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Learning Spanish: Using the Letter “Ñ”

If you are learning Spanish, or have been for some time, you will surely have run into this strange symbol. The letter Ñ is used frequently in the Spanish language and so here we give you a quick lesson and introduction to this letter.


Intro to the Ñ

The letter “Ñ” is the most characteristic symbol of the Spanish alphabet. So much so, that it is the official logo of the famous “Instituto Cervantes”. This is the biggest public organization in Spain that is responsible for teaching the Spanish language and its culture.

It’s not the only language that uses it though. Galician and Euskera, languages originating from the North of Spain,  as well as other dialects also use this letter.  There are some indigenous languages such as Quechua, Zapoteco, Mapuche or Guaraní that have the letter Ñ in their alphabet too.

It’s a very simple symbol, so the orthography is really easy. Just write a letter N and add a diacritical mark (~) above it.

The Letter “Ñ” was first included in the Royal Spanish Academy of Linguistics dictionary in 1803, despite its origin dating back to more than 1000 years ago!

How to use it?

In Spanish it’s always used between vowels or at the beginning of the word. Its pronunciation is very similar to a “ni” sound.

Many languages have similar sounds and ways to write it. In French and Italian for example, the same sound is written as “gn” (Spagna). In Portuguese, they write it as “nh” (Espanha). Also, Valencian and Catalan have their own ways to write the phoneme putting two letters together, “ny” (Espanya).

Here you have some examples of words written with the letter Ñ.


CAMPAÑA (Campaign)                                                      SUEÑO (Dream)

CAÑERÍA (Tube or Pipe)                                                   PIÑA (Pineapple)

COMPAÑÍA (Company)                                                     NIÑEZ (Childhood)

AÑO (Year)                                                                            NIÑO (Child)

PAÑUELO (Handkerchief)                                                UÑA (Nail)

SEÑAL (Signal)                                                                    MUÑECA (Doll)

EÑE (Letter Ñ)                                                                     ÑAPA (Sloppy Work)

TEÑIR (To dye)                                                                   ÑU (Wildebeest)











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