In German orthography, the grapheme ß, called Eszett (IPA:
[ɛsˈtsɛt]) or scharfes S (IPA: [ˈʃaɐ̯fəs ˈʔɛs],
[ˈʃaːfəs ˈʔɛs]), in English "sharp S", represents the [s]
phoneme in Standard German, specifically when following long vowels
and diphthongs, while ss is used after short vowels. The name Eszett
represents the German pronunciation of the two letters S and Z.
It originates as the sz digraph as used in
Old High German
Old High German and Middle
High German orthography, represented as a ligature of long s and
tailed z in blackletter typography (ſʒ), which became conflated with
the ligature for long s and round s (ſs) used in Roman type.
The grapheme has an intermediate position between letter and ligature.
It behaves as a ligature in that it has no separate position in the
alphabet. In alphabetical order it is treated as the equivalent of
⟨ss⟩ (not ⟨sz⟩). It behaves like a letter in that its use is
prescribed by orthographical rules and conveys phonological
information (use of
ß indicates that the preceding vowel is
long). Traditionally, it did not have a capital form, although
some type designers introduced de facto capitalized variants of ß. In
Council for German Orthography
Council for German Orthography ultimately adopted capital ß
(ẞ) into German orthography, ending a long orthographic debate.
ß has been used as a ligature for the ⟨ss⟩ digraph in early
modern printing for languages other than German, its use in modern
typography is limited to the German language. In the 20th century, it
has fallen out of use completely in Swiss
Standard German (used in
Switzerland and Liechtenstein), while it remains part of the
Standard German elsewhere.
ß was encoded by
ECMA-94 (1985) at position 223 (hexadecimal DF),
ß LATIN SMALL LETTER SHARP
HTML entity ß was introduced with
(1995). The capital variant (U+1E9E ẞ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER SHARP S)
was introduced by
ISO 10646 in 2008.
1.2 Sulzbacher form
1.3 Historical orthography
2.1 Graphical variants
2.2 Capital form
3 Usage in the reformed orthography of 1996
3.1 Usage in the traditional orthography
3.2 Substitution and all caps
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
5 Alternative uses
6 See also
8 External links
The spelling of sz for the voiceless alveolar fricative ([s]),
continuing Proto-Germanic /t/, originates in Old High German,
contrasting with the voiceless alveo-palatal fricative ([ɕ]),
continuing Proto-Germanic /s/, spelled ss.
The spelling survived into
Middle High German
Middle High German even after the merger of
the two phonemes [s] and [ɕ]. In the Gothic book hands and
bastarda scripts of the high medieval period, ⟨sz⟩ would be
written with long s and tailed z, as ſʒ. The development of a
recognizable ligature representing the sz digraph develops in
handwriting, in the early 14th century. This ligature was also
adopted as a separate type in the early blackletter types of the 15th
The ſs ligature used for Latin in 16th-century printing
The ſs ligature is in origin separate from the development of the
ſʒ ligature. It developed in early 16th-century humanist Latin
manuscripts representing the digraph of ſ (long s) and s (round s).
Brekle (2001) cites as the earliest appearance of the ligature the
handwriting of Lodovico Vicentino, dated 1515. This ligature was
adopted into Antiqua typefaces.
There was thus, in early printing, no direct contrast between an ſʒ
and an ſs ligature in any single typeface: blackletter fonts designed
for printing German would have an ſʒ but no ſs ligature (German
⟨ss⟩ being rendered as ſſ), while Antiqua fonts intended for
printing Latin or Italian would have an ſs but no ſʒ ligature. When
German texts began to be printed in Antiqua (see Antiqua–Fraktur
dispute), the Antiqua ſs (i.e. ⟨ss⟩) ligature came to be used as
an equivalent of the ſʒ (i.e. ⟨sz⟩) ligature in blackletter
fonts. Thus, the modern (Antiqua) German letter
ß is in some fonts
derived from ſs graphically although it represents the historical sz
digraph continued from
Middle High German
Middle High German and Early Modern High German
Essen with ſs-ligature reads Eßen (Latin Blaeu Atlas, set in
The combination of long s and s is also seen in Early Modern English
(example from the US Bill of Rights)
In the late 18th and early 19th century, when more and more German
texts were printed in
Roman type (Antiqua), typesetters looked for an
exact Roman counterpart for the blackletter ſz ligature, which did
not exist in Roman fonts. Printers experimented with various
techniques, mostly replacing blackletter
Roman type with either
sz, ss, ſs, or some combination of these. Although there are early
Roman type of a ſs-ligature that looks like the letter
ß, it was not commonly used for sz.
