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The tilde () or , is a
grapheme In linguistics, a grapheme is the smallest functional unit of a writing system. The word ''grapheme'' is derived and the suffix ''-eme'' by analogy with ''phoneme'' and other names of emic units. The study of graphemes is called ''graphemics ...
with several uses. The name of the character came into English from
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Can ...
, which in turn came from the Latin ''
titulus Titulus, the Latin word for "title", "label" or "inscription" (plural ''tituli'', normally italicized), may or may not be italicized as a foreign word, and may refer to: * ''Titulus'', or Titular church, one of a group of Early Christian churches ...
'', meaning "title" or "superscription". Its primary use is as a
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). The word ''diacritic ...
(accent) in combination with a base letter; but for historical reasons, it is also used in standalone form within a variety of contexts.

# History

## Use by medieval scribes

The tilde was originally written over an omitted letter or several letters as a
scribal abbreviation Scribal abbreviations or sigla ( singular: siglum) are abbreviations used by ancient and medieval scribes writing in various languages, including Latin, Greek, Old English and Old Norse. In modern manuscript editing (substantive and mechan ...
, or "mark of suspension" and "mark of contraction", shown as a straight line when used with capitals. Thus, the commonly used words ''
Anno Domini The terms (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term is Medieval Latin and means 'in the year of the Lord', but is often presented using "our Lord" instead of "the Lord", ...
'' were frequently abbreviated to ''Ao Dñi'', with an elevated terminal with a suspension mark placed over the "n". Such a mark could denote the omission of one letter or several letters. This saved on the expense of the scribe's labor and the cost of vellum and ink. Medieval European charters written in Latin are largely made up of such abbreviated words with suspension marks and other abbreviations; only uncommon words were given in full. The text of the
Domesday Book Domesday Book () – the Middle English spelling of "Doomsday Book" – is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William I, known as William the Conqueror. The manusc ...
of 1086, relating for example, to the
manor of Molland The Manor of Molland was a medieval manor in North Devon, England. It was largely co-terminous with the existing parish of Molland, in which is situated the village of Molland. More accurately it consisted from the earliest times of two separ ...
in
Devon Devon ( , historically known as Devonshire , ) is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in South West England. The most populous settlement in Devon is the city of Plymouth, followed by Devon's county town, the city of Exeter. Devon is a ...
(see adjacent picture), is highly
abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word ''abbrevia ...
as indicated by numerous tildes. The text with abbreviations expanded is as follows:

## Role of mechanical typewriters

On
typewriter A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical machine for typing characters. Typically, a typewriter has an array of keys, and each one causes a different single character to be produced on paper by striking an inked ribbon selectivel ...
s designed for languages that routinely use
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). The word ''diacritic ...
s (accent marks), there are two possible solutions. Keys can be dedicated to
precomposed character A precomposed character (alternatively composite character or decomposable character) is a Unicode entity that can also be defined as a sequence of one or more other characters. A precomposed character may typically represent a letter with a diacri ...
s or alternatively a
dead key A dead key is a special kind of modifier key on a mechanical typewriter, or computer keyboard, that is typically used to attach a specific diacritic to a base letter. The dead key does not generate a (complete) character by itself, but modifies ...
mechanism can be provided. With the latter, a mark is made when a dead key is typed, but unlike normal keys, the paper carriage does not move on and thus the next letter to be typed is printed under that accent. Typewriters for
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Can ...
typically have a dedicated key for Ñ/ñ but, as Portuguese uses Ã/ã and Õ/õ, a single dead-key (rather than take two keys to dedicate) is the most practical solution. The tilde symbol did not exist independently as a
movable type Movable type (US English; moveable type in British English) is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual alphanumeric characters or punctuation ...
or hot-lead printing character since the
type case A type case is a compartmentalized wooden box used to store movable type used in letterpress printing Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing. Using a printing press, the process allows many copies to be produced by repeat ...
s for Spanish or Portuguese would include
sort Sort may refer to: * Sorting, any process of arranging items in sequence or in sets ** Sorting algorithm, any algorithm for arranging elements in lists ** Sort (Unix), a Unix utility which sorts the lines of a file ** Sort (C++), a function in ...
s for the accented forms.

