Y or y (pronounced [ ʔʏpsilɔn ]; in Switzerland also [ iɡrɛk ], "i grec " Greek = i) is the 25th letter of the Roman alphabet. As in classical Latin, it is in many languages ​​a vowel in several languages ​​but also a consonant. The Y was not present in the original Latin alphabet, it was only later, at the time of Sulla, inserted as a 22 letter before the Z and used in Latin texts only to play the Y in Greek loanwords.

How this in any vowel letters is possible in principle, y is a vowel letter in the writing systems of modern languages ​​in part for one or more vowels, partly depending on the position for vowels or a consonant ( as in English ). In some languages, y is also used as a consonant letter ( as in Turkish ). y also comes as part of solid character combinations ( digraphs ) for individual phonemes before ( as in Hungarian ).

In German y is mainly used in Lehn and foreign words and then (usually and approximately ) the phonetic value of the original language. In German proper names (Sylt, Phyrn ) is the fundamental debate in vocalic use (long / closed or short / open ) [y ], ie the same as above; in unstressed final position, however, [i ], when used as a consonant or semi-vowel [ j].

The letter Y has an average frequency of 0.04 % in German texts. It is therefore to Q and X is the third rarest letter.

  • 2.1 Use of the German


Greek Y

The name Ypsilon comes from the Greek and means " plain i" ( ὔ - ψιλον; ψιλον - plain, simple, bare, empty, bare ).

The Wye is one of the youngest letters in the Latin alphabet and shares much of its history with the U, the V and the W ( and F). It has its origins in the Phoenician letter Waw, of the phonetic value [ w] had. Ins Greek alphabet, the letter was adopted as Ypsilon, which originally had the phonetic value of [ u]. It was on the way over the Etruscans the Latin U.

The lowercase Greek Ypsilon looks unlike the Latin script almost like a lowercase Latin U. In the Greek alphabet there is no letter that corresponds to the volume U, instead of the sequence of Omikron Ypsilon with an underground sound. For in principle erroneous transcriptions from the Greek with the Latin alphabet therefore often seen instead of a simple " u" in " ou ", although it is U -sound is only a.

By the 1st century BC, however, had changed as a result of language change the phonetic value of the Greek Ypsilon, it stood for the sound [y ]. When the Romans began around this time increasingly to use Greek terms, they helped themselves first with the description with U, but then added the Ypsilon added to the end of their alphabet.

Ligature ij

In the Early New High German and Middle Dutch the long [i ː ] was -sound sometimes rendered as ij. Since these letters often equal looked like a ÿ, she was confused with y. In the Swiss High German and Afrikaans is such a y, which originated as a ligature of ij, still used today, for example, in names such as Schwyz or Schnyder. In the Netherlands, however, the ligature ij is needed today.


From late antiquity, the Ypsilon in Greek ( Υ / υ ) is pronounced as [i ], that is called the same sound as i Therefore, and by the use of Greek foreign words ( constructed on or Greek-style made-up words ) are available in today's orthographies of other languages very different uses of y:

  • Y as a variant of the letter i ( for example, English, French, Spanish): In particular, the y is at the end of a word instead of an i used (eg Engl happiness - happy or span reina - rey. ). Similar trends existed until the 18th century in the German spelling; could last the longest as such use be in distinguishing the words - Being ( with y because of the shape sey ), which was common until the 19th century.
  • Y as a consonant: In English and in English transcriptions of non-English names, the y at the word and syllable beginning the phonetic value of the German j, for example, yes, yellow; Yekaterinburg ( Ekaterinburg German ).
  • Y only as part of digraphs (eg, Catalan, Hungarian): As to not spoken letter is the y used to modify other letters, such as in the digraph ny for [ ɲ ].
  • Y as a designation of specific sounds ( eg Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Polish, Sorbian, Upper Sorbian, Welsh ).
  • No uses of y except in foreign words and ( geographical and family) name (eg, German, Italian, Portuguese).
  • Since the introduction of the printing press is the y sometimes been used as a substitute for similar letters or combinations of letters, as in English instead of þ (eg ye olde shoppe instead of þe / the olde shoppe (the old shop) ) or in the Early New High German and Dutch instead of a ij ( see above).

In Greek the meaning of the Wye According converts in combination with other vowels. " Ου " (o y) is spoken as U, " αυ " (a y) in Modern Greek as " af" and " ευ " (e y) as " ef". The Greek prefix "auto - ", for example, thus spoken " afto ".

Use in the German

In today's German spelling the y is used almost exclusively in foreign words and proper names. In Greek loanwords has under the influence of education, the pronunciation [y ] (g) largely prevailed ( for example, type xylophone). Still in the early 19th century, however, the pronunciation [i ] was common. In Swiss German is high in various Greek loanwords still pronunciation [i ] common, for example in the asylum. In foreign words from other languages, the foreign pronunciation is generally accepted, for example in English loan words as [i ] (usually the end of words, such as party, hobby ) or [ aɪ ] (eg, nylon), and word-initially before further vowels as [ j] ( for example, Yen, Yoruba, Yo -Yo ).

In proper names ( family and geographic names ) y is usually spoken as ü (Sylt, Thyssen, Byhleguhre - Byhlen ), in addition to as i ( Kyffhaeuser, Gysi ). In the Alemannic name y is regularly closed as [i ( ː ) ] expressed, for example, in Schwyz or myths, because such use comes from the back ij ( see above). Furthermore, the coming y as a variant of unsilbischem i (as part of diphthongs ) in different name before, for example in Bavaria, whose y goes back to an array of King Ludwig of Bavaria from 1825, which of in connection with the election of his son Otto to the king Greece is situated (next ay are also the combinations ey and oy ago). In proper names y can also be part of the other, would not normally be more graphs: in uy (next ui) for long u ( eg Huy ) or for eu ( Gruyter), in oey for long ö ( Oeynhausen ).

Y is the first letter of the identification number of the vehicle registration number of the Bundeswehr. Therefore, the Bundeswehr in Germany is with humorigem to an ironic undertone also called "Y- Travel " or "Y - Tours". The name of the magazine Y ( Magazine ) is also derived from it.