The circumflex is a diacritic in the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic scripts
that is used in the written forms of many languages and in various
romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name
Latin circumflexus "bent around"—a translation of the Greek
περισπωμένη (perispōménē). The circumflex in the Latin
script is chevron-shaped ( ˆ ), while the Greek circumflex may be
displayed either like a tilde ( ˜ ) or like an inverted breve (
In English the circumflex, like other diacritics, is sometimes
retained on loanwords that used it in the original language (for
example, crème brûlée).
The diacritic is also used in mathematics, where it is typically
called a hat or roof or house.
1.1 Phonetic marker
1.1.5 Other articulatory features
1.2 Abbreviation, contraction, and disambiguation
Circumflex in digital character sets
3 See also
5 External links
Ancient Greek accent
The circumflex has its origins in the polytonic orthography of Ancient
Greek, where it marked long vowels that were pronounced with high and
then falling pitch. In a similar vein, the circumflex is today used to
mark tone contour in the International Phonetic Alphabet.
The shape of the circumflex was originally a combination of the acute
and grave accents (^), as it marked a syllable contracted from two
vowels: an acute-accented vowel and a non-accented vowel (all
non-accented syllables in
Ancient Greek were once marked with a grave
accent). Later a variant similar to the tilde (~)
was also used.
ν-´ō`-ς = νō͂ς = νοῦς
n-´ō`-s = nō̂s = noûs
The term "circumflex" is also used to describe similar tonal accents
that result from combining two vowels in related languages such as
Sanskrit and Latin.
Modern Greek has a stress accent instead of a pitch accent, the
circumflex has been replaced with an acute accent in the modern
The circumflex accent marks a long vowel in the orthography or
transliteration of several languages.
In Afrikaans, the circumflex marks a vowel with a lengthened
pronunciation, often arising from compensatory lengthening due to the
loss of ⟨g⟩ from the original Dutch form. Examples of circumflex
Afrikaans are sê "to say", wêreld "world", môre "tomorrow",
Akkadian. In the transliteration of this language, the circumflex
indicates a long vowel resulting from an aleph contraction.
In Emilian, â î û are used to represent [aː, iː, uː]
French. In some varieties, such as in Belgian French,
Swiss French and
Acadian French, vowels with a circumflex are long: fête [fɛːt]
(party) is longer than faite [fɛt]. This length compensates for a
deleted consonant, usually s.
Japanese. In the
Nihon-shiki systems of romanization,
and sometimes the Hepburn system, the circumflex is used as a
replacement for the macron.
Kurmanji Kurdish, ⟨ê î û⟩ are used to represent /eː iː
Luxembourgish m̂ n̂ can be used to indicate nasalisation of a
vowel. Also, the circumflex can be over the vowel to indicate
nasalisation. In either case, the circumflex is rare.
Serbo-Croatian the circumflex can be used to distinguish
homographs, and it is called the "genitive sign" or "length sign".
Examples include sam "am" versus sâm "alone". For example, the phrase
"I am alone" may be written Ja sam sâm to improve clarity. Another
example: da "yes", dâ "gives".
Turkish. According to
Turkish Language Association
Turkish Language Association orthography,
düzeltme işareti "correction mark" over a, i and u marks a long
vowel to disambiguate similar words. For example, compare ama "but"
and âmâ "blind", şura 'that place, there' and şûra "council".
In general, circumflexes occur only in
Arabic and Persian loanwords as
vowel length in early Turkish was not phonemic. However, this standard
was never applied entirely consistently and by the early 21st
century many publications had stopped using circumflexes almost
Welsh. The circumflex is known as hirnod "long sign" or acen grom
"crooked accent", but more usually and colloquially as to bach "little
roof". It lengthens a stressed vowel (a, e, i, o, u, w, y), and is
used particularly to differentiate between homographs; e.g. tan and
tân, ffon and ffôn, gem and gêm, cyn and cŷn, or gwn and gŵn.
In Adûnaic, the Black Speech, and Khuzdul, constructed languages of
J. R. R. Tolkien, all long vowels are transcribed with the circumflex.
Sindarin long vowels in monosyllabic words take the circumflex and
long vowels in longer words take the acute.