It was only with the First Orthographic Conference in
Berlin in 1876
that printers and type foundries started to look for a common letter
form to represent the Eszett in Roman type. In 1879, a proposal for
various letter forms was published in the Journal für
Buchdruckerkunst. A committee of the Typographic Society of Leipzig
chose the "Sulzbacher form". In 1903 it was proclaimed as the new
standard for the Eszett in Roman type.
Since then, German printing set in
Roman type has used the letter ß.
The Sulzbacher form, however, did not find unanimous acceptance. It
became the default form, but many type designers preferred (and still
prefer) other forms. Some resemble a blackletter sz-ligature, others
more a Roman ſs-ligature.[clarification needed]
ß proper has thus only been used in German typesetting.
The use of ligatures similar to
ß representing not a letter but the
digraph ſs can be found in early modern printing in other languages
(Italian and Latin); in English-language typesetting, the spelling ſs
occurs mostly as two unligated letters.
Johann Christoph Adelung
Johann Christoph Adelung (1732–1806) and Johann Christian August
Heyse (1764–1829) were two German lexicographers who tried to
establish consistent rules on the application of the letter s.
In Austria, Heyse's rule of 1829 prevailed from 1879 until the second
orthographic conference of 1901, where it was decided to prefer
Adelung's rule over Heyse's. The
German orthography reform of 1996
reintroduced Heyse's variant, but without the long s.
Rules of Adelung and Heyse
Fraktur according to Adelung
Fraktur according to Heyse
Antiqua in the 20th century (Adelung)
Antiqua in the 21st century (Heyse)
In order to display its elements correctly, the ligatures of the
Fraktur typesetting are not shown. The
IPA character ʒ (U+0292) is
here used to represent Fraktur tailed z (𝖟).
Heyse's argument: Given that "ss" may appear at the end of a word,
before a fugue and "s" being a common initial letter for words, "sss"
is likely to appear in a large number of cases (the amount of these
cases is even higher than all the possible triple consonant cases
(e.g. "Dampfschifffahrt") together). Critics point out that a
triple "s" in words like "Missstand" feature less readability than
spelling it "Mißstand". Even in cases where the second word of a
compound does not start with "s", "ß" should be used to improve the
readability of the fugue (e.g. "Meßergebnis" over "Messergebnis"
(measurement), which suggests the unrelated word "Messer" (knife), and
"Meßingenieur" over "Messingenieur" (measuring engineer), which
suggests the unrelated word "Messing" (brass)).
This problem of Adelung's rule was solved by Heyse who distinguished
between the long s ("ſ") and the round s ("s"). Only the round s
could finish a word, therefore also called terminal s (Schluß-s resp.
Schluss-s). The round s also indicates the fugue in compounds. Instead
of "Missstand" and "Messergebnis" one wrote "Miſsſtand" and
"Meſsergebnis". Back then a special ligature for Heyse's rule was
introduced: ſs. Amongst the common ligatures of "ff", "ft", "ſſ"
and "ſt", "ſs" and "ſʒ" were two different characters in the
Fraktur typesetting if applying Heyse's rule.
The recommendation of the Sulzbacher Form (1903) was not followed
universally in 20th-century printing. There were four distinct
ß in use in Antiqua fonts:
Four forms of Antiqua Eszett: 1. ſs, 2. ſs ligature, 3. ſz
ligature, 4. Sulzbacher Form
ſs without ligature, but as a single type, with reduced spacing
between the two letters
the ligature of ſ and s inherited from the 16th-century Antiqua
a ligature of ſ and tailed z, adapting the blackletter ligature to
the Sulzbacher form.
