In German orthography, the letter ß, called Eszett (IPA: [ɛsˈtsɛt] ess-TSET) or scharfes S (IPA: [ˌʃaʁfəs ˈʔɛs], lit. "sharp S"), represents the /s/ phoneme in Standard German when following long vowels or diphthongs.
The name Eszett combines the names of the letters of ⟨s⟩ (Es) and ⟨z⟩ (Zett) in German. The character's Unicode names in English are sharp s and eszett. The letter is only used in German, and can be replaced with ⟨ss⟩ if the character is unavailable or capitalized, though a capitalized version has existed officially since 2017. In the 20th century, it was completely replaced by ⟨ss⟩ in Swiss Standard German (used in Switzerland and Liechtenstein), while it remains part of the orthography of Standard German elsewhere.
The letter originates as the ⟨sz⟩ digraph as used in late medieval and early modern German orthography, represented as a ligature of ⟨ſ⟩ (long s) and ⟨ʒ⟩ (tailed z) in blackletter typefaces, yielding ⟨ſʒ⟩. This developed from an earlier usage of ⟨z⟩ in Old and Middle High German to represent a separate sibilant sound from ⟨s⟩; when the difference between the two sounds was lost in the thirteenth century, the two symbols came to be combined as ⟨sz⟩ in some situations.
Traditionally, ⟨ß⟩ did not have a capital form, although some type designers introduced de facto capitalized variants.
In 2017, the Council for German Orthography officially adopted a capital, ⟨ẞ⟩, into German orthography, ending a long orthographic debate.⟨ß⟩ was encoded by ECMA-94 (1985) at position 223 (hexadecimal DF), inherited by Latin-1 and Unicode (U+00DF ß LATIN SMALL LETTER SHARP S).
The HTML entity ß was introduced with HTML 2.0 (1995). The capital (U+1E9E ẞ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER SHARP S) was encoded by ISO 10646 in 2008.
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