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I (letter)

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I, i is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the ninth letter of most variants, being placed after H and before J, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈaɪ], like I, eye and aye.

I is also the Roman numeral representing the number 1.

Use in English

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

i represents various vowel sounds.

The short sound: fíll, íf, guíld, buíld, síx, twín, líd, kíd, Índia, tíff, gíft, gíve, líve, wíth, hís, bít, quít, Ítaly, knít, contrítion, nutrítion, optícian, sít, líd, quíp, ríp, quíz. Fíngers: índex, míddle, ríng, líttle.

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

íe substituting for final before the suffixes -ed and -s also has this sound: wòrríes, hóbbíes, flúrríes (all -íz), wòrríed, rállíed, cárríed (all -íd). Younger speakers are regularising these words to hóbbìês (-êez), wòrrìêd, etc.

The long sound is a diphthong consisting of à and ê: sîde, clîent, plîant, nîght, whîte, sîgn, mîne, trîumph, tîe, sîze, lîfe, nîce, vîe, pî number = pîe eat, hello = hîgh up.

Also, unstressed in final position: álibî, nûclêî (cf. spŷ, more commonly y in monosyllables) and before two consonants: pînt, lîthe, blîthe.

The first person singular subject pronoun Î is always capitalised.

Some British speakers emphasise their social superiority by pronouncing the î before r in words like wîre and fîre as if it were an à, so that fîre sounds like fàr. Similarly, the pronunciation can be as extreme as a very long *fú in the American South.

îe substitutes for final ŷ before the suffixes -ed and -s: crîes, flîes, drîed, prîes, relîed.

Some places have : Dubaî, Thaîland, Chénnaî, Mùmbaî, Shanghaî, Saigón; also the Welsh name Daî. î occurs after e (as in German) in seîsmic.

A third sound, long also, pronounced like ê, can be found, usually in words from Latin languages: machìne, elìte, Janìne, Christìna, polìce, Argentìna, skì, ballerìna, and unstressed: piâno (where it can resemble the consonantal sound of 'y'), Nàzì, Chrístìne or Christìne, mézzanìne, qùarantìne, and also Benìn. The subtle difference between the first and third sounds is exploited in the song "Begín the Beguìne", where they are featured in a minimal pair. (Th -ine ending can also be -îne: fîne, dîne, undermîne, and -íne when unstressed: exámíne, detërmíne, ërmíne.)

"i before e except after c" remains a good rule (though Nêil, Shêila and Kêith are exceptions) and "except after w" also applies, with the exception of wìêld). ei after c also has the ì sound: decêit, cêiling, recêive - and similarly after w: wêird, wêir - though not in wèigh, wèight heavy (= wây how, wâit time).

In German words, ie is ìê, as in Rìêsling, in contrast to as in Fáhrenheît (see E for more examples of the latter).

The third sound of ì merges into a preceding s to make the zh sound in -sion: vísion, derísion, lêsion, télevísion, revísion, and into preceding c and t to make the sh sound in -cious and -tion: précious, spêcious, ignítion, nâtion, creâtion, posítion, abstráction, inténtion, méntion, and into x to make a ksh sound in -xious: ánxious, nóxious (*ánkshəss, *nókshəss).

There can be a similar effect before the suffixes -cia, -sia and -tia: Galìcia (-ìssiə), Patrícia (-íshə), Alícia (more often -íssiə than -íshə), Âsia (*Ashə or Âzhə), amnêsia, Maláysia, Indonêsia (all for most speakers -zhə), Croâtia (*Crôwâshə), milítia, inërtia (both -shə) - and in AmE Tunisia (*Toô-nìzhə) but not in BrE (Chû-nízìə).

The ïr sound occurs before a following consonant: gïrl, fïrst, bïrth birthday (= bërth ship), gïrth, fïr tree (= für cat) and stïr; it is the same sound as in nërve, türn and wörm wriggle (cf. wårm hot, wŏrn wear); otherwise tîring, fîre, mírror, írrigate; and the Russian word Mìr space = mêre only.

The final i in Missoûri is pronounced as a schwa by some of its inhabitants (*Mizûry, *Mizûra).

Irregular i’s

spelling pronunciation
again *əgén or *əgâin
against *əgénst or *əgâinst
croissant *kwússón (French nasal -on)
impasse regular: ímpasse, irregular: *ámpasse (á or à)
lingerie BrE *lánzhəry, AmE *lànjə-rây
meringue *meráng
reveille *reválly
said *séd

Final, double, suffixes, etc.

Final i is usually unstressed î: álibî, nùclêî, rábbî, Mâgî. Also: number (= pîe eat) - but not usually in monosyllables: skì, dôh-rè-mì ( = mine) and not in nationalities: Sàudì (*Sòwdi), Pakistānì, nor in girls’ names: Térrì, Dórì, Nâomì, Jácquì (-kì) nor in Italian words: raviôlì, spaghéttì, conféttì, Rossìnì.

Double i is very rare and usually accidental: skìíng, Shìîte, râdìî, Hawàiì, cóniìne (*rây-dêe-î, *Ha-wài-ì, *cónny-êen: each three syllables).

-ice: In monosyllables: twîce, nîce, trîce, thrîce, vîce, lîce, prîce and in: sácrifîce, devîce, advîce but -íce usually in words of more than one syllable: pôultíce, crévíce, nótíce, láttíce, Véníce, hóspíce, órifíce, nóvíce. But: polìce.

-ive: Adjectives have an unstressed -íve: obtrûsíve, abûsíve, tålkatíve, demónstratíve, contémplatíve, progréssíve, regréssíve, inclûsíve and nouns: môtíve, explêtíve, dîgestíve (noun or adjective) while verbs have a stressed -îve: contrîve, arrîve, deprîve, revîve, but: líve (verb), lîve (adjective), alîve (adjective).

-ible, or -able: sénsible, respónsible, póssible, éligible, suscéptible, convërtible.

In more recent formations from nouns and verbs -able is usual: êatable (cf. édible), pálatable, unbreâkable, unrepêatable, classifîable, relîable, indispénsable, and also, to prevent -ii-, vîable. (ii does, however, occur in two words, skìing and Hawàìi (*Həwàì). See A (letter) for the suffixes -icle, -ical, -acle, and -age (-íj).

The merely negative prefix dís- (distâsteful, disâbled, disinclîned) sounds exactly like another, dýs-, which means bad: dýsentery, dysléxia, dysfúnction.

i is redundant and silent in friénd, pláit, sûit, frûit, jûice, slûice, crûise, brûise, recrûit, pursûit, nûisance, pàrliament, cárriage, márriage (both -ríj, as if -rage).

i cannot be followed by y, so *Líbìya is spelt Líbya.

Scientific uses

  • In mathematics, i represents the square root of -1. It is the base of the imaginary number system, so the square root of -9 is 3i, for example.
  • In chemistry, I is the chemical symbol of iodine.