The first variant (no ligature) has become practically obsolete. Most
modern typefaces follow either 2 or 4, with 3 retained in occasional
usage, notably in street signs in Bonn and Berlin.
Three contemporary handwritten forms of
ß demonstrated on the word
aß, "(I/he/she/it) ate"
Use of typographic variants in street signs:
Unligatured ſs variant in a street sign in Pirna, Saxony
Antiqua form of the ſz ligature (
Berlin street signs)
Blackletter form of the ſz ligature (
Erfurt street signs)
Sulzbacher form (
Nürnberg street signs)
Two distinct blackletter typefaces used in red and blue street signs
in Mainz. The red sign spells Straße with ſs, the blue sign uses the
standard blackletter ſz ligature.
Sulzbacher Form in the German Einbahnstraße ("one way street") sign
Main article: Capital ß
Capital sharp s (ẞ) in the
Code2000 typeface (2008).
ß on a book cover from 1957
Capitalisation as SZ on a
Bundeswehr crate (ABSCHUSZGERAET for
ß is treated as a ligature, not a full letter of the German
alphabet, it had no capital form in early modern typesetting. There
have however been proposals to introduce capital forms of
ß for use
in allcaps writing (where
ß would usually be represented as either SS
or SZ). This was first proposed in 1879, but did not enter official or
widespread usage. The preface to the 1925 edition of the Duden
dictionary expressed the desirability of a separate glyph for capital
"Die Verwendung zweier Buchstaben für einen Laut ist nur ein
Notbehelf, der aufhören muss, sobald ein geeigneter Druckbuchstabe
für das große
ß geschaffen ist."
"The use of two letters for a single phoneme is makeshift, to be
abandoned as soon as a suitable type for the capital
ß has been
Duden was edited separately in East and West Germany during the
1950s to 1980s. The East German
Duden of 1957 (15th ed.) introduced a
ß in its typesetting without revising the rule for
capitalisation. The 16th edition of 1969 still announced that an
ß was in development and would be introduced in the future.
The 1984 edition again removed this announcement and simply stated
that there is no capital version of ß.
Regardless of prescriptive or orthographical concerns, types for
ß were designed in various typefaces in the 1920s and 1930s
even though they were rarely used. In the 2000s, Andreas Stötzner,
editor of the typographical magazine Signa campaigned for the
introduction of the character. Stötzner deposited a corresponding
proposal with the
Unicode Consortium in 2004. The proposal was
rejected at the time, but a second proposal submitted in 2007 was
successful and the character was introduced in 2008 (
5.1.0), as U+1E9E ẞ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER SHARP S (Latin Extended
Additional block). In 2016, the Council for German Orthography
proposed the introduction of optional use of ẞ in its ruleset (i.e.
variants STRASSE vs. STRAẞE would be accepted as equally valid).
The rule was officially adopted in 2017.
HTML entity for
ß is ß. Its codepoint in the ISO 8859
character encoding versions 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and
Unicode is 223, or DF in hexadecimal. In
TeX and LaTeX,
ss produces ß. A German language support package for La
TeX exists in
ß is produced by "s (similar to umlauts, which are produced by
"a, "o, and "u with this package).
In modern browsers, "ß" will be converted to "SS" when the element
containing it is set to uppercase using text-transform: uppercase in
Cascading Style Sheets. The
Google Chrome will convert
"ß" to "SS" when converted to uppercase (e.g.
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER SHARP S
LATIN SMALL LETTER SHARP S
225 186 158
E1 BA 9E
Numeric character reference
Named character reference
Usage in the reformed orthography of 1996
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Replacement street sign in
Aachen adapted to the 1996 spelling reform
(old: Kongreßstraße, new: Kongressstraße).
