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K (letter)

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K, k is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the eleventh letter of most variants, being placed after J and before L, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈkeɪ], like the girl's name Kay. It is derived from the Greek letter kappa (Κ, κ).

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

k has the sound of c in cát or q in quîte: Ként, kéttle, kítsch, loòk, tâke, toòk, lâke, báck, dóck, bríck, åwkward (*åwquərd), hácker.

  • 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.

c is more common for this sound at the beginning of a word, but only before back vowels a, o and u: cátch, cóld, cúp, as its sound turns into an s before front vowels: cíty, cêreal food = sêrial series. The k sound can also be written ch as in chŏrd music (= cŏrd rope), álchemy, schoôner.

At the end of a word, k is usual after a double or long vowel, and after l, n and r: pêak, mâke, sínk, boòk, tánk, thánk, àrk, bàrk, sínk, mínk, mílk, tålk, jërk, quïrk, wörk, përk, lürk, Türk, besërk, fôlk (silent l).

Final -ke appears in pôke, tâke, bâke, sâke, lâke, câke, lîke, blôke, pôke, wâke, râke, brâke car = breâk broken, and forms many abbreviations: nûke (abbreviation of nûclear), bîke (of bîcycle), Jâke (of Jâcob).

After c, k merely reinforces the hard c sound and the preceding short vowel: clóck (*clók, *clóc), lúck, súck, néck, báck, thíck, blóck wood (= blóc nations), tíck clock (= tíc spasm, which has no k because it is, like blóc, from French), tíckle, crícket, wícket, tícket, níckel, ríckety, búcket. And so k is added to the ending -ic before suffixes -ing and -ed: politícking, tráfficking, frólicked, pánicked (*frólict, *pánict).

Thus the ck combination does not usually occur after long vowels: one does not see -êeck, -oôck, -orck, -àrck etc., though Åuckland is an exception.

ck is silent in bláckguard (rhymes with lággard) and ckbürn (= Côburn).

Final k on its own is rare after a single vowel: trék, flák, wók.

c or ck are generally used instead of k when forming clusters, with the exception of wóks etc. and of kl as in boòklet, especially in nkl (nk is pronounced -ngk-): sínk, thínk, tánk, ánkle (cf. úncle), wínkle, héckle, fréckle, ínkling, tínkle, tínkling, chúckle.

Silent k occurs initially before n: knôw acquaint, understand (= negative), kneŵ acquainted (= neŵ fresh), knôwn (cf. nòne), knîght Sir (= nîght dark), knít, knáck, knóck, knéll, knóll, knâve cad (= nâve church).

kh has the sound of ch in Scottish lóch in words from Arabic, Urdu &c. - although many people merely pronounce it k: Khàn (*Kàn).

kk is very rare. It occurs in púkka and Dékker (= Décker) and accidentally, with an extended k sound, in boòkkeeper.

Scientific uses

  • k prefix: kilo, 1000 in normal usage, 1024 in computing
  • K: kelvin, scientific unit of temperature
  • K: kaon, a family of mesons