Æ and œ ligatures

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Distinguishing the ligatures

The two ligatures æ and œ can be difficult to distinguish when they are printed italics. This image shows both ligatures in regular and italicized text:


In italics, the œ ligature is usually rounder at the top, while the 'a' of æ is more teardrop-shaped. The æ may also have a little bump sticking up in the middle showing the vertical line of the a.

Another way of remembering this is that if the left hand outer curve of the e nudges into the round shape of the first letter, it's an æ, if the right-hand inner curve of the first letter wins out instead, it's œ.

Some italicized examples from a variety of fonts are:

œ Oelig ital loss.png
æ Aelig ital peru.png Aelig ital loss.png Aelig ital stage.png

The third form of æ shown in the table is normally only found in old texts, such as those from the 1600s.

If the word is Latin (or derived from Latin), then there is another way to distinguish them: Latin words often end in -æ, but never in -œ.


We proof as æ and œ.

In projects started before the site migration to Unicode, you may encounter the œ ligature transcribed using the previous notation [oe] (since œ is not within the Latin-1 character set that was being used at that time). Unless the PM gave special instructions in the Project Comments, you should proof it simply as œ.


Uppercase ligatures are transcribed in a similar fashion to lowercase, as Æ and Œ.

When a word beginning with a ligature is capitalised, the entire ligature goes uppercase, and not only the first letter: e.g. Ægypt, Œdipus.

External Links

  • There are examples of these ligatures in older fonts here.