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A letter is a character that is used in an alphabet font . The entirety of the letters of a phoneme- based written language results in an alphabet , whereby the sounds (phonemes) are fixed in the form of characters ( graphemes ). In many writings capital letters (be capital letters ) and lower case ( small letters ) distinguished.

In particular, printed letters are also called letters (from the Latin littera "letter"), as were the types of printing in the period of hot type (see letter ).


The word probably originated from the Germanic , certain to Los runes rod ( * Boks ). These characters, known as runes, were often carved out of the hard and heavy wood of beech by means of punching in weapons, but also in chopsticks . The Teutons used the chopsticks described in this way as oracles for important decisions and according to one theory the word “letter” is derived from these cultically significant beech chopsticks . According to another theory, the term “staff” goes back to the strong central line of the runes with which they are formed.

The connection between “beech” and “letter” is questioned for objective reasons, because the term “letter” was used for the Latin characters used in the book , but not for the Germanic runic characters, such as “stafr” and “ rūnastafr “were called.


When spelling difficult or rare words or proper names in the written language , but also with radio and telephone connections, the aid of the spelling table is used to avoid errors and incorrect transmissions : Words whose first letter stands for the letter mentioned replace individual letters here .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Letter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Letter  - Quotes
Commons : Letter  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Duden online: Letter
  2. Friedrich Kluge (founder): Etymological dictionary of the German language , 1999
  3. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German , 5th ed. 2000, p. 180 f.
  4. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological Dictionary of German , 5th edition, Munich 2000, p. 179 f.
  5. Jan de Vries: Nederlands Etymologische Woordenboek , 4th edition 1997, p. 70.