Sound value and distribution(1) The STANDARD value of j in English is the voiced palato-alveolar affricate /dʒ/, whose voiceless equivalent is spelt ch: contrast jeep/cheap, Jews/choose. J, dg, and soft g compete to represent this sound, as in judge and gem. J is not normally used at the end of a word or a stressed syllable. In this position, ge and dge are the rule, as in rage and dodge. The only exceptions are a small number of loanwords, such as hajj/hadj (pilgrimage) from Arabic and raj (rule, government) from Hindi. (2) There is a strong tendency for d followed by an i-glide (in words like grandeur, Indian, soldier, endure) to move to the value of j, prompting such non-standard spellings as ‘Injun’ for Indian and ‘sojer’ for soldier. (3) J occurs most often word-initially before a, o, u, a position in which g normally has its hard value: jab/gab, job/gob, jut/gut. (4) J does not normally feature in words of Old English origin, the digraph dg representing the sound medially and finally (cudgel, bridge), but some j-words (ajar, jowl) may be of Germanic origin.
Non-English influences(1) FRENCH has given English many words with initial j: jail, jaundice, jaw, jay, jealous, jeopardy, jet, jewel, join, jolly, journal, journey, joy, juice, jury, just. (2) French g has been changed to j in jelly, Jeffrey, jest and possibly in jib, jig. The form judge (French juge) is an orthographic hybrid: initial French j and vernacular dg (marking a preceding short vowel). (3) Latin has contributed such words with initial j as joke, jovial, jubilant, junior, juvenile. (4) Other words with initial j tend to be exotic (jackal, jaguar, jasmine, jerboa, ju-jitsu, jungle), or recent, often AmE coinages (jab, jam, jazz, jeep, jinx, jive, and, with medial j, banjo, hijack). (5) Many proper names begin with j: Jack, James, Jane, Janet, Jean, Jeffrey, Jim, Joan, John, Joseph, Julia; as do the months January, June, July. (6) Medial j occurs commonly in Latinate roots after a prefix (adjacent, conjunction, prejudice, reject, subjugate) and such other Latinate words as majesty, major, pejorative. (7) Final j is rare, occurring only in such exotic forms as raj and hajj/hadj. (8) Since j differs in value in different languages, non-English values often occur in loans. The fricative of Modern French occurs in more recent loans (bijou) and in names (Jean-Jacques). GERMAN and some Slavonic languages pronounce j as a y-sound (Jung, Janáček). In SPANISH j represents the voiceless velar fricative /x/ (Jerez, Juan), which may be represented by h in English (marihuana) or fall silent. (9) Currently, g/j alternate in gibe/jibe and in the cognates jelly/gelatine and jib/gibbet, as well as in the personal names Jeffrey/Geoffrey, Jillian/Gillian. See G, I.
J1 / jā/ (also j) • n. (pl. Js or J's / jāz/ ) 1. the tenth letter of the alphabet. ∎ denoting the next after I (or H if I is omitted) in a set of items, categories, etc. 2. (J) a shape like that of a capital J. 3. archaic used instead of I as the Roman numeral for one in final position: between ij and iij of the clock. J2 • abbr. ∎ jack (used in describing play in card games). ∎ Physics joule(s). ∎ (in titles) Journal (of): J. Biol. Chem. ∎ Judge. ∎ Justice.
j • symb. (j) (in electrical engineering and electronics) the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one. Compare with i.