## The centralized ASCII tilde

The first ASCII standard (X3.64-1963) did not have a tilde. Like Portuguese and Spanish, the French, German and Scandinavian languages also needed symbols in excess of the basic 26 needed for English. The
ASA ASA as an abbreviation or initialism may refer to: Biology and medicine * Accessible surface area of a biomolecule, accessible to a solvent * Acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin * Advanced surface ablation, refractive eye surgery * Anterior spinal ...
worked with and through the CCITT to internationalize the code-set, to meet the basic needs of at least the Western European languages. Thus ISO646 was born (and the ASCII standard updated to X3.64-1967), providing the tilde and other symbols as optional characters. ISO646 and ASCII incorporated many of the overprinting lower-case diacritics from typewriters, including tilde. Overprinting was intended to work by putting a backspace code between the codes for letter and diacritic. However even at that time, mechanisms that could do this or any other overprinting were not widely available, did not work for capital letters, and were impossible on video displays, with the result that this concept failed to gain significant acceptance. Consequently, many of these free-standing diacritics (and the
underscore An underscore, ; also called an underline, low line, or low dash; is a line drawn under a segment of text. In proofreading, underscoring is a convention that says "set this text in italic type", traditionally used on manuscript or typescript as ...
) were quickly reused by software as additional syntax, basically becoming new types of syntactic symbols that a programming language could use. As this usage became predominant,
type design Type design is the art and process of designing typefaces. This involves drawing each letterform using a consistent style. The basic concepts and design variables are described below. A typeface differs from other modes of graphic production s ...
gradually evolved so these diacritic characters became larger and more vertically centered, making them useless as overprinted diacritics but much easier to read as free-standing characters that had come to be used for entirely different and novel purposes. Most modern fonts align the plain ASCII " spacing" (free-standing) tilde at the same level as
dash The dash is a punctuation mark consisting of a long horizontal line. It is similar in appearance to the hyphen but is longer and sometimes higher from the baseline. The most common versions are the endash , generally longer than the hyphen b ...
es, or only slightly higher. The free-standing tilde is at code 126 in ASCII, where it was inherited into Unicode as U+007E. A similar shaped mark () is known in typography and
lexicography Lexicography is the study of lexicons, and is divided into two separate academic disciplines. It is the art of compiling dictionaries. * Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries. * Theoreti ...
as a swung dash: these are used in dictionaries to indicate the omission of the entry word.

## Connection to Spanish

As indicated by the etymological origin of the word "tilde" in English, this symbol has been closely associated with the Spanish language. The connection stems from the use of the tilde above the letter to form the (different) letter in Spanish, a feature shared by only a few other languages, most of which are historically connected to Spanish. This peculiarity can help non-native speakers quickly identify a text as being written in Spanish with little chance of error. In addition, most native speakers, although not all, use the word to refer to their language. Particularly during the 1990s, Spanish-speaking intellectuals and news outlets demonstrated support for the language and the culture by defending this letter against globalisation and
computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations (computation) automatically. Modern digital electronic computers can perform generic sets of operations known as C ...
isation trends that threatened to remove it from keyboards and other standardised products and codes. The
Instituto Cervantes Instituto Cervantes (the Cervantes Institute) is a worldwide nonprofit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. It is named after Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), the author of ''Don Quixote'' and perhaps the most important figu ...
, founded by Spain's government to promote the Spanish language internationally, chose as its logo a highly stylised with a large tilde. The 24-hour news channel
CNN CNN (Cable News Network) is a multinational cable news channel headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Founded in 1980 by American media proprietor Ted Turner and Reese Schonfeld as a 24-hour cable news channel, and presently owned by ...
in the US later adopted a similar strategy on its existing logo for the launch of its Spanish-language version. And similarly to the
National Basketball Association The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional basketball league in North America. The league is composed of 30 teams (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada) and is one of the major professional sports leagues in the United ...
(NBA), the Spain men's national basketball team is nicknamed "ÑBA". In Spanish itself the word is used more generally for diacritics, including the stress-marking acute accent. The diacritic is more commonly called or , and is not considered an accent mark in Spanish, but rather simply a part of the letter (much like the dot over makes an character that is familiar to readers of English).

