What is the Dot Over the Letter “i” and “j” Called?

Daniel Ganninger
April 23, 2023
363px Tittles.svg

You’ve probably never wondered what the dot over the letter “i” or “j” is called, but today would be your lucky day. It’s called a “tittle,” better known as a superscript dot or diacritic dot.

The “tittle” comes from the Latin phrase titulus, which means “heading or inscription.” It appeared in 11th-century Latin texts and was used to differentiate the two letters from each other in handwriting.

Some alphabets omit the dot from their “i” or “j.” In the Turkish alphabet, the dot’s presence or absence represents two different letters and two different sounds, or phonemes. In Irish Gaelic, the “i” is dotless, while the “j” isn’t used at all. In Quebec French, a capital “I” will sometimes have a “tittle” present.

Another interesting footnote, the phrase, “to a T,” is thought to derive from the phrase “to a tittle.” Don’t ask me why.

A Bonus dot over letters fact:

The two dots you might see over an “o” or “u” (ü, ö), and other vowels, is called an “umlaut,” and it came from one of the Brothers Grimm, namely Jacob Grimm. He came up with it as a sound change in German. He named it “umlaut,” which means “around” (um) and “sound” (laut). Some examples would be über (above) and öffnen (open).