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G, g [Called ‘gee’]. The 7th LETTER of the Roman ALPHABET as used for English. It primarily represents the voiced velar stop and was invented by the early Romans by adding a cross-bar to C, which represented the voiceless velar stop. In pre-Conquest England, a small g with a different shape from the Continental letter was used. This Insular g developed into ʒ3, known as yogh. After the Norman Conquest (1066), both forms were used in English, g as it is today, ʒ3 either for the sound y, /j/ or for both a voiced and voiceless velar fricative. By the close of the Middle Ages, yogh was replaced by the digraph gh, as in night and tough: see CH (below).

Hard and soft G

In English, both g and c have inherited palatalized (‘soft’) values from the ROMANCE LANGUAGES, as in cease, gem, as opposed to the velar (‘hard’) values in case, gun. However, while the varied uses of c in English mostly derive from the Romance languages, many variations in the use of g are peculiar to English. It has three values: (1) The hard voiced velar stop: got, gut, glut, grit, Gwen, argue, tug. (2) The soft voiced palato-alveolar affricate /ʤ/, usually before e, i, y (gem, gist, gymnast, rage, bilge, urge). Especially in words of Germanic origin hard g can however also precede e, i, y (begin, get, gig), and very occasionally soft g precedes a or o (goal, margarine, mortgagor). Rhyming words beginning with the sound of soft g are then commonly spelt unambiguously with j (get/jet, gig/jig), but gill remains ambiguous, having soft g when meaning ‘liquid measure’ and hard g for ‘breathing organ of a fish’ and NORTHERN ENGLISH ‘stream’ (3) Some loans from FRENCH have kept the voiced palato-alveolar fricative value /3/, as in bourgeois this may be heard in beige, genre, prestige, régime, rouge and in some words ending in-age(barrage, camouflage, fuselage, mirage), including the AmE pronunciation of garage, with second-syllable stress.

Hard/soft variation

(1) One value of g may be replaced by another in derivatives, soft becoming hard in allege/allegation, purge/purgative, and hard becoming soft in litigate/litigious (but note renege/renegade, in which the g is always hard). The hard initial g of traditional BrE gynaecology, AmE gynecology is pronounced soft medially in androgynous and misogyny. (2) The hard–soft alternatives for g lead to uncertainty in its pronunciation in a number of words of classical origin: hegemony (‘hedge-’ or ‘hegg-’?), analogous (hard as in analogue or soft as in analogy?), pedagogical, longevity, longitude.

Double G

(1) Normally hard as in dagger but exceptionally soft in exaggerate and BrE suggest. (2) Like many other consonants in monosyllabic words, g is doubled after an initial vowel (egg) but not after an initial consonant (bag, leg, dig, fog, hug), unless a suffix beginning with a vowel is added (baggy, legged, digger, foggiest, hugging). (3) Medial g in disyllables is commonly double after a short vowel: haggis, trigger, nugget. (4) The Latin prefixes ad- and sub- typically assimilate with roots beginning with g, causing g to double (aggression, suggest).


The digraph dg is commonly a reinforced soft g (contrast bad/bag/badge, bud/bug/budge), but in unstressed final syllables the spelling of soft g has been uncertain: both selvage/selvedge are written today, and historically colledge/knowledge, cabbach/spinach could be spelt alike. The vowel preceding g in unstressed final syllables can vary as in village, college, vestige.


The digraph gh causes difficulty. It is commonly a relic of a velar or palatal fricative that is preserved as a velar fricative /x/ in SCOTS, as in bricht nicht (bright night). (1) It is normally silent after u as in taught, drought, naughty, thought, though, through, thorough, bough, drought, and after i as in straight, weight, height, high, light, night. (2) It is pronounced /f/ in a few words such as cough, enough, laugh, rough, tough. (3) In the following place-names in England, each gh is different: Slough (rhymes with how), Keighley (‘Keethley’), Loughborough (‘Luff-’). (4) In hiccough, the gh was substituted for p (hiccup) in the mistaken belief that the word derived from cough. (5) It has disappeared in AmE draft, plow (formerly also used in BrE) and in dry, fly, sly, although preserved in the related nouns drought, flight, sleight. (6) It sometimes alternates with ch in related words: straight/stretch, taught/teach. (7) Occasionally, gh has been inserted by analogy with rhyming words even where no fricative had previously been pronounced: in delight (from Old French delit), by analogy with light, and in haughty from French haut, perhaps by analogy with high and naughty. (8) In loans from Italian, hard g is indicated by gh before e and i: ghetto, spaghetti, Malpighian; the form dinghy is similarly distinguished from dingy, with its soft g. (9) William Caxton's Dutch printers may have introduced DUTCH gh in ghastly and ghost. (10) The gh in ghoul and yoghurt transliterates special ARABIC and Turkish consonants respectively.


(1) The French and SPANISH practice of using gu to indicate hard g before e and i (guerrilla, morgue, disguise, guy) spread to some words of Germanic origin (guess, guest, guilt). The u in fatigue, however, no longer occurs in indefatigable. (2) BrE follows French in spelling Greek-derived final -ogue (analogue, catalogue), while AmE often removes the -ue (analog, catalog). (3) The gu in guarantee, guard was originally pronounced /gw/ in French, but as the u fell silent, it was dropped from the French spellings garantie, garde although preserved in English. The cognates warranty, ward derived from a different French dialect, and have kept the w in both SOUND and SPELLING. (4) The ambiguous sound value of gu is seen in its different pronunciations in guide, languid (contrast languor, often pronounced with a /w/), ambiguity, and especially word-finally, as in ague versus plague. (5) The form tongue is an isolated anomaly.