Bilingual sign showing the use of the circumflex in Welsh as an
indicator of length and stress: parêd [paˈreːd] "parade", as
opposed to pared [ˈparɛd] "partition wall".
The circumflex accent marks the stressed vowel of a word in some
Portuguese â, ê, and ô are stressed “closed” vowels, opposed to
their open counterparts á, é, and ó (see below).
Welsh: the circumflex, due to its function as a disambiguating
lengthening sign (see above), is used in polysyllabic words with
word-final long vowels. The circumflex thus indicates the stressed
syllable (which would normally be on the penultimate syllable), since
in Welsh, non-stressed vowels may not normally be long. This happens
notably where the singular ends in an a, to, e.g. singular camera,
drama, opera, sinema → plural camerâu, dramâu, operâu, sinemâu;
however, it also occurs in singular nominal forms, e.g. arwyddocâd;
in verbal forms, e.g. deffrônt, cryffânt; etc.
In Bamanankan, it marks a falling tone, as opposed to a háček which
signifies that on this syllable, the tone is rising.
In Breton, it is used on an e to show that the letter is pronounced
open instead of closed.
In Bulgarian, the sound represented in Bulgarian by the Cyrillic
letter ъ (er goljam) is usually transliterated as â in systems used
prior to 1989. Although called a schwa (misleadingly suggesting an
unstressed lax sound), it is more accurately described as a mid back
unrounded vowel /ɤ/. Unlike English or French, but similar to
Romanian and Afrikaans, it can be stressed.
Pinyin romanized Mandarin Chinese, ê is used to represent the
sound /ɛ/ in isolation, which occurs sometimes as an exclamation.
in French, the letter ê is normally pronounced open, like è. In the
usual pronunciations of central and northern France, ô is pronounced
close, like eau; in Southern France, no distinction is made between
close and open o.
Portuguese â /ɐ/, ê /e/, and ô /o/ are stressed high vowels, in
opposition to á /a/, é /ɛ/, and ó /ɔ/, which are stressed low
In Romanian, the circumflex is used on the vowels â and î to mark
the vowel /ɨ/, similar to Russian yery. The names of these accented
letters are â din a and î din i, respectively. (The letter â only
appears in the middle of words; thus, its majuscule version appears
only in all-capitals inscriptions.)
In Slovak, the circumflex (vokáň) turns the letter o into a
diphthong: ô /uo/.
In Swedish dialect and folklore literature the circumflex is used to
indicate the phonemes /a(ː)/ or /æ(ː)/ (â), /ɶ(ː)/ or /ɞ(ː)/
(ô) and /ɵ(ː)/ (û) in dialects and regional accents where these
are distinct from /ɑ(ː)/ (a), /ø(ː)/ (ö) or /o(ː)/ (o or å) and
/ʉ(ː)/ (u) respectively, unlike Standard Swedish where [a] and
[ɑː], [ɵ] and [ʉː] are short and long allophones of the phonemes
/a/ and /ʉ/ respectively, and where
Old Swedish short /o/ (ŏ) has
merged with /o(ː)/ from
Old Swedish /ɑː/ (ā, Modern Swedish å)
instead of centralizing to [ɞ] or fronting to [ɶ] and remaining a
distinct phoneme (ô) as in the dialects in question. Different
methods can be found in different literature, so some author may use
æ instead of â, or use â where others use å̂ (å with a
circumflex; for a sound between /ɑ(ː)/ and /o(ː)/).
Vietnamese â /ə/, ê /e/, and ô /o/ are higher vowels than a /ɑ/,
e /ɛ/, and o /ɔ/. The circumflex can appear together with a tone
mark on the same vowel, as in the word Việt. Vowels with circumflex
are considered separate letters from the base vowels.
Other articulatory features
In Emilian, ê ô [eː, oː] denote both length and height. In
Romagnol, they are used to represent the diphthongs /eə, oə/, whose
specific articulation varies between dialects, e.g. sêl
In Chichewa, ŵ (present for example in the name of the country
Malaŵi) used to denote the voiced bilabial fricative /β/; nowadays,
however, most Chichewa-speakers pronounce it as a regular [w].
