Unlike in English speaking countries, here in Brazil it is very common to have names with accents. My own name is an example of it: Túlio.

In my case, in letter u we have an accentuation signal that in my country we call acento agudo (ú).

In spelling activities, it’s very common for people to ask me how to say those "accentuation signals" in English.

I'd appreciate it if you guys could give me this information. What's the most usual and commmon way to name those signals in English, specially in spelling (´, ^, ~ )?

  • Sorry, we don't have those. Generally, we strip them off and just pronounce the word with the base vowels. – Robusto Aug 26 '15 at 18:24
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    Are you asking after how to pronounce a letter with a symbol or the symbol itself? ` is an acute accent; ´ is a grave accent; ~ is a tilde; and ^ is a circumflex. Together they are called diacritics. – VampDuc Aug 26 '15 at 18:25
  • Probably the way to answer this is to consult the English names given in the Unicode standard. unicode.org/standard/standard.html – GEdgar Aug 26 '15 at 18:25
  • Normally we call them "accents." If you need to be more specific, they are an acute (accent), a circumflex (accent), and a tilde. The word "accent" is optional when referring to the first two; in contrast, I've never seen the "tilde" called a "tilde accent." They are never called signals; they are a type of mark (accent mark) or diacritic. – sumelic Aug 26 '15 at 18:25
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    Tomaz is simply asking what we call them: "accents" – Fattie Aug 26 '15 at 19:13

Probably the way to answer this is to consult the English names given in the Unicode standard. unicode.org/standard/standard.html

For example....

unicode snip

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    U+00B4: ´ ACUTE ACCENT U+02D8: ˘ BREVE U+02C7: ˇ CARON U+00B8: ¸ CEDILLA U+005E: ^ CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT U+00A8: ¨ DIAERESIS U+02D9: ˙ DOT ABOVE U+02DD: ˝ DOUBLE ACUTE ACCENT U+0060: ` GRAVE ACCENT U+00AF: ¯ MACRON U+00B7: · MIDDLE DOT U+02DB: ˛ OGONEK U+02DA: ˚ RING ABOVE – tchrist Aug 26 '15 at 19:09
  • Unicode titles are just a convenient standardization; they are not necessarily correct, and certainly not the only way to refer to typographical signs. unicode.org/notes/tn27 – sumelic Aug 28 '15 at 9:54

Diacritics: Accents and Other Markings

These are properly known in English as diacritics, or sometimes as diacritical markings. They indicate various things, but stress is only one possibility. They also change the pronunciation of letters in other ways.

The OED says of diacritic:

diacritic /daɪəˈkrɪtɪk/, a. and sb.

Etymology: ad. Gr. διακριτικός, that separates or distinguishes, f. διακρίνειν to separate. In mod.Fr. diacritique.

A. adj. Serving to distinguish, distinctive; spec. in Gram. applied to signs or marks used to distinguish different sounds or values of the same letter or character; e.g. è, é, ê, ë, e, ē, ĕ, ȩ, etc.

B. sb. Gram. A diacritic sign or mark.

Serving to distinguish, distinctive; spec. in Gram. applied to signs or marks used to distinguish different sounds or values of the same letter or character; e.g. è, é, ê, ë, e, ē, ĕ, ȩ, etc.

Whereas the Wikipedia article on Diacritics reads:

A diacritic /daɪ.əˈkrɪtɪk/ – also diacritical mark, diacritical point, or diacritical sign – is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός (diakritikós, "distinguishing"), which is composed of the ancient Greek διά (diá, through) and κρίνω (krínein or kríno, to separate). Diacritic is primarily an adjective, though sometimes used as a noun, whereas diacritical is only ever an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute ( ´ ) and grave ( ` ), are often called accents. Diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters.

The main use of diacritical marks in the Latin script is to change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added. Examples from English are the diaereses in naïve and Noël, which show that the vowel with the diaeresis mark is pronounced separately from the preceding vowel; the acute and grave accents, which can indicate that a final vowel is to be pronounced, as in saké and poetic breathèd; and the cedilla under the "c" in the borrowed French word façade, which shows it is pronounced /s/ rather than /k/. In other Latin alphabets, they may distinguish between homonyms, such as the French ("there") versus la ("the"), which are both pronounced /la/. In Gaelic type, a dot over a consonant indicates lenition of the consonant in question.

