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Ñ (lower case ñ, International Phonetic Alphabet: /ˈeɲe/ "énye") is a letter of the modern Latin alphabet, formed by an N with a diacritical tilde. It is used in the Spanish alphabet, Galician alphabet, Asturian alphabet, Basque alphabet, Aragonese old alphabet (Grafía de Uesca de 1987), Filipino alphabet, Chamorro alphabet, Guarani alphabet, Mapudungun alphabet, Mandinka alphabet and in Latin transliteration of Tocharian, where it represents [ɲ]. It represents [ŋ] in Crimean Tatar, and in the Rohingya languages it denotes nasalization of the preceding vowel.

Unlike many other alphabets that use diacritic marks (such as ü in Asturian, Leonese, Spanish, and Galician), Ñ is considered by these languages a letter in its own right, with its own name (eñe, pronounced "enye") and its own place in the alphabet (after N). From this point of view, its alphabetical independence is similar to the English W (which historically came from a doubled V just as Ñ came from a doubled N).


Historically, "ñ" arose as a ligature of "nn": the tilde was shorthand for the second "n", written over the first.[1] This is a letter in the Spanish alphabet which is used for many words, for example, the Spanish word año (anno in Old Spanish) "year" is derived from Latin ANNVS. Other languages used the macron over an "n" or "m" to indicate simple doubling.

Already in medieval Latin palaeography, the sign that in Spanish came to be called virgulilla (tilde) was used on a vowel to indicate a following nasal consonant (n or m) that had been omitted, as in tãtus for tantus or quã for quam. This usage was passed on to other languages using the Latin alphabet, although it was subsequently dropped by most. Spanish and Portuguese retained it though, in some specific cases. In Spanish in particular it was kept to indicate the palatal nasal, the sound that is now spelt as "ñ". Another word for the Tilde is eñe (en-yeh) The tilde is referred to as an eñe by most of the Spanish speaking countries in Latin America. The word "tilde" came from the Spanish word "título", meaning "title" or "heading" in the English language. In English the word "tilde" is often used, but it is commonly referred to as an eñe in Spanish.

From spellings of anno abbreviated as ãno, as explained above, the tilde was henceforth transferred on to the "n" and kept as a useful expedient to indicate the new palatal nasal sound that Spanish had developed in that position: año. The sign was also adopted for the same palatal nasal in all other cases, even when it did not derive from an original "nn", as for leña (from Latin "ligna") or señor (from Latin "senior").

The palatal nasal sound is roughly reminiscent of the English consonant cluster /nj/ in "onion" /ˈʌnjən/. While this common description is enough to give a rough idea of the sound, it is not precise (it is analogous to giving the pronunciation of the English word "shot" as "syot"). A closer approximation is the ny in "canyon" ("cañón" in Spanish). Other Romance languages have different spellings for this phoneme: Italian and French use "gn", a consonant cluster that had evolved to it from Latin also in Spanish (see leña above), whereas Portuguese and Occitan ("nh") or Catalan ("ny") chose other digraphs with no etymological precedent.

When the Morse Code was extended beyond English, a symbol was allotted for this character, though it is not used in English ( — — · — — ). Although the letter "ñ" is used by other languages whose spellings were influenced by Spanish, it has recently been chosen to represent the identity of the Spanish language, especially as a result of the battle against its obliteration from computer keyboards by an English-led industry.[2]

Cross-linguistic usage[edit]

The letter used in the word piñata.

In Spanish and some other languages (Filipino languages, Aymara, Quechua, Mapudungún, Guaraní, Basque, Chamorro, Leonese, Yavapai and Tetum), whose orthographies have some basis in Spanish, it also represents the palatal nasal.

In Galician, it exists with the same sound, though it was not likely adopted from Spanish, as evidenced by its presence in the first Galician-Portuguese written in Galicia conserved text (Foro do bo burgo de Castro Caldelas, written in 1228[3][4]).