In Pinyin, the romanized writing of Mandarin Chinese, ẑ, ĉ, and ŝ
are, albeit rarely, used to represent zh [tʂ], ch [tʂʰ], and sh
In Esperanto, the circumflex is used on ĉ [tʃ], ĝ [dʒ], ĥ [x], ĵ
[ʒ], ŝ [ʃ]. Each indicates a different consonant from the
unaccented form, and is considered a separate letter for purposes of
In Nsenga, ŵ denotes the labiodental approximant /ʋ/.
In Philippine languages, the circumflex (pakupyâ) is used to
represent the simultaneous occurrence of a stress and a glottal stop
in the last vowel of the word.
In Old Tupi, the circumflex changed a vowel into a semivowel: î [j],
û [w], and ŷ [ɰ].
In Turkish, the circumflex over a and u is sometimes used in words of
Arabic or Persian derivation to indicate when a preceding consonant
(k, g, l) is to be pronounced as a palatal plosive; [c], [ɟ]
(kâğıt, gâvur, mahkûm, Gülgûn). The circumflex over i is used
to indicate a nisba suffix (millî, dinî).
In the African language Venda, a circumflex below d, l, n, and t is
used to represent dental consonants: ḓ, ḽ, ṋ, ṱ.
In the 18th century, the
Real Academia Española
Real Academia Española introduced the
circumflex accent in Spanish to mark that a ch or x were pronounced
[k] and [ks] respectively (instead of [tʃ] and [x], which were the
default values): châracteres, exâcto (spelled today caracteres,
exacto). This usage was quickly abandoned during the same century,
once the RAE decided to use ch and x with one assigned pronunciation
only: [tʃ] and [ks] respectively.
Abbreviation, contraction, and disambiguation
In 18th century British English, before the cheap
Penny Post and while
paper was taxed, the combination ough was occasionally shortened to ô
when the gh was not pronounced, to save space: thô for though, thorô
for thorough, and brôt for brought.
Circumflex in French
In French, the circumflex generally marks the former presence of a
consonant (usually s) that was deleted and is no longer pronounced.
Norman French words, and consequently the words
derived from them in English, frequently retain the lost consonant.)
rôtir "to roast"
dépôt (from the
Latin depositum 'deposit', but now referring to both
a deposit or a storehouse of any kind)
Note that in current French, the English spellings, at least in terms
of the syllable with the circumflex, could be pronounced the same as
the French spellings, owing to the transformative effect of s on the
preceding vowel[clarification needed] – for example forêt
[fɔʁɛ] "forest", as per est [ɛ] "is" (third person singular of
être). Conversely, in the homograph est [ɛst] "east", the [s] sound
Some homophones (or near-homophones in some varieties of French) are
distinguished by the circumflex. However, â, ê and ô distinguish
different sounds in most varieties of French, for instance cote [kɔt]
"level, mark, code number" and côte [kot] "rib, coast, hillside".
In handwritten French, for example in taking notes, an m with a
circumflex (m̂) is an informal abbreviation for même "same".
In February 2016, the Académie française decided to remove the
circumflex from about 2000 words, a plan that had been outlined since
1990. However, usage of the circumflex would not be considered
In Italian, î is occasionally used in the plural of nouns and
adjectives ending with -io [jo] as a crasis mark. Other possible
spellings are -ii and obsolete -j or -ij. For example, the plural of
vario [ˈvaːrjo] "various" can be spelt vari, varî, varii; the
pronunciation will usually stay [ˈvaːri] with only one [i]. The
plural forms of principe [ˈprintʃipe] "prince" and of principio
[prinˈtʃipjo] "principle, beginning" can be confusing. In
pronunciation, they are distinguished by whether the stress is on the
first or on the second syllable, but principi would be a correct
spelling of both. When necessary to avoid ambiguity, it is advised to
write the plural of principio as principî or as principii.
