those without. Typefaces with a disconnected Q tail, while uncommon, have existed since at least 1529. A common method among typographers to create the shape of the Q is by simply adding a tail to the letter O.
Old-style serif fonts, such as Garamond, contained two capital Qs: one with a short tail to be used in short words, and another with a long tail to be used in long words. Some early metal type fonts included up to 3 different Qs: a short-tailed Q, a long-tailed Q, and a long-tailed Q-u ligature. This print tradition was alive and well until the 19th century, when long-tailed Qs fell out of favor: even recreations of classic typefaces such as Caslon began being distributed with only short Q tails. Not a fan of long-tailed Qs, American typographer D. B. Updike celebrated their demise in his 1922 book Printing Types, claiming that Renaissance printers made their Q tails longer and longer simply to "outdo each other". Latin-language words, which are much more likely than English words to contain "Q" as their first letter, have also been cited as the reason for their existence. The long-tailed Q had fallen completely out of use with the advent of early digital typography, as many early digital fonts could not choose different glyphs based on the word that the glyph was in, but it has seen something of a comeback with the advent of OpenType fonts and LaTeX, both of which can automatically typeset the long-tailed Q when it is called for and the short-tailed Q when not.
Owing to the allowable variation in the Q, the letter is a very distinctive feature of a typeface; like the ampersand, the Q is cited as a letter that gives typographers a chance to express themselves.
Identifont, an automated typeface identification service that identifies typefaces by questions about their appearance, asks about the Q tail second if the "sans-serif" option is chosen. Out of Identifont's database, Q tails are divided thus:
|Q tail type||Serif||Sans-serif|
|"2" () shape||304||428|
Some typographers prefer one "Q" design over another: Adrian Frutiger, famous for the airport typeface that bears his name, remarked that most of his typefaces feature a Q tail that meets the bowl and then extends horizontally. Frutiger considered such Qs to make for more "harmonious" and "gentle" typefaces. Some typographers, such as Sophie Elinor Brown, have listed "Q" as being among their favorite letters.
The lowercase "q" is usually seen as a lowercase "o" or "c" with a descender (i.e., downward vertical tail) extending from the right side of the bowl, with or without a swash (i.e., flourish), or even a reversed lowercase p. The "q"'s descender is usually typed without a swash due to the major style difference typically seen between the descenders of the "g" (a loop) and "q" (vertical). When handwritten, or as part of a handwriting font, the descender of the "q" sometimes finishes with a rightward swash to distinguish it from the letter "g" (or, particularly in mathematics, the digit "9").
In English, the digraph ⟨qu⟩ most often denotes the cluster //; however, in borrowings from French, it represents //, as in 'plaque'. See the list of English words containing Q not followed by U. Q is the second least frequently used letter in the English language (after Z), with a frequency of just 0.1% in words. Q has the third least amount of English words where it is the first letter, after Z and X.
In most European languages written in the Latin script, such as in Romance and Germanic languages, ⟨q⟩ appears almost exclusively in the digraph ⟨qu⟩. In French, Occitan, Catalan and Portuguese, ⟨qu⟩ represents /k/ or /kw/; in Spanish, it represents /k/. ⟨qu⟩ replaces ⟨c⟩ for /k/ before front vowels ⟨i⟩ and ⟨e⟩, since in those languages ⟨c⟩ represents a fricative or affricate before front vowels. In Italian ⟨qu⟩ represents [kw] (where [w] is the semivowel allophone of /u/).
⟨q⟩ has a wide variety of other pronunciations in some European languages and in non-European languages that have adopted the Latin alphabet.
|[q]||voiceless uvular stop||IPA, Romanization of Arabic, Aymara, Berber (also pronounced as [qʷ] or [ɢ]), Chechen Latin alphabet, Crimean Tatar, Greenlandic, Hopi, Klingon, Kurdish (Latin Kurmanji, Yekgirtú), Kazakh Latin, Luiseño language, Lushootseed, Quechua, Uyghur, Uzbek, Zazaki alphabet of the Zaza language and in the interlinguistic Standard Alphabet by Lepsius; phonemic /q/ sometimes as [ɢ]: Somali, Ket Latin (normally with affrication [qχ])|
|[qː]||geminated voiceless uvular stop||Wolof|
|[qχ]||affricated voiceless uvular stop||Ket Latin (allophone of [q])|
|[qʰ]||aspirated voiceless uvular stop||K'iche', Nuxalk|
|[ɢ]||voiced uvular stop||Somali (allophone of [q]), Ket Latin (allophone of [q] after [ŋ])|
|[k]||voiceless velar stop||several European languages, often only in digraph ⟨qu⟩, which often is pronounced [kw] (In some case the whole digraph is pronounced [k]); Arabic loanwords in Malay.|
|[kʷ]||labialized voiceless velar stop||Mohegan-Pequot|
|[ɡ]||voiced velar stop||Azerbaijani alphabet|
|[c]||voiceless palatal stop||Albanian|
|[ʔ]||glottal stop||Maltese, Menominee, Võro|
|[ŋɡ]||prenasalized voiced velar stop||Fijian|
|[tɕʰ]||aspirated voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant affricate||Chinese Hanyu Pinyin|
|[x]||voiceless velar fricative||transliteration of Classical Mongolian, Mi'kmaq|
|[ɣ]||voiced velar fricative||Raguileo Alfabet for the Mapuche language|
|[θ]||voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative||Loglan|
|[ǃ]||tenuis alveolar click||Hadza, Xhosa and Zulu|
|[qʼ]||uvular ejective||ISO 9 transliteration of the Cyrillic Abkhaz alphabet for the Abkhaz language|
|[w]||Voiced labio-velar approximant||In southern Vietnamese dialects, the digraph qu is pronounced as w|
The capital letter Q is used as the currency sign for the Guatemalan quetzal.
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Q||LATIN SMALL LETTER Q|
|Numeric character reference||Q||Q||q||q|
|NATO phonetic||Morse code|
|Signal flag||Flag semaphore||American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling)||Braille dots-12345|
Unified English Braille
...the bisecting tail of the Helvetica 'Q'.
The bowl of the Q is typically similar to the bowl of the O, although not always identical. The style and design of the Q's tail is often a distinctive feature of a typeface.
The uppercase roman Q...has a very long tail, but this has been modified and reduced on versions produced in the following centuries.
Letters that contain truly individual parts [are] S, ... Q...