If I am speaking about a letter that has a diacritical mark (e.g. 'á'), what word or phrase should I use to reference the base letter (e.g. 'a')? I'm looking for something a little more concise than "the letter that it modifies" or "the letter that it is added to". I couldn't find anything helpful from Googling, and a cursory look through the Wikipedia article on diacritics didn't reveal any usage of such a word.

  • Character? grapheme?
    – 0MM0
    Feb 26, 2015 at 21:09
  • @Mary Those work well for letters in general, but I'm looking for something specific to the context of diacritics. Feb 26, 2015 at 21:10
  • The modified letter? Feb 26, 2015 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


The correct term for this in Unicodese is grapheme base.

Note that characters which are respectively considered diacritic, non-spacing combining mark, and grapheme extend characters are all slightly different. It would take a Venn diagram to show the overlap, though.

See this question, its answers, and the standards documents referenced therein.

  • Should combing mark be combining mark?
    – Drew
    Feb 27, 2015 at 17:09

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