Sz (digraph)

Sz is a digraph of the Latin script, used in Hungarian, Polish, Kashubian and German, and in the Wade–Giles system of Romanization of Chinese.


In Polish orthography, sz represents a voiceless retroflex fricative /ʂ/. Although being a different consonant, it is usually approximated by English speakers with the "sh" sound. It usually corresponds to ш or š in other Slavic languages.

Like other Polish digraphs, it is not considered a single letter for collation purposes.

sz should not be confused with ś (or s followed by i), termed "soft sh", a voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative /ɕ/.

Examples of sz

obszar  (area, territory)
płaszcz  (coat, cloak)
Tomasz  (Thomas)

Compare ś:
świeca  (candle)
iść  (to go)
sierpień  (August)


In Kashubian, sz represents a voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/, identical to the English "sh".


These examples are Kashubian words that use the letter sz, with the English translation following.
  • szãtopiérz = bat
  • szczawa = sorrel
  • szczãka = jaw
  • szczëka = pike
  • szerszéń = hornet


Sz is the thirty-second letter of the Hungarian alphabet. It represents /s/ and is called "esz" /ɛs/. Thus, names like Liszt are pronounced /list/ list.

In Hungarian, even if two characters are put together to make a different sound, they are considered one letter (a true digraph), and even acronyms keep the letter intact.

Hungarian usage of s and sz is almost the reverse of the Polish usage. In Hungarian, s represents /ʃ/ (a sound similar to /ʂ/). Therefore, the Hungarian capital of Budapest is natively pronounced (/ˈbudɒpɛʃt/), rhyming with standard English fleshed rather than pest.

There is also a zs in Hungarian, which is the last (forty-fourth) letter of the alphabet, following z.


These examples are Hungarian words that use the letter sz, with the English translation following:

  • szabó = tailor
  • szép = beautiful
  • szikla = rock
  • szőke = blonde
  • szülő = parent
  • szusi = sushi


In German, it was used to represent /s/ after "long" vowels, later contracting to the ß ligature.


In the Wade–Giles system of Romanization of Chinese, sz is used to represent the syllabic /s/ with the "empty rime". See Wade–Giles → Empty rime.

See also

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