Other Romance languages have this sound as well, written "nh" in Portuguese (espanhol) and classical Occitan (espanhòu); "gn" in Italian (spagnolo) and French (espagnol), and "ny" in Catalan and Aragonese (espanyol). The accented letter ń used in Polish, and the symbol ň used in Czech and Slovak are also equivalent to the Spanish letter "ñ". The same sound is written "ny" in Indonesian, Zhuang, and Hungarian, and "nh" in Vietnamese.

In Tagalog, Visayan, and other Philippine Languages, it is also written as "ny" for most terms. The conventional exceptions (with considerable variations) are proper names, which usually retain "ñ" and their original Spanish or Hispanicised spelling (e.g. Santo Niño, Parañaque, Mañalac, Malacañan). It is collated as the 15th letter of the Filipino alphabet. In old Filipino orthography, the letter was also used along with "g" to represent the velar nasal sound [ŋ] (except at the end of a word where "ng" would be used) where appropriate, in lieu of a tilde that originally spanned both n and g (as in n͠g), such as pan͠galan ("name"). This is because the old orthography was based on Spanish and without the tilde, pangalan would have been pronounced with a prenasalised sequence [ŋɡ], such as pang-GAlan. The form "ñg" became a more common way to represent n͠g until the early 20th century, mainly because it was readily available in typesets than the tilde spanning both letters.

It is also used to represent the velar nasal in Crimean Tatar. In Latin-script writing of the distantly-related Tatar language, ñ is sometimes used as a substitute for n with descender which is unavailable on many computer systems.

In the Breton language, it nasalises the preceding vowel as in Jañ /ʒã/ which corresponds to the French name Jean and bears the same pronunciation.

It is used in a number of English words of Spanish origin, such as jalapeño, piña colada, piñata, and El Niño. The Spanish word cañón, however, became the English word canyon. Until the middle of the 20th century, adapting it to "nn" was more common in English, as in the phrase "Battle of Corunna". Nowadays, it is almost always left alone.

In the orthography for languages of Senegal, ñ represents the palatal nasal. Senegal is unique among countries of West Africa in using this letter.

The Lule Sami language contains the letter ń, which often has been written ñ on computers, since ñ but not ń was available on keyboards and the Latin-1 character set.

Cultural significance[edit]

Serial letter 'Ñ' Potez 540 plane of the Spanish Republican Air Force

The letter "Ñ" has come to represent the identity of the Spanish language. Latino publisher Bill Teck labeled Hispanic culture and its influence on the United States "Generation Ñ" and later started a magazine with that name.[5] Organizations such as the Instituto Cervantes and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have adopted the letter as their mark for Hispanic heritage.

Letter 'Ñ' was used in the Spanish Republican Air Force for aircraft identification. The crash of serial 'Ñ' Potez 540 plane that was shot down over the Sierra de Gúdar range of the Sistema Ibérico near Valdelinares inspired French writer André Malraux to make a movie named L'espoir.[6]

In 1991, a European Community report recommended the repeal of a regulation preventing the sale in Spain of computer products not supporting "all the characteristics of the Spanish writing system," claiming that it was a protectionist measure against the principles of the free market. This would have allowed the distribution of keyboards without an "Ñ" key. The Real Academia Española stated that the matter was a serious attack against the language. Nobel Prize winner in literature Gabriel García Márquez expressed his disdain over the elimination of the eñe by saying: "The 'Ñ' is not an archaeological piece of junk, but just the opposite: a cultural leap of a Romance language that left the others behind in expressing with only one letter a sound that other languages continue to express with two."[2]

Among other forms of controversy are those pertaining to the anglicization of Spanish surnames. Such personal decisions can be perceived by the Spanish community as denying identity and heritage.[citation needed] The replacement of "ñ" with another letter alters the pronunciation and meaning of a word or name, in the same manner as replacing any letter with a different one would. Peña is a common Spanish surname and a common noun that means "rocky hill"; it is often anglicized into "Pena", changing the name into the Spanish word for "pity", often used in terms of sorrow.