# Usage

## Letters with tilde

This is a table of precomposed letters with tilde: A tilde diacritic can be added to almost any character by using a combining tilde.

## Common use in English

The English language does not use the tilde as a diacritic, though it is used in some
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
s. The standalone form of the symbol is used more widely. Informally, it means "approximately", "about", or "around", such as "~30 minutes before", meaning "''approximately'' 30 minutes before". It may also mean "similar to", including "of the same order of magnitude as", such as "" meaning that and are of the same order of magnitude. Another approximation symbol is the double tilde , meaning "approximately/almost equal to". The tilde is also used to indicate congruence of shapes by placing it over an symbol, thus . In more recent digital usage, tildes on either side of a word or phrase have sometimes come to convey a particular tone that "let the enclosed words perform both sincerity and irony", which can pre-emptively defuse a negative reaction. For example,
BuzzFeed BuzzFeed, Inc. is an American Internet media, news and entertainment company with a focus on digital media. Based in New York City, BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III to focus on tracking viral content. K ...
journalist Joseph Bernstein interprets the tildes in the following tweet: :"in the ~ spirit of the season ~ will now link to some of the (imho) #Bestof2014 sports reads. if you hate nice things, mute that hashtag." as a way of making it clear that both the author and reader are aware that the enclosed phrase – "spirit of the season" – "is cliche and we know this quality is beneath our author, and we don't want you to think our author is a cliche person generally".

## Diacritical use

In some languages, the tilde is a
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). The word ''diacritic ...
mark placed over a
letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet), a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet. * Letterform, the graphic form of a letter of the alphabe ...
to indicate a change in its pronunciation:

### Pitch

The tilde was firstly used in the
polytonic orthography Greek orthography has used a variety of diacritics starting in the Hellenistic period. The more complex polytonic orthography ( el, πολυτονικό σύστημα γραφής, translit=polytonikó sýstīma grafī́s), which includes fi ...
of
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic peri ...
, as a variant of the
circumflex The circumflex () is a diacritic in the Latin and Greek scripts that is also used in the written forms of many languages and in various romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name from la, circumflexus "bent around" ...
, representing a rise in
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octav ...
followed by a return to standard pitch.

### Abbreviation

Later, it was used to make
abbreviations An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word ''abbrevi ...
in medieval Latin documents. When an or followed a vowel, it was often omitted, and a tilde (physically, a small ) was placed over the preceding vowel to indicate the missing letter; this is the origin of the use of tilde to indicate nasalization (compare the development of the umlaut as an abbreviation of .) The practice of using the tilde over a vowel to indicate omission of an or continued in printed books in
French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France ** French language, which originated in France, and its various dialects and accents ** French people, a nation and ethnic group identified with France ...
as a means of reducing text length until the 17th century. It was also used in Portuguese and
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Can ...
. The tilde was also used occasionally to make other abbreviations, such as over the letter , making , to signify the word ''que'' ("that").

