The circumflex is a diacritic in the Latin and Greek scripts that is used in the written forms of many languages and in various romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name from 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).

A similar typographical symbol, the caret (^) is used in proof-reading and in programming.

In mathematics and statistics, the circumflex is used to denote a function and is called a hat operator.

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).[1][citation needed] Later a variant similar to the tilde (~) was also used.

In countries where the local language(s) routinely include letters with a circumflex, local keyboards are typically engraved with those symbols.

For users with American or British QWERTY keyboards, the characters â, ĉ, ê, ĝ, ĥ, î, ĵ, ô, ŝ, û, ẃ, ý (and their uppercase equivalents) may be obtained after installing the International or extended keyboard layout setting. Then, by using (US Int) ⇧ Shift+6 or (UK Ext) AltGr+6 (^), then release, then the base letter, produces the accented version. (With this keyboard mapping, French, the circumflex generally marks the former presence of a consonant (usually s) that was deleted and is no longer pronounced. (The corresponding Norman French words, and consequently the words derived from them in English, frequently retain the lost consonant.) For example: