The acute accent ( ´ ) is a diacritic mark used in many modern written languages with alphabets based on the Latin, Cyrillic alphabet and Greek scripts.
An early precursor of the acute accent was the apex
, used in Latin
inscriptions to mark long vowels
The acute accent first appeared with this name in the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, where it indicated a syllable with a high pitch. Modern Greek has a stress accent instead of a pitch accent, so the diacritic is now used to mark the stressed vowel of a word.
The acute accent marks the stressed vowel of a word in several languages:
- Catalan. Used in stressed high vowels: é, í, ó, ú.
- Dutch. Used to disambiguate between words that differ only in stress (vóórkomen – voorkómen, meaning occur resp. prevent) or openness (hé – hè; één – een , meaning one resp. a)) where this is not otherwise reflected in the spelling.
- Irish (Gaelic), the mark is called a fada in English and appears on á, é, í, ó, ú. The effect is, in most instances, to lengthen the vowel, though in the northern or Ulster Dialect, pronunciation can also change subtly. The stress almost always falls on the vowel with a fada. In words with more than one fada, particularly in the Ulster Dialect, the intonation changes too, giving the spoken language a musical quality.
- Modern Greek, where it marks the stressed vowel of every polysyllabic word.
- Occitan. Used in stressed high vowels: á, é, í, ó, ú.
- Portuguese: á, é, í, ó, ú. May also indicate height (see below).
- Russian. When it is required (i.e., in dictionaries, books for children or foreigners), stress is indicated by an acute accent as the stressing is very unpredictable and stressing the wrong syllable sometimes changes the meaning of the word. The same rules apply in Ukrainian, Belarusian and Bulgarian languages. However, this is not the case for Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian, as these languages have a semi-fixed stress on the second-last and/or third-last syllable, making the use of accents redundant.
- Spanish. Used on vowels to mark stress. Occasionally it is also used to distinguish between homophones. See below.
- Swedish and Danish. The acute accent is used to indicate that a terminal syllable with the vowel e is stressed, and is often written out only when it changes the meaning. For example: armen (first syllable stressed) means "the arm", while armén means "the army"; ide (both syllables stressed) means "bear's nest", while idé means "idea". Also stress related is the different spellings of the words en/én and et/ét (the indefinite article and the word "one" in Danish). In this case the acute points out that there is one and only one of the object. Derrives from the obsolete spelling(s) een and eet. Some loan-words, mainly from French, are also written with the acute accent, like filé and kafé.
- Welsh. Word stress always falls on the penultimate syllable, unless indicated otherwise by the use of an acute accent on the stressed vowel; this can be on an á, é, í, ó, ú, ẃ, or ý. For example casáu "to hate", caniatáu "to allow, to permit".
The acute accent marks the height
of some stressed vowels in various Romance languages
- To mark high vowels:
- Spanish. The acute accent denotes the syllable were the stress happens. It can be found only in vowels and, as many other languages, is used for diacritic purposes in some cases. By rule it is placed over vowels in certain words for marking an hiatus.
- Catalan. The acute marks the quality of the vowels é [e] (as opposed to è [ɛ]), and ó [o] (as opposed to ò [ɔ]).
- French. Used only on é. It is known as accent aigu, and distinguishes é [e] from è, ê [ɛ], and e [ə]. Unlike other Romance languages, the accent marks rarely imply stress in French as the stress is almost always on the last syllable of each word.
- Italian. The acute accent is compulsory only in words of more than one syllable stressed on their final vowel (and a few other words), and there are hardly any words ending in -ò. Therefore, only é is usually seen in normal text, typically in words ending in -ché, such as perché "why/because"; in ambiguous monosyllables such as né 'neither' vs. ne 'of it' and sé 'itself' vs. se 'if'; and some verb forms, e.g. poté "he/she/it could" (past tense). The symbol ó can be used for disambiguation, for instance between bótte, "barrel", and bòtte, "beating", though this is not mandatory.
- Occitan. The acute marks the quality of the vowels é [e] (as opposed to è [ɛ]), ó [u] (as opposed to ò [ɔ]) and á [ɔ/e] (as opposed to à [a]).
- To mark low vowels:
The acute accent marks long vowels
in several languages:
- Czech. To indicate a long u in the middle or at the end of a word, a kroužek (ring) is used instead, to form ů.
- Hungarian: á, é, í, ó, ú are the long equivalents of the vowels a, e, i, o, u (the former two also implying a change in quality, see below), while ő, ű (see double acute accent) are the long equivalents of ö, ü.
- Irish: á, é, í, ó, ú are the long equivalents of the vowels a, e, i, o, u. The accent is known as a síneadh fada (length accent), usually abbreviated to fada.
- Slovak. This language has also two more "long vowels" (which are consonants in the alphabet, but vowels in terms of their function): ŕ and ĺ, which are pronounced just like ordinary syllabic r and l, only longer.
- Arabic and Persian: á, í, ú were used in western transliteration of Islamic language texts from the 18th to early 20th centuries. Representing the long vowels, they are typically transcribed with a macron today.
On consonant letters, the acute accent often represents a palatalized
In Polish, it is known as kreska and is used over several letters —- four consonants and one vowel. Over the consonants, it is used to indicate palatalization, similar to the use of the háček in Czech and other Slavic languages, (e.g. sześć /ʂɛɕʨ/ "six"), however, in contrast to the hacek which is usually used for postalveolar consonants, the kreska denotes alveolo-palatal consonants. In traditional Polish typography, the kreska is more nearly vertical than an acute, and placed slightly right of center.
In Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian the letter ć is used to represent a palatalized t.
In the romanization of Macedonian, ǵ and ḱ represent the Cyrillic letters Ѓ and Ќ, which stand for palatal or alveolo-palatal consonants, though gj and kj are more commonly used for this purpose.
In some tonal languages
written with the Latin alphabet, such as Vietnamese
written in the standard Quốc Ngữ system, and Mandarin Chinese
written in the Pinyin romanization
, the acute accent is used to indicate a rising tone
In African languages, it frequently marks a high tone, e.g., Yoruba apá 'arm', Nobiin féntí 'sweet date', Ekoti kaláwa 'boat'.
The acute accent is used to disambiguate certain words which would otherwise be homographs
in the following languages:
- Danish. Examples: én "one" vs. en "a/an"; fór "went" vs. for "for"; véd "know(s)" vs. ved "by"; gǿr "bark(s)" vs. gør "do(es)"; dǿr "die(s)" vs. dør "door"; allé "alley" vs. alle "everybody".
Furthermore, it is also used for the imperative form of verbs ending in -ere, which lose their final e and might be mistaken for plurals of a noun (which most often end in -er): analysér is the imperative form of at analysere "to analyse", analyser is "analyses", plural of the noun analyse "analysis". Using an acute accent is always optional, never required.
- Modern Greek. Although all polysyllabic words have an acute accent on the stressed syllable, in monosyllabic words the presence or absence of an accent may disambiguate. The most common case is η, the feminine definite article ("the"), versus ή, meaning "or".
- Norwegian. It is not used for the imperative form of verbs ending in -ere as it is in Danish: kontroller is the imperative form of "to control", kontroller is the noun "controls". In Nynorsk, the simple past of the verb å fare, "to travel", can optionally be written fór, to distinguish it from for (preposition "for" as in English), fôr "feed" n./"lining", or fòr "narrow ditch, trail by plow'' (all the diacritics in these examples are optional ).
- Spanish. Covers various question word / relative pronoun pairs where the first is stressed and the second is a clitic, such as cómo (interrogative "how") and como (non-interrogative "how", comparative "like"), differentiates qué (what) from que (that), dónde and donde "where", and some other words such as tú "you" and tu "your," él "he/him" and el ("the", masculine). This usage of the acute accent is called acento diacrítico.
In Dutch, the acute accent can also be used to emphasize an individual word within a sentence. For example, "Dit is ónze auto, niet die van jullie
," "This is our
car, not yours." In this example, ónze
is merely an emphasized form of onze
In Danish, the acute accent can also be used for emphasis, especially on the word der (there), ex. "Der kan ikke være mange mennesker dér," meaning "There can't be many people there" or "Dér skal vi hen" meaning "That's where we're going".
- In Faroese, the acute accent is used on 5 of the vowels (a, i, o, u and y), but these letters, á, í, ó, ú and ý are considered separate letters with separate pronunciations.
- á: long [ɔa], short [ɔ] and before [a]: [õ]
- í/ý: long [ʊiː], short [ʊi]
- ó: long [ɔu], [ɛu] or [œu], short: [œ], except Suðuroy: [ɔ]
- When ó is followed by the skerping -gv, it is pronounced [ɛ], except in Suðuroy where it is [ɔ]
- ú: long [ʉu], short [ʏ]
- When ú is followed by the skerping -gv, it is pronounced [ɪ]
- In Hungarian, the acute accent marks a difference in quality on two vowels, apart from vowel length:
- The (short) vowel a is open back rounded (ɒ), but á is open front unrounded (a) (and long).
- Similarly, the (short) vowel e is open-mid front unrounded (ɛ), while (long) é is close-mid front unrounded (e).
- Despite this difference, these two pairs are arranged as equal in collation, just like the other pairs (see above) that only differ in length.
- In Icelandic the acute accent is used on 6 of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u and y), and, as in Faroese, these are considered separate letters.
- á: [au(ː)]
- é: long [jeɛː], short [jɛ]
- í/ý: [i(ː)]
- ó: [ou(ː)]
- ú: [u(ː)]
- All can be either short or long, but note that the pronunciation of é is not the same short and long.
- Etymologically, vowels with an acute accent in these languages correspond to their Old Norse counterparts, which were long vowels but in many cases have become diphthongs. The only exception is é, which in Faroese has become æ.
- In Polish, the acute on "ó" indicates a pronunciation change into [u], and historically it was used to indicate a long vowel.
- In Turkmen, the letter Ý is a consonant: [j].
- Many Norwegian words of French origin retain an acute accent, such as allé, kafé, idé, komité. Popular usage can be sketchy and often neglects the accent, and there exists a certain degree of interchangeability with the grave accent. Likewise, in Swedish, the acute accent is used only for the letter e, mostly in words of French origin and in some names. It is used both to indicate a change in vowel quantity as well as quality and that the stress should be on this, normally unstressed, syllable. Examples include café ("café") and resumé ("resumé", noun). There are two pairs of homographs that are differentiated only by the accent: armé ("army") versus arme ("poor; pitiful", masculine gender) and idé ("idea") versus ide ("winter quarters").
- In Northern Sámi, an acute accent was placed over the corresponding Latin letter to represent the letters peculiar to this language (Áá, Čč, Đđ, Ŋŋ, Šš, Ŧŧ, Žž) when typing when there was no way of entering these letters correctly otherwise.
- In transliterating texts written in Cuneiform, an acute accent over the vowel indicates that the original sign is the second representing that value in the canonical lists. Thus su is used to transliterate the first sign with the phonetic value /su/, while sú transliterates the second sign with the value /su/.
- In some Basque texts, the letters r and l carry acute accents, which are otherwise indicated by double letters. In such cases, ŕ is used to represent rr (a trilled r, this spelling is used only internally in words, to differentiate between -r-, an alveolar tap–in Basque /r/ in word-initial and word-final positions is always trilled) and ĺ for ll (a palatalized /l/).
Use in English
As with other diacritical marks, a number of loanwords
are sometimes spelled in English with an acute accent used in the original language: these include sauté
, and fiancée
. Retention of the accent is common only in the French
, as in these examples, where its absence would tend to suggest a different pronunciation. Thus the French word résumé
is commonly seen in English as resumé
, with only one accent.
Acute accents are sometimes added to loanwords where a final e is not silent, e.g. latté. This is non-standard.
For foreign terms used in English that have not been assimilated into English or are not in general English usage, italics are generally used with the appropriate accents: for example, coup d'état, pièce de résistance, crème brûlée.
Accents are sometimes also used for poetic purposes, to indicate an unusual pronunciation: for example, spelling the word picked (normally [pɪkt]) as pickéd to indicate the pronunciation ['pɪkɪd]. The grave accent is also sometimes used for this purpose.
The ISO-8859-1 and extended ASCII character encodings include the letters á, é, í, ó, ú, ý, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the acute accent are available in Unicode. Unicode also provides the acute accent as a separate character U+00B4 and a combining character, U+0301.
On Windows computers, letters with acute accents can be created by holding down the alt key and typing in a three-number code on the number pad to the right of the keyboard before releasing the alt key. Before the appearance of Spanish keyboards, Spanish speakers had to learn these codes if they wanted to be able to write acute accents, though some preferred using the Microsoft Word spell checker to add the accent for them. The codes are:
- 160 for á
- 130 for é
- 161 for í
- 162 for ó
- 163 for ú
On a UK Keyboard layout, these letters can also be made by holding Ctrl+Alt (or Alt Gr) and the desired letter.
Some sites, such as Wikipedia or the babelfish automatic translator allow inserting such symbols by clicking on a link in a box.
On a Macintosh, an acute accent is placed on a vowel by pressing Option-e and then the vowel, which can also be capitalised; for example, á is formed by pressing Option-e and then 'a', and Á is formed by pressing Option-e and then Shift-a.