In Norwegian, the circumflex differentiates fôr "lining, fodder" from
the preposition for. From a historical point of view, the circumflex
also indicates that the word used to be spelled with the letter ð in
Old Norse – for example, fôr is derived from fóðr, lêr
'leather' from leðr, and vêr "weather, ram" from veðr (both lêr
and vêr only occur in the
Nynorsk spelling; in
Bokmål these words
are spelled lær and vær). After the ð disappeared, it was replaced
by a d (fodr, vedr).
Main article: Hat operator
In mathematics, the circumflex is used to modify variable names; it is
usually read "hat", e.g., î is "i hat". The
Fourier transform of a
function ƒ is often denoted by
displaystyle hat f
In the notation of sets, a hat above an element signifies that the
element was removed from the set, such as in
displaystyle x_ 0 ,dotsc , hat x _ i ,dotsc ,x_ n
, the set containing all elements
displaystyle x_ 0 ,dotsc ,x_ n
displaystyle x_ i
In vector notation, a hat above a letter indicates a unit vector (a
dimensionless vector with a magnitude of 1). For instance,
displaystyle hat mathbf imath
displaystyle hat mathbf x
displaystyle hat mathbf e _ 1
stands for a unit vector in the direction of the x-axis of a
Cartesian coordinate system.
In statistics, the hat is used to denote an estimator or an estimated
value, as opposed to its theoretical counterpart. For example, in
errors and residuals, the hat in
displaystyle hat varepsilon
indicates an observable estimate (the residual) of an unobservable
(the statistical error). It is read x-hat or x-roof, where x
represents the character under the hat.
In music theory and musicology, a circumflex above a numeral is used
to make reference to a particular scale degree.
In music notation, a chevron-shaped symbol placed above a note
indicates marcato, a special form of emphasis or accent. In music for
string instruments, a narrow inverted chevron indicates that a note
should be performed up-bow.
Circumflex in digital character sets
The precomposed characters Â/â, Ê/ê, Î/î, Ô/ô, and Û/û
(which incorporate the circumflex) are included in the ISO-8859-1
character set, and dozens more are available in Unicode. In addition,
Unicode has U+0302 ◌̂ Combining circumflex accent and U+032D ◌̭
Combining circumflex accent below which in principle allow adding the
diacritic to any base letter.
For historical reasons, there is a similar but larger character,
U+005E ^ circumflex accent, which is also included in
ASCII but often
referred to as caret instead. It is, however, unsuitable for use as a
diacritic on modern computer systems, as it is a spacing character.
Another spacing circumflex character in
Unicode is the smaller U+02C6
ˆ modifier letter circumflex accent, mainly used in phonetic
notations – or as a sample of the diacritic in isolation.
Circumflex in French
^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Hat". Mathworld. Wolfram. Retrieved 29 November
^ Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (ccel.org): "155.
The ancients regarded the grave originally as belonging to every
syllable not accented with the acute or circumflex; and some Mss. show
this in practice, e.g. πὰγκρὰτής. [...]"
^ Thackston, Wheeler M. (2006). "
Kurmanji Kurdish: A Reference Grammar
with Selected Readings" (PDF). Iranian Studies at Harvard University.
Harvard University. p. 11. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
^ "Genitivni znak". Pravopis Srpskog Jezika (in Serbian).
^ a b www.tdk.gov.tr Archived 2007-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Lewis, Geoffrey (1999). The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic
^ Kornfilt, Jaklin (2013). Turkish.
^ "Malawi: Maláui, Malaui, Malauí, Malavi ou Malávi?".
DicionarioeGramatica.com.br. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
^ Paul Morrow (March 16, 2011). "The basics of Filipino pronunciation:
Part 2 of 3 • accent marks". Pilipino Express. Retrieved July 18,
^ Ricardo M.D. Nolasco. Grammar notes on the national language
^ Joan Schoellner & Beverly D. Heinle, ed. (2007). Tagalog Reading
Booklet (PDF). Simon & Schister's Pimsleur. p. 5–6.
^ ""Dépôt" definition". Larousse. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
^ "End of the circumflex? Changes in French spelling cause uproar".
BBC. 5 February 2016.
Look up ^ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Diacritics Project – "All you need to design a font with
Diacs and Quirks in a Nutshell –
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International Phonetic Alphabet
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Latin character sets
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letters used in mathematics