What is a Tittle?
For every jot and tittle in life, there’s an app! Tittle: I really like the sound of this word although I don’t remember the last time I used it. It’s fallen into an abyss where words go because they sound a tad dated. Perhaps the younger generation has never even heard it. You never know though; it sounds like it could be the name of an upcoming app and the word itself is slingshot back into modern usage.
The OED states the meaning of tittle, a singular noun as a tiny amount or part of something. Although there is another meaning of tittle! One I never knew until now. The tittle, or the superscript dot, is the distinguishing mark that appears above both lowercase i and j in writing and print. Yes, there’s a word for those small dots. Amazing!
Tittle, as a word, has its roots in Late Middle English where it originated from the Latin titulus: small stroke or accent. Tittle is rarely used in modern English and its first known use was recorded in the Christian Bible (Matthew 5:18).
Hold on! I thought the tittle was a diacritic.
The tittle is also referred to as a diacritic, but this is a broader term as diacritics can appear on other letters in the alphabet. This is true for many European languages where diacritics appear as accents, macrons and graves over both vowels and consonants like these guys here: ä, ë, İ, ė, á, â.
Dotted and Dotless
There are several languages that use both the dotted and dotless I in uppercase and lowercase. Modern Turkish uses both dotted (İ i) and dotless (I, ı) as well as Azerbaijani and the Tatar language.
In Irish, bilingual road signs show the dotless lowercase ı to distinguish it from the buailte overdot that appears over consonants: ġ, ċ. Nowadays, an h replaces the diacritic and is thus written as gh and ch.
In some of the Dene group of languages from the Northwest Territories in Canada, both dotted and dotless I are used to distinguish the differences between tone-marked vowels, like í and ì. And in the French speaking province of Quebec in Canada, there are road signs that show the uppercase I with a tittle rendering one such place, Longueuil as LONGUEUİL.
There’s got to be some brands out there that use dotless I in their designs, fonts and logos. If you come across any, please do leave a comment below.