When Federico Peña was first running for mayor of Denver in 1983, the Denver Post printed his name without the tilde as "Pena." After he won the election they began printing his name complete with tilde.

Since 2011 CNN's Spanish language news channel incorporates a new logo wherein a tilde was placed over two N's.

Another news channel, TLN en Español, has its logo where an Ñ takes the place of the normal N.

Computer usage[edit]

Ñ is to the right of the L on a Spanish keyboard layout.

In Unicode Ñ has code U+00D1 (decimal 209) and ñ has code U+00F1 (decimal 241). Additionally this letter can be generated using combining tilde, ⬚̃, U+0303, decimal 771. In this way n or N followed by U+0303 become ñ or Ñ.

Ñ is a separate key in Spanish keyboard and Latin American keyboard (see the corresponding sections on keyboard layout).

In HTML character entity reference the codes are Ñ and ñ or Ñ and ñ.

On Android devices, the user simply holds the "n" or "N" down on the keyboard to enter the letters.

On Apple Macintosh operating systems (including Mac OS X), it can be achieved by pressing and holding the Option key then typing "N", followed by typing either "N" or "n".

On Apple iOS devices, the user can press and hold "n" or "N" on the touch screen. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion also introduces this feature by pressing and holding the "n" or "N" keys on the keyboard until a prompt appears.

To make a lowercase ñ on the Microsoft Windows operating system, hold down the Alt key and type the number 164 or 0241 on the numeric keypad (with Num Lock turned on).[7] To make an uppercase Ñ, press Alt-165 or Alt-0209. Character Map in Windows identifies the letter as "Latin Small/Capital Letter N With Tilde".

In Microsoft Word, a capital Ñ can be typed by pressing Control-Shift-Tilde (~), and then typing an "N".

In Linux it can be created by pressing Ctrl+Shift+U then typing '00D1' or '00F1', followed by space or Ctrl to end the character code input. This produces the letter 'Ñ' or 'ñ'. It can also be entered by using the compose key and typing 'N' (or 'n') and '~'. It can also be typed with Alt Gr-] followed by N or n.

Another option (for any operating system) is to configure the system to use the US-International keyboard layout, where the ñ can be produced either by Alt Gr-N, or by typing the tilde (~) followed by the letter n.

Yet another option is to use a compose key (hardware-based or software-emulated). Pressing the compose key, then ~, then n would result in ñ. A capital N can be substituted to produce Ñ, and in most cases the order of ~ and n can be reversed.

Use in URLs[edit]

In URLs (except for the domain name), Ñ may be replaced by %C3%91, and ñ by %C3%B1. This is not needed for newer browsers, since for example /wiki/Ñ (link to this article) can be written directly and encoded by the browser. The hex digits represent the UTF-8 encoding of the glyphs Ñ and ñ. This feature allows almost any Unicode character to be encoded, and it is considered important to support non-English languages.

See also[edit]

Other symbols for the palatal nasal[edit]

Other letters with a tilde[edit]


  1. ^ Buitrago, A., Torijano, J. A.: "Diccionario del origen de las palabras". Espasa Calpe, S. A., Madrid, 1998. (Spanish)
  2. ^ a b El triunfo de la ñ - Afirmación de Hispanoamérica (Spanish)
  3. ^ http://www.consellodacultura.org/mediateca/pubs.pdf/doc_en_galego.pdf
  4. ^ http://www.agal-gz.org/pdf/foro_burgo_monteagudo.pdf
  5. ^ Generation-Ñ
  6. ^ Crashed Spanish Potez 540
  7. ^ Note that this depends on locale. E.g. will generate "ń" in some eastern European locales, and there is no alternative keystroke for "ñ" in this locales. The same applies to uppercase Ñ.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ñ — Please support Wikipedia.
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