(1) Commonly a velar nasal, as in thing. It occurs almost only after short vowels: sang, length, sing, song, sung. In such disyllabic base words as anger, finger, hard g is normally heard after the nasal (‘angger’, ‘fingger’). Finger/singer do not rhyme in most accents, but may do in the accents of parts of Midland and Northern England (both like finger) and in Scots (both like singer). (2) The possibility of soft g in the digraph ng may give quite different pronunciations to parallel spellings: contrast hanged/changed, singer/ginger.

Silent G

In addition to silent gh, the letter g is silent: (1) Initially before n (gnarl, gnash, gnat, gnaw) and in (usually GERMAN or GREEK) loans: gneiss, gnome, gnostic. (2) After a vowel before final m, in Greek forms (diaphragm, paradigm, phlegm), although the g is pronounced in derivatives (paradigmatic, phlegmatic). (3) Before final n in such Latinate forms as assign, benign, design, malign, impugn. This g effectively indicates a preceding long vowel (contrast sign/sin) and is sounded in some derivatives: malignant signal. In such cases as align, campaign, the g has come from French, and is present in deign, though absent in cognate disdain. In foreign, sovereign, it has no etymological basis. In some French loans, gn is pronounced as n with a following y: Armagnac (‘Armanyac’), cognac, poignant, soigné.

Other features

(1) There is variation between soft g and j in such names as Geoffrey/Jeffrey, Gillian/Jillian, Sergeant/Sarjent. Jelly, although cognate with gelatine, has become fixed with j. Jest and jester are etymologically related to gesture and gesticulate. The jib or projecting arm of a crane probably derives from gibbet, and gibe and gybe are often written jibe. The BrE alternatives gaol/jail exist for historical reasons: gaol from Norman French, jail from Central French. (2) Some words ending in dge in standard English (such as bridge, ridge) have Scots and Northern English variants in hard g (brig, rig). See HARD AND SOFT.

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G1 / / (also g) • n. (pl. Gs or G's ) 1. the seventh letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after F in a set of items, categories, etc. ∎  (g) Chess denoting the seventh file from the left, as viewed from White's side of the board. 2. Mus. the fifth note in the diatonic scale of C major. ∎  a key based on a scale with G as its keynote. G2 • abbr. ∎  Physics gauss. ∎  German. ∎  [in comb.] (in units of measurement) giga- (109). ∎  good. ∎ inf. grand (a thousand dollars). ∎  a unit of gravitational force equal to that exerted by the earth's gravitational field. • symb. ∎ Chem. Gibbs free energy. ∎  general audiences, a rating in the Voluntary Movie Rating System that all ages may be admitted. ∎  Physics the gravitational constant, equal to 6.67 × 10−11N m2 kg−2. ∎ Physics conductance.

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g • abbr. ∎  Chem. gas. ∎  gelding. ∎  gram(s). ∎  Physics denoting quantum states or wave functions that do not change sign on inversion through the origin. The opposite of u. • symb. Physics the acceleration due to gravity, equal to 9.81 m s−2.

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G ★½ 2002 (R)

Black urban adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” Successful hiphop mogul Summer G (Jones) uses his bling to buy a mansion in the Hamptons and throw lots of parties. G is still upset that lover Sky (Maxwell) ran off long ago to marry old-money rich Chip Hightower (Underwood). Chip's cheating on his wife so G figures it's time to get Sky back. Journalist Tre (Royo) documents the happenings. Contrived mishmash was filmed in 2001. 96m/C DVD . US Richard T. Jones, Chenoa Maxwell, Blair Underwood, Andrew Lauren, Laz Alonso, Andre Royo; D: Christopher Scott Cherot; W: Andrew Lauren, Charles E. Drew Jr.; C: Horacio Marquinez; M: Bill Conti.

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g Physics, symbol for acceleration of free fall
• (ital.) Physics, symbol for degeneracy
• Meteorol., symbol for gale
• gallon(s)
• gas
• Chem. gaseous (as in H2O(g))
• Physics gerade (German: even; in spectroscopy)
• Physics, symbol for gluon
• (superscript) Maths., symbol for grade (as in 20g)
• symbol for gram(s)
• Physics, symbol for grav
• indicating the seventh row of vertical squares from the left on a chessboard

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G, 7th letter of the alphabet. It is a usual symbol for a voiced velar stop, as in the English go. It was originally a differentiated form of Greek gamma, which has C as its formal Roman correspondent. In musical notation G represents a note on the scale. In physics, G stands for the gravitational constant (see gravitation).

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g Symbol for the universal constant of gravitation. g is also the symbol for acceleration of free fall due to Earth's gravity. One g is c.9.8m/s2 (32ft/s2).

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G the seventh letter of the modern English alphabet and of the ancient Roman one, originally corresponding to a differentiated form of C.
G-man an FBI agent; G is here the initial letter of government.
G-string a garment consisting of a narrow strip of cloth that covers the genitals and is attached to a waistband, worn as underwear or by striptease performers.

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G. Note of the scale: 5th degree of natural scale of C. Thus G♭, G♭♭, G♮, G♯, G♯♯. Keys of G major and G minor. ‘In G’ signifies either in key of G major or transposing instr. on which written note C sounds as G (e.g. alto flute in G).

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G Symbol for giga-, as in GHz (gigahertz) and Gbyte (gigabyte). See giga-.

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