In the orthography of the German spelling reform of 1996, both
ss are used to represent /s/ between two vowels as follows:
ß is used after diphthongs (beißen [ˈbaɪ̯sn̩] ‘to bite’)
ß is used after long vowels (grüßen [ˈɡʁyːsn̩] ‘to greet’)
ss is used after short vowels (küssen [ˈkʏsn̩] ‘to kiss’)
Thus it helps to distinguish words like Buße (long vowel) 'penance,
fine' and Busse (short vowel) 'buses'. It is also consistent with the
general rule of German spelling that a doubled consonant letter serves
to mark the preceding vowel as short (the consonant sound is never
actually doubled or lengthened in pronunciation).
In words where the stem changes, some forms may have an
ß but others
an ss, for instance sie beißen (‘they bite’) vs. sie bissen
The same rules apply at the end of a word or syllable, but are
complicated by the fact that single s is also pronounced /s/ in those
positions. Thus, words like gro
ß ('large') require ß, while others,
like Gras ('grass') use a single s. The correct spelling is not
predictable out of context (in
Standard German pronunciation), but is
usually made clear by related forms, e.g., Größe ('size') and grasen
('to graze'), where the medial consonants are pronounced [s] and [z]
respectively. Many dialects of German however have an even longer
vowel, or an audibly less sharp s, in cases single s is used.[citation
Usage in the traditional orthography
In the traditional orthography,
ß is always used at the end of a word
or word-component, or before a consonant, even when the preceding
vowel is short. For example, Fu
ß ('foot') has a long vowel,
pronounced /fuːs/, and so was unaffected by the spelling reform; but
ß ('kiss') has a short vowel, pronounced /kʊs/, and was reformed
to Kuss. Other traditional examples included Eßunlust ('loss of
appetite'), and wäßrig ('watery'), but Wasser ('water').
The spelling reform affected some German-language forms of foreign
place names, such as Rußland ("Russia"), reformed Russland, and
Preßburg ("Bratislava"), reformed Pressburg. The orthography of
personal names (first names and family names) and of names for
locations within Germany proper, Austria and
Switzerland were not
affected by the reform of 1996, however; these names often use
irregular spellings that are otherwise impermissible under German
spelling rules, not only in the matter of the
ß but also in many
The traditional orthography encouraged the use of SZ in place of
words with all letters capitalized where a usual SS would produce an
ambiguous result. One possible ambiguity was between IN MASZEN (in
limited amounts; Maß, "measure") and IN MASSEN (in massive amounts;
Masse, "mass"). Such cases were rare enough that this rule was
officially abandoned in the reformed orthography. The German military
still occasionally uses the capitalized SZ, even without any possible
ambiguity, as SCHIESZGERÄT (“shooting materials”). Architectural
drawings may also use SZ in capitalizations because capital letters
and both Ma
ß and Masse are frequently used. Military teleprinter
operation within Germany still uses sz for
ß (unlike German
typewriters, German teleprinter machines never featured either umlauts
Substitution and all caps
Further information: Capital ß
ß is available, ss or sz is used instead (sz especially in
Hungarian-influenced eastern Austria). This applies especially to all
caps or small caps texts because
ß had no generally accepted
majuscule form until 2017. Excepted are all-caps names in legal
documents; they may retain an
ß to prevent ambiguity (for instance:
STRAßER, since Straßer and Strasser are both possible names).
This ss that replaces an
ß has to be hyphenated as a single letter in
the traditional orthography. For instance STRA-SSE (‘street’);
compare Stra-ße. In the reform orthography, it is hyphenated like
other double consonants: STRAS-SE.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
In Swiss Standard German, ss usually replaces every ß. This is
officially sanctioned by the reformed
German orthography rules, which
state in §25 E2: In der Schweiz kann man immer „ss“
schreiben ("In Switzerland, one may always write 'ss'"). Liechtenstein
follows the same practice.
ß has been gradually abolished since the 1930s, when
most cantons decided not to teach it any more and the Swiss postal
service stopped using it in place names. The
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Neue Zürcher Zeitung was
the last Swiss newspaper to give up ß, in 1974. Today, Swiss
publishing houses use
ß only for books that address the entire
ß key (and Ä, Ö, Ü) on a 1964 German typewriter
In Germany and Austria, the letter
ß is present on computer and
typewriter keyboards, normally to the right on the upper row. The
German typewriter keyboard layout was defined in
DIN 2112, first
issued in 1928.
