As I understand, ö in coöperation is considered archaic (or is it?) and words like résumé, cliché and naïve are copied directly from foreign languages.

Are there any contemporary native (non-borrowed) English words left that contain characters with diacritics?

Update: Note that a word from any contemporary dialect of English would work for this question.

Also, of course, as is noted in answers below, besides borrowed foreign language words, there are English words with diacritics, that were created from non-English given names — like ångström for example.

Such words, arguably, also can be considered borrowed. And, at least with ångström, Wikipedia claims that version with diacritics is archaic as well.

Update 2: To clarify:

  1. Contemporary = was a norm in XX century at least (preferably after twenties as well). When I said "archaic" in comments, I meant "non-contemporary".

  2. Diacritics, which appeared in anglicization of a borrowed word (i.e. foreign original does not have diacritics), is acceptable. (So, Brontë surname would be good if survived into XX century.)

    (Anyway, is there a source where I can read about the rules which guide when diacritics should appear during "contemporary" anglicization?)

  3. I'm not sure if proper nouns are in the spirit of the question — but if you know one that fits and is not synthetic (i.e. employs "metal umlauts" or imitates some foreign language), please share.

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    The trema in words like coöperation and naïve were diacritics that were used natively in English at one time, to mark diaeresis: two vowel sounds in a row (as opposed to a diphthong or single vowel sound marked by two letters). It fell out of fashion, but even in the early 20th century it could be found in various texts. The New Yorker magazine still uses the trema in this way to this day. So, naïve arguably corresponds to the English orthography of the time.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 13:32
  • Well, French naïve does have the same trema, so it is hard to say if it is a borrowed one or a diaeresis one (likely both). Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 1:00
  • @Alexander Gladysh: Yes, though it kind of becomes a philosophical issue at that point. Is the "n" in naïve an English letter or simply borrowed from French (and so on)? :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 2:59
  • @Kosmonaut: That way or another — ï in naïve is dropped out of usage, as I understand. So — archaic. And it is a borrowed word. Does not fill the bill. Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 9:54
  • 1
    Given that a huge percentage of English words are of French or Latin origin, what constitutes an English word for this question? Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


I regard coöperation as a New Yorker affectation, but it really a matter of style. In the UK it will commonly be written co-operation to match the Co-operative Retail Societies. The real difficulty is with the four-letter version: Harvard/MIT call their shop the Coop.

As for the others, this is a matter of anglicisation of loanwords and changes slowly over time depending on how useful the diacritics are seen to be. I suspect naive is now more common than naïve, and that the half-accented resumé is now used almost as often as résumé.

  • 1
    I am from Australia. We have never even heard of cooperation spelled that way! Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 12:55
  • Nobody in the US would've, either, if it weren't for the New Yorker. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 14:52
  • Well, yes, but you did not answer my question. Are there any modern native English words left that contain characters with diacritics? Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 1:10
  • That depends on what you mean by modern, native and indeed English. There are invented proper names such as Mötley Crüe or Häagen-Dazs, designed to look exotic. There are fiancé and fiancée which, like blond and blonde, have an unpronounced gender distinction. But I would not characterise any of these as modern native English.
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 9:59
  • @Henry: Modern = contemporary (sorry about confusion). English = American, British or Australian English. Metal umlauts and synthetic foreign word imitations in given names would not do. And I think that fiancé is a borrowed word, no? Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 12:39

I'd add that you can have diacritics on words that are not loanwords, but derived after the name of a person (e.g., a scientist). For example, the unit equal to 10–10 meter is called the ångström (note the two cool diacritics), after A. J. Ångström.

  • 1
    But, well, this is a loanword too — after a fashion. Ångström is not an English surname. Also, FWIW, Wikipedia claims that the modern spelling lost the diacritics. Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 1:00
  • I've updated my question to reflect that. Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 1:08
  • @Alexander: how do you define an English surname? as DaG ask, what about Brontë?
    – F'x
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 9:15
  • Now you're asking hard questions. Well, A. J. Ångström was from Sweden — definitely not English. And, most importantly, the original question is about common words, not about given names (not sure how to say this correctly, but I think you'll understand what I mean). Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 9:50

What about the Brontë surname?

  • 1. Irish. 2. Archaic. 3. A surname. Does not fill the bill, I think. :-) Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 9:52
  • @Alexander: Of course, you asked the question, so you know what fills the bill, but: 1. Anglicisation of an Irish name (which didn't originally have a diaeresis). 2. XIX century is "modern" (or did you mean "contemporary"?). 3. It's a "word" (or did you mean "common noun"?). Half-joking, of course, but it still says something on how diacritics' use was felt in not-so-remote times.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 10:08
  • 1. OK, a valid counter-argument. 2. Contemporary, right, sorry. 3. I'm a bit floating in the terminology, but I think that any English word except proper noun would do. Brontë is proper noun. :-) Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 12:32
  • I've updated the question, replacing modern with contepmporary. Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 12:35
  • Regarding proper nouns: well, after some thought, I think I will accept a contemporary (XX century at least) proper noun with diacritics, which either is "native" English or has acquired diacritics during anglicisation. Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 12:37

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