### Nasalization

It is also as a small that the tilde originated when written above other letters, marking a Latin which had been elided in old Galician-Portuguese. In modern Portuguese it indicates
nasalization In phonetics, nasalization (or nasalisation) is the production of a sound while the velum is lowered, so that some air escapes through the nose during the production of the sound by the mouth. An archetypal nasal sound is . In the Internati ...
of the base vowel: "hand", from Lat. ''manu-''; "reasons", from Lat. . This usage has been adopted in the orthographies of several native languages of South America, such as Guarani and
Nheengatu The Nheengatu language (Tupi: , nheengatu rionegrino: ''yẽgatu'', nheengatu tradicional: ''nhẽẽgatú'' e nheengatu tapajoawara: ''nheẽgatu''), often written Nhengatu, is an indigenous language of the Tupi-Guarani family, being then deri ...
, as well as in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and many other phonetic alphabets. For example, is the IPA transcription of the pronunciation of the French place-name '' Lyon''. In Breton, the symbol after a vowel means that the letter serves only to give the vowel a nasalised pronunciation, without being itself pronounced, as it normally is. For example, gives the pronunciation whereas gives . In the DMG romanization of
Tunisian Arabic Tunisian Arabic, or simply Tunisian, is a set of dialects of Maghrebi Arabic spoken in Tunisia. It is known among its over 11 million speakers aeb, translit=Tounsi/Tounsiy, label=as, تونسي , "Tunisian" or "Everyday Language" to distingu ...
, the tilde is used for nasal vowels õ and ṏ.

### Palatal n

The tilded (, ) developed from the digraph in Spanish. In this language, is considered a separate letter called '' eñe'' (), rather than a letter-diacritic combination; it is placed in Spanish dictionaries between the letters and . In Spanish, the word ''tilde'' actually refers to diacritics in general, e.g. the acute accent in ''José'', while the diacritic in is called "virgulilla" (). Current languages in which the tilded () is used for the palatal nasal consonant include * Asturian *
Aymara Aymara may refer to: Languages and people * Aymaran languages, the second most widespread Andean language ** Aymara language, the main language within that family ** Central Aymara, the other surviving branch of the Aymara(n) family, which tod ...
*
Basque Basque may refer to: * Basques, an ethnic group of Spain and France * Basque language, their language Places * Basque Country (greater region), the homeland of the Basque people with parts in both Spain and France * Basque Country (autonomous co ...
* Chamorro * Filipino * Galician * Guaraní * Iñupiaq * Mapudungun * Papiamento *
Quechua Quechua may refer to: *Quechua people, several indigenous ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru *Quechuan languages, a Native South American language family spoken primarily in the Andes, derived from a common ancestral language **So ...
*
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Can ...
*
Tetum , nativename=Tetun , states= Indonesia East Timor , speakers=, mostly in Indonesia , date=2010–2011 , ref=e18 , speakers2=50,000 L2-speakers in Indonesia and East Timor , familycolor=Austronesian , fam2=Malayo-Polynesian , fam3= Central–East ...
* Wolof

### Tone

In Vietnamese, a tilde over a vowel represents a creaky rising tone (''ngã''). Letters with the tilde are not considered separate letters of the
Vietnamese alphabet The Vietnamese alphabet ( vi, chữ Quốc ngữ, lit=script of the National language) is the modern Latin writing script or writing system for Vietnamese. It uses the Latin script based on Romance languages originally developed by Portuguese ...
.

### International Phonetic Alphabet

In
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Linguists who specialize in studying the physical properties of speech are phoneticians. ...
, a tilde is used as a diacritic that is placed above a letter, below it or
superimpose Superimposition is the placement of one thing over another, typically so that both are still evident. Graphics In graphics, superimposition is the placement of an image or video on top of an already-existing image or video, usually to add to t ...
d onto the middle of it: * A tilde above a letter indicates
nasalization In phonetics, nasalization (or nasalisation) is the production of a sound while the velum is lowered, so that some air escapes through the nose during the production of the sound by the mouth. An archetypal nasal sound is . In the Internati ...
, e.g. . * A tilde superimposed onto the middle of a letter indicates
velarization Velarization is a secondary articulation of consonants by which the back of the tongue is raised toward the velum during the articulation of the consonant. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, velarization is transcribed by one of four d ...
or pharyngealization, e.g. . If no precomposed Unicode character exists, the Unicode character can be used to generate one. * A tilde below a letter indicates laryngealisation, e.g. . If no precomposed Unicode character exists, the Unicode character can be used to generate one.

### Letter extension

In Estonian, the symbol stands for the
close-mid back unrounded vowel The close-mid back unrounded vowel, or high-mid back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is , called "ram's horns." This symbol is distinct from the symbol f ...
, and it is considered an independent letter.