In other countries, the letter is not marked on the keyboard, but a
combination of other keys can produce it. Often, the letter is input
using a modifier and the s key. The details of the keyboard layout
depend on the input language and operating system, such as Ctrl+Alt+s,
on some keyboards such as
US-International also AltGr+s in Microsoft
Windows or Option+s on the US, US-Extended, and UK keyboards in macOS.
In Windows, one can also use alt code 0223.
Some modern virtual keyboards show
ß when the user presses and holds
the s key.
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ß (blackletter ſz) in historical Sorbian orthography:
wyßokoſcʒi (modern spelling wysokosći, for ὕψιστος
"highest"), text of Luke 2:14 in Sorbian and German blackletter in
ß is sometimes used in German writing to indicate a pronunciation of
/s/ where /z/ would otherwise be usual (in standard German, initial
⟨s⟩ before a vowel is pronounced /z/). Gabriela Mendling
(pseudonym Luise Endlich) in her two novels (1999, 2000) used an
ß in her novels to approximate the local dialect in Frankfurt
(Oder); thus ßind ßie? ("Sind Sie?").
'ß' was used to represent /ʃ/ ⟨ in a German-influenced spelling
system for the
Lithuanian language which was used in Lithuania Minor
in East Prussia, which can be seen in e.g. some surnames.
'ß' has also occasionally been used for transliterating Sumerian /ʃ/
⟨standard transliteration š⟩.
The Sulzbacher Form of
ß is somewhat similar in shape to the
unrelated lowercase Greek letter "β" (beta). As a consequence,
occasionally been used as a surrogate for Greek "β", notably in
reference to beta test versions of application programs for older
operating systems, whose character encodings (notably
Windows-1252) did not support easy use of Greek letters. Also, the
original IBM DOS code page, CP437 (aka OEM-US) conflates the two
characters, assigning them the same codepoint (0xE1) and a glyph that
minimizes their differences.
Greek letter β (Beta)
Long s (ſ)
de:Heysesche s-Schreibung (in German)
de:Adelungsche s-Schreibung (in German)
ß (as well as ä, ö and ü) taught as "letters of the alphabet" in
Germany, which is taken to consist of 26 letters. Uhlitzsch, Julia.
"Unterrichtsstunde: Wir lernen das Alphabet! Wörter nach dem ABC
ordnen" (PDF) (in German). p. 2. Retrieved 17 March 2016. In der
deutschen Sprache besteht das Alphabet aus 26 Buchstaben.
^ "Das Alphabet, Vokale und Konsonanten, besondere Laute und
Buchstaben" (PDF) (in German). Retrieved 17 March 2016. Das deutsche
Alphabet besteht aus 26 Buchstaben, die groß- oder kleingeschrieben
werden können. "Wer hat unser Alphabet erfunden?" (in German).
Retrieved 17 March 2016. Hast Du Dich schon mal gefragt, wer sich die
26 Buchstaben unseres Alphabets ausgedacht hat?
^ Ha, Thu-Huong. "Germany has ended a century-long debate over a
missing letter in its alphabet". Retrieved 9 August 2017. According to
the council’s 2017 spelling manual: When writing the uppercase [of
ß], write SS. It’s also possible to use the uppercase ẞ. Example:
Straße — STRASSE — STRAẞE.
^ Leitfaden zur deutschen Rechtschreibung (English: Guide to German
Orthography), 3rd edition 2007 (in German) from the Swiss Federal
Chancellery, retrieved 22-Apr-2012
^ C1 Controls and
Latin-1 Supplement. glossed "uppercase is “SS”;
nonstandard uppercase is 1E9E ẞ; typographically the glyph for this
character can be based on a ligature of 017F ſ with either 0073 s or
with an old-style glyph for 007A z (the latter similar in appearance
to 0292 ʒ ). Both forms exist interchangeably today."
