How Did We Get Our Letter Z?
Why Is It the Last Letter in the Alphabet? “Z,” the 26th letter of the alphabet, comes from a sign the ancient Egyptians used in their picture writing that of an arrow like object.
The Semites, who once lived in Syria, used the symbol in their writing. They named it zayin, meaning weapon.
The Greeks later made the symbol the sixth letter of their alphabet. They gave it the capital “Z’ form.
When the Romans took over the Greek alphabet, they used “z” only when writing words borrowed from Greek, and moved the letter to the end of their alphabet.
In earlier times, the English alphabets used by children terminated not with Z but with & or related typographic symbols.
In modern English orthography the letter ‘z’ usually represents the sound /z/. This is the alphabet we use today.
Why did Z get removed from the alphabet?
Around 300 BC, the Roman Censor Appius Claudius Caecus removed Z from the alphabet. His justification was that Z had become archaic: the pronunciation of /z/ had become /r/ by a process called rhotacism, rendering the letter Z useless.
At the same time, S was also removed, and G was added … but that’s another story.
How did Z get added back?
Clearly there’s good news for all the zebras and zither lovers out there, though. Z made its way back to the alphabet so kids could learn an alphabet that stretched all the way from A to Z.