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Home » Language Resources » Spanish Alphabet » Letter Y

The Letter Y

The Letter Y in Spanish

I GRIEGA. Represents two sounds: a vowel (I) and a voiced palatal affricate consonant

Origen of the letter:
From the Roman transliteration of the Greek epsilon

Example of usage:

The Y in Spanish

Y” is the twenty-sixth letter of the Spanish alphabet. It comes from the Roman transliteration of the Greek letter upsilon (υ). In Spanish it is called “i griega”.

Today, the “Y” stands for two different phonetic values: The vowel /i/ and the voiced palatal consonant /y/, a phonetic value that coincides with the pronunciation of the Spanish letter “elle” and can be found in Latin American countries and in some areas of Spain. The confusion of the two sounds is called yeísmo.

There also exists an important variation in the pronunciation of the palatal consonant, which originates from the old Spanish. The tip of the tongue touches the palate and the vocal chords are vibrated. This sound coincides with the sound of today’s “J” in English or “French” and has only been preserved in a few central regions of Spain. In Uruguay and Argentina another variation exists, a special vibration, that recalls the “ch” sound. In the Middle Ages the letter was often used as a vowel, as it was popular among writers to replace it with the letter “I”. 

The letter “Y” has the phonetic value /i/ when it is placed before a pause or in a final position, such as in Monterrey, and when it is used as a conjunction between two words, in which the first word ends in a consonant and the second starts with a consonant, as in “mujeres y niños”. When “Y” is used as a conjunction before a word that starts with a vowel, it becomes a semi vowel, as in “vecino y amigo”.