26 Fascinating Facts About Every Letter in the English Alphabet

Bet you didn’t know THIS when you learned your ABCs.

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English alphabet letter A
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A is for…

Believe it or not, the capital A hasn’t always looked the way it does now. Ancient Egyptians wrote the letter upside down, creating a symbol that resembled a steer with horns.

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English alphabet letter B
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B is for…

Grab a paper and pen, and start writing down every number as a word. Do you notice one missing? If you kept going, you wouldn’t use a single letter B until you reached one billion.

Here’s the real reason some English words have silent letters!

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English alphabet letter C
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C is for…

Benjamin Franklin reportedly wanted to banish C from the alphabet—along with J, Q, W, and X—and replace them with six letters he invented himself. Doing so, Franklin claimed, would simplify the English language. Word nerds will appreciate these grammar jokes.

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English alphabet letter D
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D is for…

Contrary to popular belief, the letter D in D-day does not stand for “doom” or “disaster”—it simply stands for “day.” The Army names any important military operation or invasion with this term, using it as a placeholder for a certain calendar date. Check out more history lessons your teacher lied to you about.

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English alphabet letter E
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E is for…

The letter E is the most common letter in the English language. It appears in 11 per cent of all words, according to an analysis of 240,000 entries in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

This is why the letters on a computer keyboard aren’t in alphabetical order!

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English alphabet letter F
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F is for…

These days, a failing grade is usually designated with an F. However, that grade used to be represented by the letter E. When administrators at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts redesigned the grading system in 1898, professors worried that students would think the grade meant “excellent.”According to Slate, F more obviously stands for “failure” or “failed.”

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English alphabet letter G
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G is for…

Both G and C were originally represented by the Phoenician symbol for gimel, which meant “camel.” It was the Romans who finally separated the two letters, letting C keep its shape and adding a bar at the bottom for the letter G.

Check out 4 more mind-blowing facts about the English language!

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English alphabet letter H
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H is for…

H might be the most hated letter in Britain, according to Michael Rosen, author of Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story. For almost two thousand years, Brits have pronounced H two ways: ‘aitch’ and ‘haitch.’ Accents that dropped the H from words were once considered lower class, Rosen writes. What’s more, different pronunciations of the letter also distinguished the Catholics from the Protestants in Northern Ireland.

This is the real difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom!

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English alphabet letter I
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I is for…

Funny enough, the dot over the letters “i” and “j” actually has a name. It is called a tittle, or superscript dot.

Here are 11 British words and phrases every Canadian should know!

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English alphabet letter J
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J is for…

J is the only letter in the alphabet that does not appear on the periodic table. Invented in 1524 by an Italian, J was also the last letter to be added to the alphabet.

An MIT professor called this the hardest logic puzzle ever. Can you solve it?

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English alphabet letter K
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K is for…

No matter how high you count in the English language, you will never find a number that uses the letter K. Same goes for the letters J and Z.

Can you solve this tricky numbers riddle in less than 60 seconds?

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English alphabet letter L
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L is for…

The Super Bowl has traditionally used Roman numerals to denote the number of the Big Game. But for its 50th anniversary, it chose not to use the Roman numeral for 50, which is L. The slogan “Super Bowl L” put a bad taste in the NFL’s mouth, Rolling Stone reports. Why? L tends to stand for a “loss” in football.

It turns out the most complicated word in the English language is only three letters long!

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English alphabet letter M
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M is for…

You can’t say the letter M without your lips touching. Go ahead and try it! Then, give the hardest words to pronounce in the English language a shot.

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English alphabet letter N
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N is for…

The letter N was originally a pictorial representation of a fish, or one wave that resembled a camel hump.

Bet you never realized these 19 words are spelled the same backwards and forwards!

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English alphabet letter O
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O is for…

Only four letters (A, E, O, L) are doubled at the beginning of a word (aardvark, eel, ooze, llama, etc.), and more words start with double O than any others in the English language.

Here are 10 amazing words we no longer use (but totally should)!

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English alphabet letter P
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P is for…

The letter P originally came from the Phoenician letter “rosh,” or R, which looked like a backward P. The word rosh meant “head”—hence the symbol’s resemblance to a neck and head.

Psst—these 11 words and phrases don’t mean what you think they do!

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English alphabet letter Q
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Q is for…

One out of every 510 letters in English words is a Q, making it the least common letter in the English alphabet, according to an Oxford English Dictionary analysis.

Check out our countdown of the top 6 words women universally hate!

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English alphabet letter R
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R is for…

The letter R is sometimes referred to as the “littera canina,” or canine letter. In Latin, the way speakers trilled the R sounded like a growling dog. William Shakespeare even gave the letter a shout-out in his play Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet’s nurse calls the letter R “the dog’s name” in Act 2, scene 4.

These 22 brilliant Shakespearean insults still sting today!

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English alphabet letter S
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S is for…

The English alphabet briefly included a typographical letter called a “long s.” Used from the late Renaissance to the early 1800s, it resembled the letter ‘f’ but was pronounced simply as ‘s.’ Eventually, the letter fell out of use; John Bell, who pioneered a new modern typeface, is often blamed for the disappearance of the long s.

Here are 9 great words you never knew were Gaelic!

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English alphabet letter T
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T is for…

The term “T-shirt” got its name for the ‘T’ shape of the body and sleeves. It is a relatively new word, too. According to TodayIFoundOut, F. Scott Fitzgerald was reportedly the first person to print the term “T-shirt” in 1920, when the main character in his novel This Side of Paradise brings a T-shirt with him to college.

These 10 slang words from the 1920s are very, very weird!

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English alphabet letter U
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U is for…

Up until 1629, the letters U and V were used interchangeably; the shape V stood for both the vowel U and the consonant V. It wasn’t until an Italian printer named Lazare Zetzner started using the letter U in his print shop that the two letters became distinct.

These 10 words will immediately make you sound very old!

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English alphabet letter V
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V is for…

V is the only letter in the English language that is never silent, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Think about it: Even unusual letters like Z and J are silent in words we have borrowed from foreign languages, such as marijuana (originally a Spanish word) and laissez-faire (French).

Here are 8 Spanish phrases everyone should know how to use!

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English alphabet letter W
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W is for…

If you have ever wondered why we call it a “double-u” instead of “double-v,” you’re not alone. However, the explanation is surprisingly simple. Because the Latin alphabet did not have a letter to represent the sound /w/ in Old English, 7th-century scribes just wrote it as ‘uu.’ The double-u symbol eventually meshed together to form the letter W.

Ever wonder why the contraction for will not isn’t “willn’t”? We know the reason!

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English alphabet letter X
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X is for…

From “X marks the spot” to “solve for x,” we often use the letter ‘x’ to represent the unknown. But where did this trend come from? According to Gizmodo, French mathematician René Descartes used the last three letters of the alphabet to represent unknown quantities in his book La Géométrie, which invented analytic geometry. By contrast, he chose a, b, and c to represent the known.

Check out the fascinating origins of 9 commonly-used phrases!

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English alphabet letter Y
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Y is for…

The Oxford English Dictionary considers Y a “semivowel.” While the letter stops your breath in words like yell and young—making it a consonant—it can also create an open vocal sound in words like myth or hymn, which makes it a vowel.

Check out these weird facts about 7 punctuation marks you see everywhere!

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English alphabet letter Z
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Z is for…

Believe it or not, the letter Z has not always been the last letter of the alphabet; in the Greek alphabet, it had a respectable place at number seven.

Here are 9 common spelling and grammar mistakes spell check won’t catch!

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest