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Home » Language Resources » Spanish Alphabet » Letter Ñ

The Letter Ñ

The Letter Ñ

EÑE. Palatal nasal sonorous consonant sound.

Origen of the letter:
From the seventeenth century, transcribers added a '~' to signify 'NN' or 'Ñ'. In the fifteenth century, Antonio de Nebrija recognized the 'Ñ' as an original element of Castilian. In 1492, Antonio de Nebrija wrote Gramática de la lengua castellana ('Grammar of the Castilian Language', originally titled in Latin: Grammatica Antonii Nebrissensis).

Example of usage:
nandu

The Ñ in Spanish

The letter Ñ is the fifteenth letter in the Spanish alphabet. Its name is EÑE and it’s only used in Spanish. Its shape comes from the consonant “N”. The tilde on top was originally used by medieval transcribers in the twelfth century to symbolize repeated letters such as Ñ = NN or Õ = OO. Two centuries later, the use of the tilde was restricted to the letter “N”. In the fifteenth century, Nebrija identified this letter and its sound as native elements in Castilian, having no precedent either in Greek or Latin, or Arabic.

The sound of the “Ñ” can be heard in Spanish words such as ñu, caña, ñora, nandu and puño. In other Romance languages ​​ this sound is represented by digraphs (pairs of letters representing single sounds).

In Catalan, the “Ñ” sound is made with the letter combination “NY”, while in Portuguese, it’s “NH”. In Galicia, they employ the Castilian “Ñ”, although in the last ten years there has been some confusion between the “N” and the Portuguese “NH”. In other Romance languages such as French and Italian, the digraph “GN” represents the same sound.