Third letter of the Greek alphabet
, capital Γ and lower-case γ. The proper shape of the lower-case letter is a 'v', curled to the left, with a tail extending down leftward: it is often miswritten (e.g. by mathematicians using it as a symbol) as going symmetrically downward and having a loop. The HTML codes for it are Γ and γ
It derives from the Phoenician letter for G, related to Hebrew ג gimel and Arabic ج jim (the pronunciation gim is still used in Egypt). The name means 'camel'.
The letter was adopted into the Etruscan alphabet with the value K, since Etruscan had no G sound. The perpendicular angle shifted to shape < which was then rounded to give the Roman letter C. This was used for both the K and G sounds of Latin, until the slave Spurius Carvilius Ruga added a stroke to form the G. The use of C for G persisted in the names Caius and Cnaeus.
In the Cyrillic alphabet the Greek letter-shape Г is retained.
In Ancient Greek it usually had the pronunciation of G in got, but in some circumstances it had the value of NG in sing. This was before the velar sounds kappa, chi, xi, and gamma itself: so lynx was actually written lygx, and angelos was written aggelos. This habit was borrowed by the Gothic alphabet. It also had this value before mu: so stigma had its first syllable pronounced sting, not stig. This special value of gamma was sometimes given the name agma.
In Modern Greek it developed a fricative pronunciation, a GH sound as in Arabic, or a stronger form of the Spanish sound in luego. A straightened form of this (to harmonize with the Roman alphabet) is used as the International Phonetic Alphabet sign for this sound. Before a front vowel this became palatal, giving in effect a consonantal Y sound. So ancient hagios 'holy' is modern ayos.