The Letter N


Courtesy: Google search


Is the fourteenth letter of the Latin alphabet. While reading about it on Wikipedia, I found some very interesting facts. The shape of ‘N’ is taken from the ancient Egyptian symbol for the letter ‘J’. The hieroglyph was shaped like a snake and the Egyptian word for the reptile was djet. It seems the Semitics borrowed the hieroglyphics to create the first alphabet and their word for snake might have started with the sound of ‘N’. But in the case of other nearby languages like Phonetician, Aramaic etc. the word for the alphabet was nun, which means fish.


As a solitary letter ‘N’ can denote a lot many things. In dictionaries, the small ‘n’ in brackets means that the use of the particular word is as noun. In phonetics it means a nasal sound. Upper case and lower case respectively denote to different types of nasal sounds. After ‘T’, ‘N’ is the most popular consonant in the English language.


On the periodic table ‘N’ is the symbol for the Nitrogen gas, an inert diatomic gas, it constitutes almost two-third of our atmosphere. Industrial components like Urea, Amino Acids, Nitric Acid and Cyanides contain Nitrogen. Through Amino Acid and therefore protein it is a major component of our muscular system and as a part of Nucleic Acids(DNA and RNA) it is a building block of our body. The Nitrogen Cycle describes the movement of the element in the biosphere. But recently the synthetic Nitrates have caused a lot of pollution in the form of Acid Rains, Photochemical or San Francisco Smog and Eutrophication of water amongst other effects. Chemically ‘N’ is also the symbol for Asparagine a natural amino acid and is used to denote Normality of salts in numericals.


Coming to Physics, ‘N’ is the symbol for Newton, a unit of Force. During investigating a free body diagram of an object to resolve the forces acting on it, ‘N’ is the symbol for normal force or the force that is acting perpendicular to the surface of contact. In semiconductors ‘N’ means the area is doped with negative charge carriers.

Both upper and lower case of the letter are used in different cases. The lower case ‘n’ is used to denote the order of reflection and in atomic level the principal quantum number. In optics it symbolizes the refractive index of a substance and at the atomic level again means the electron density.

The upper case can mean the Turning number used in magnetism. And in nuclear physics the Neutron number. In magnetism again, ‘N’ is the symbol for the end of a free magnet that points to the magnetic north pole. In an electrical system it means the connection to a neutral and it is a type of connector to join coaxial cables.


Mathematically, ‘N’ means the set of all natural numbers. Natural numbers are all number from 1 to infinity. In Roman times it was the symbol for nulla. Nulla is a very rare Roman symbol for zero. In statistics it is the size of a sample. Lower case can also mean an integer. It also means the prefix nano in measurements. A nano- prefix means 0.000000001m


There are different uses of the solitary letter in different places. From slang to Games to classes of submarines. Please share the ‘N’s you know about.

ABC Wednesday

14 Responses to “The Letter N”
  1. Nanka says:

    That was interesting.

  2. Fascinating how much there is to learn about a single letter in the alphabet! Thanks for the lesson!


  3. Wanda says:

    Well I have learned so many new things from your interesting and skillfully written post.

  4. Roger Green says:

    very erudite post; I’d forgotten about the newton. Sir Isaac must be ticked.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. vernz says:

    great information.. you’re so prolific …

  6. Purba says:

    N can also be negative, never, no, not…

  7. Jingle says:

    natural numbers in math,
    cool take.
    yes, n can be both positive and negative.

  8. Wow. . For the first time i saw that some body other than me is also interested in N
    I am N, my name and surname start with N. My blog’s url also starts with N, My blog’s logo also has an embedded N in M. In finance also, n is used to denote many types of variables.
    N is in the Air

  9. Quite Informative patty !

  10. Interesting and Informative!!
    Nice post patty 🙂

    N for Name…… It gives us an Identification.

  11. Sapna says:

    NULL comment…

  12. Pooja says:

    Its so surprising that one letter can encompass so much. Interesting post.

  13. Great ‘N’ post. I always like it when I learn something new.

    Donna – ABC Wednesday

  14. madhu rudra says:


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