### Other uses

Some languages and alphabets use the tilde for other purposes, such as: * Arabic script: A symbol resembling the tilde () is used over the letter () to become , denoting a long sound. * Guaraní: The tilded (note that with tilde is not available as a precomposed glyph in Unicode) stands for the
velar nasal The voiced velar nasal, also known as agma, from the Greek word for 'fragment', is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is the sound of ''ng'' in English ''sing'' as well as ''n'' before velar consonants as in ''Englis ...
consonant. Also, the tilded () stands for the nasalized upper central rounded vowel . Munduruku, Parintintín, and two older spellings of Filipino words also use . *
Syriac script The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a writing system primarily used to write the Syriac language since the 1st century AD. It is one of the Semitic abjads descending from the Aramaic alphabet through the Palmyrene alphabet, and shares similarities with ...
: A tilde (~) under the letter ''
Kaph Kaph (also spelled kaf) is the eleventh letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician kāp , Hebrew kāf , Aramaic kāp , Syriac kāp̄ , and Arabic kāf (in abjadi order). The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek kappa (Κ), Lati ...
'' represents a sound, transliterated as ''ch'' or ''č''. * Estonian and Võro use the tilde above the letter o (õ) to indicate the vowel , a rare sound among languages. * Unicode has a combining vertical tilde character: . It is used to indicate middle tone in linguistic transcription of certain dialects of the
Lithuanian language Lithuanian ( ) is an Eastern Baltic language belonging to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the official language of Lithuania and one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.8 millio ...
.

## Punctuation

The tilde is used in various ways in punctuation, such as:

### Range

In some languages (though not generally in English), a tilde-like wavy dash may be used as
punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, whether read silently or aloud. An ...
(instead of an unspaced
hyphen The hyphen is a punctuation mark used to join words and to separate syllables of a single word. The use of hyphens is called hyphenation. ''Son-in-law'' is an example of a hyphenated word. The hyphen is sometimes confused with dashes ( figure ...
,
en dash The dash is a punctuation mark consisting of a long horizontal line. It is similar in appearance to the hyphen but is longer and sometimes higher from the baseline. The most common versions are the endash , generally longer than the hyphen b ...
or em dash) between two
number A number is a mathematical object used to count, measure, and label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with number words. More universally, individual numbers ca ...
s, to indicate a
range Range may refer to: Geography * Range (geographic), a chain of hills or mountains; a somewhat linear, complex mountainous or hilly area (cordillera, sierra) ** Mountain range, a group of mountains bordered by lowlands * Range, a term used to i ...
rather than
subtraction Subtraction is an arithmetic operation that represents the operation of removing objects from a collection. Subtraction is signified by the minus sign, . For example, in the adjacent picture, there are peaches—meaning 5 peaches with 2 taken ...
or a hyphenated number (such as a part number or model number). For example, "12~15" means "12 to 15", "~3" means "up to three", and "100~" means "100 and greater". East Asian languages almost always use this convention, but it is often done for clarity in some other languages as well.
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China * Chinese people, people of Chinese nationality, citizenship, and/or ethnicity **'' Zhonghua minzu'', the supra-ethnic concept of the Chinese nation ** List of ethnic groups in China, people of v ...
uses the wavy dash and full-width em dash interchangeably for this purpose. In English, the tilde is often used to express ranges and model numbers in
electronics The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and effects of electrons using electronic devices. Electronics uses active devices to control electron flow by amplification ...
, but rarely in formal grammar or in type-set documents, as a wavy dash preceding a number sometimes represents an approximation (see below).

## Juggling notation

In the juggling notation system Beatmap, tilde can be added to either "hand" in a pair of fields to say "cross the arms with this hand on top". Mills Mess is thus represented as (~2x,1)(1,2x)(2x,~1)*.

# Unicode

## Variants and similars

Unicode has code-points for many forms of non-combined tilde, for symbols incorporating tildes, and for characters visually similar to a tilde.

## Precomposed characters

A number of characters in Unicode, have tilde precomposed.