Both Spanish and Portuguese also use diacritics to distinguish what would otherwise be homographs, usually of one syllable.

Portuguese Diacritics

From the Wikipedia article on Portuguese Orthography we learn that present-day

Portuguese makes use of five diacritics: the cedilla (ç), acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú), circumflex accent (â, ê, ô), tilde (ã, õ), and grave accent (à).

These are called acentos gráficos e diacríticos in Portuguese, and correspond to the cedilha, acento agudo, acento circunflexo, til, and acento grave.

Portuguese uses the tilde and the acute and circumflex accents to indicate both stress and (usually) vowel quality. It uses the grave accent for a special contraction case, and it uses the cedilla and formerly the diaeresis to indicate a non–stress-related sound change.

In contrast, Spanish uses the acute accent for stress alone not for vowel quality, while French uses the acute, grave, and circumflex accents for vowel quality but not stress.

Before recent spelling accords, Portuguese also used the diaeresis in words like lingüística, as the Spanish still do. Note that that has one acute accent mark used to indicate the stress and one diaeresis — which is not an accent mark. It is, however, a diacritic. The diaeresis is called a trema in Portuguese and various other languages.

Diacriticked Loanwords

Diacritics are most often used in loanwords in English, or sometimes for poetry. The OED has these interestingly decorated terms in it:

Allerød         fête                       Niçoise         smørrebrød
après-ski       feuilleté                  piñon           soirée
Bokmål          flügelhorn                 plaçage         tapénade
brassière       Gödelian                   prêt-à-porter   vicuña
caña            jalapeño                   Provençal       vis-à-vis
crème           Madrileño                  quinceañera     Zuñi 
crêpe           Möbius                     Ragnarök        α-ketoisovaleric acid 
désoeuvrement   Mohorovičić discontinuity  résumé          (α-)lipoic acid 
Fabergé         moiré                      Schrödinger     (β-)nornicotine
façade          naïve                      Shijō           ψ-ionone

Please see the Bringhurst citation in this answer regarding Unicode, ASCII, and cultural narrowness.

  • I keep doing a double-take whenever I see Allerød quoted as an ‘English’ word! (Also, your Portuguese linguistics have lost their acuity. And oughtn’t it really be “Diacriticised loanwords”?) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 26 '15 at 23:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I so hear lingüística in my head said the right way that I almost don’t see its spelling sometimes. As for Allerød, all I know is that it's in the OED; whether that makes it an English word I leave for you to decide. And diacriticked, well, I was enjoying adding the -k- to see whether I could provoke anyone. I see I have. :) – tchrist Aug 27 '15 at 0:04
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    The main reason it always gives me a bit of a turn is that it’s an utterly unimportant and uninteresting suburbian blob about ten miles or so from here. Its inclusion in the hallowed halls of the OED seems almost indecent. I vacillated between diacriticised and diacritiqued. Both would work equally well, I think; diacriticked sort of misses the double entendre. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 27 '15 at 0:11

They are called Diacritics. The acute diacritic or acute accent is found in English words such as cliché and resumé.

  • The word is résumé. There is no word *resumé. – tchrist Aug 26 '15 at 20:03
  • @tchrist My dictionary lists "resumé" first... even if the spelling "résumé" is more common. – Baz Aug 27 '15 at 5:27

Olá, In English the items you specifically asked about are just called


It's that simple. For example, here's an article (in English, I mean) on how to type accents when you are dealing with "foreign" words.

In English we have NO accents! Very simple.


English speakers are quite pretentious: we like to use French words or words we think are French, occasionally. Sometimes these have accents. (Usually just the simplest one, a "tick" to the right-up.) So, that is the only place English speakers sometimes use what we call "accents." For example, entrée or à la carte.

We English speakers also know one German word, which is "schadenfreude", but fortunately for us all letters in that word have no umlauts or other accents.

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    A lot of English speakers also know Doppelgänger. It's also not that uncommon for people to include other diacritics like the cedilla in façade or the tilde in jalapeño. (Or, if you're tchrist or the New York Times, the trema in coöperate.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 26 '15 at 19:16
  • I once offended someone by spelling his daughter's name with two dots in an email (Zoë). People are funny. – aparente001 Aug 29 '15 at 13:45

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