This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Nuts and Bolts: ligatures.

In English, the ligatures that tie some of our letters together are disappearing. The a-e ligature ash Æ æ, and the o-e ligature ethel Œ œ are, sadly, no longer in common use.

Those are probably the most obvious ligatures English has, but they aren't the only ones that are disappearing. The ligatures fl, ff, ffi, and ffl are being replaced by individual letters (and, as anyone who's tried to turn a pdf of a printed novel into an ebook will agree, this is in some ways a very good thing).

But at least the ampersand & is still to be seen from time to time. & is basically a joining of the letters e and t, which together make the Latin word for and.

Of course there's one ligature that's still used in just about every page of English that's written. In fact I've used it several times in this one.

It's the u-u ligature. Nowadays it usually looks more like a double v.

But we still call it, yes, double-u.

Thing to use today: a ligature. Yes, this is dead easy, isn't it? The word ligature comes from the Latin word ligāre, which means to bind.


  1. This makes me happy!
    While I've been collecting old words, I have come across both the a-e and o-e ligatures - now I can call them by name! Ash and Ethel it is! :)
    I think I like being an ethelnophilist (oenophilist - wine lover)! And enophilist looks completely wrong. :)

    1. That's a lovely word, Jingles - and at the moment this is the only place on Google where it appears.
      Ethelphile might be a more conventional alternative, but there have been several Ethel Philes.
      Well, that would make two hapax legomena in one post. Hurray!