Definition of diacritic in US English:



  • A sign, such as an accent or cedilla, which when written above or below a letter indicates a difference in pronunciation from the same letter when unmarked or differently marked.

    • ‘Starting from the epigraphic capital, decorations were now added to cross-strokes and feet, diacritics took on a curved shape, and in general the letter-form narrowed downwards.’
    • ‘Because it was the English alphabet that was the standard, only a very few non-English accents and diacritics could be handled.’
    • ‘The present invention is a method for recognizing non-English alpha characters that contain diacritics.’
    • ‘Apologies to non-Gaelic speakers for that linguistic intrusion, apologies to Gaelic speakers for being unable to find HTML equivalents for the needed diacritics.’
    • ‘The alphabet uses a great many diacritics to show spoken tones.’
    • ‘Admittedly a lot of those are basic Roman characters with diacritics but the exact positioning of the diacritic can be tricky - and it can sometimes modify the basic character shape.’
    • ‘Nor can it be a case of orthographic fetishism, such as the gratuitous use of diacritics intended to make a word look chic, e.g. Lancôme.’
    • ‘It's actually a pretty straightforward quiz, no questions about the minor uses of parentheses or diacritics or anything like that.’
    • ‘This disadvantage is made worse by the limited number of characters on keyboards originally designed for English and may require a complex use of keys to add diacritics to letters.’
    • ‘Accuracy is thus particularly relevant when testing reading in a pointed orthography, which involves attention to both letters and diacritics in different linguistic contexts.’
    • ‘Y. R. Chao was also known for the romanization of Chinese that he promoted, the Gwoyeu Romatzyh, whose distinguishing feature is that it indicates tone by changes in the letters used, not by diacritics.’
    • ‘You might speculate that the earlier explanation is right, but words that Google thinks are of financial value, i.e. adwords that might be sold to a vendor, are indexed using a different algorithm that ignores diacritics completely.’
    • ‘In the first experiment, words were presented with pointing, that is, vowel diacritics carrying the full vocalic information in the word; and without pointing, i.e., with partial and ambiguous vowel marking by letters.’
    • ‘Specifically, I need to use fonts with Polish diacritics.’
    • ‘Consequently, diacritics typically have been omitted from modern editions of his poems.’
    • ‘The other three vowels are represented by diacritics, which are super- or sub-scripted to the letters in a word.’
    • ‘Since this journal does not specialize in Islamic theology, I will, for simplicity's sake, omit many of the diacritics used in the English transliteration of Arabic terms.’
    • ‘Hopkins employed a large number of notation marks or diacritics in his manuscripts in addition to detailed explanations and commentary, generally in his letters to Robert Bridges.’
    symbol, mark, cipher, letter, character, numeral, figure, type, code, hieroglyph
    View synonyms


  • (of a mark or sign) indicating a difference in pronunciation.

    • ‘No diacritic marks are normally used for native English words, unless the apostrophe and the diaeresis sign are counted as such.’
    • ‘Even pinyin using diacritic marks has problems.’
    • ‘The diacritic mark may be left out on some sites or may not display correctly.’
    • ‘They all contain numerous diacritic marks for which musical equivalents could be deduced.’
    • ‘The one or more diacritic components are then distinguished and isolated from the base portion of the character.’
    • ‘But it has now lost its appeal largely because a total of 136 syllables require additional phonetic signs or diacritic marks, making it a fairly cumbersome system for printing and typing.’


Late 17th century: from Greek diakritikos, from diakrinein ‘distinguish’, from dia- ‘through’ + krinein ‘to separate’.