^ Wolf-Dieter Michel, "Die graphische Entwicklung der s-Laute im
Deutschen", Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und
Literatur 81 (1959), p. 461.
^ Herbert E. Brekle: Zur handschriftlichen und typographischen
Geschichte der Buchstabenligatur
ß aus gotisch-deutschen und
humanistisch-italienischen Kontexten. In: Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Mainz
^ Zeitschrift für Deutschlands Buchdrucker, Steindrucker und
verwandte Gewerbe. Leipzig, 9. Juli 1903. Nr. 27, XV. Jahrgang.
Faksimile in: Mark Jamra: The Eszett (no date)
(checked 5 November 2017)
^ Busch, Wolf. "Heysesche s-Schreibung in Frakturschrift" (in German).
Retrieved 1 January 2012.
^ Ickler, Theodor. "Laut-Buchstaben-Zuordnungen". Mein
Rechtschreibtagebuch (in German). Forschungsgruppe Deutsche Sprache.
Retrieved 1 January 2012.
^ Theodor, Ickler (1997). "Die sogenannte Rechtschreibreform – Ein
Schildbürgerstreich" (PDF) (in German). St. Goar: Leibnitz-Verlag.
p. 14. ISBN 3-931155-09-9. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
^ Signa – Beiträge zur Signographie. Heft 9, 2006.
^ Vorbemerkungen, XII. In:
Duden – Rechtschreibung. 9. Auflage, 1925
^ Der Große Duden. 25. Auflage, Leipzig 1984, S. 601, K 41.
^ Andreas Stötzner: Vorschlag zur Kodierung eines versalen
Unicode (n2888.pdf PDF).
Unicode Consortium: Rejected Characters and
Scripts. online (englisch); und als Kommentar dazu: Michael Kaplan:
Every character has a story #15: CAPITAL SHARP S (not encoded) Michael
^ Cord Wischhöfer: Proposal to encode Latin Capital Letter Sharp S to
the UCS. (n3327.pdf). Resolutions of WG 2 meeting 50.
^ 3. Bericht des Rats für deutsche Rechtschreibung 2011–2016
(2016), p. 7.
^ "Deutsche Rechrtschreibung Regeln und Wörterverzeichnis:
Aktualisierte Fassung des amtlichen Regelwerks entsprechend den
Empfehlungen des Rats für deutsche Rechtschreibung 2016" (PDF). §25,
E3. Retrieved 29 June 2017. E3: Bei Schreibung mit Großbuchstaben
schreibt man SS. Daneben ist auch die Verwendung des Großbuchstabens
ẞ möglich. Beispiel: Straße – STRASSE – STRAẞE.[When writing
in all caps, one writes SS. It is also permitted to write ẞ.
Example: Straße – STRASSE – STRAẞE.]
^ "German". ShareLaTeX. 2016. Reference guide. Retrieved 17 March
^ (in German) Wortschatz, Uni Leipzig, Searches for 'Rußland' and
'Preßburg'. Accessed March 20, 2008
^ Peter Gallmann (1997): "Warum die Schweizer weiterhin kein Eszett
schreiben. Zugleich: Eine Anmerkung zu Eisenbergs
Silbengelenk-Theorie". In: Augst, Gerhard; Blüml, Karl; Nerius,
Dieter; Sitta, Horst (Eds.) Die Neuregelung der deutschen
Rechtschreibung. Begründung und Kritik. Tübingen: Niemeyer (= Reihe
Germanistische Linguistik, Vol. 179) pages 135–140., p. 5.
^ Vom Sekretariat zum Office Management: Geschichte — Gegenwart —
Zukunft, Springer-Verlag (2013), p. 68.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ß.
James Mosley: Eszett or
ß - January 31, 2008 on
Mark Jamra: The Eszett
Classical Latin alphabet
ISO basic Latin alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
Letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet
Letter S with diacritics
Keyboard layouts (list)
Western Latin character sets
precomposed Latin characters in Unicode
letters used in mathematics