- I I ([imac]).
1. I, the ninth letter of the English alphabet, takes its
form from the Ph[oe]nician, through the Latin and the
Greek. The Ph[oe]nician letter was probably of Egyptian
origin. Its original value was nearly the same as that of
the Italian I, or long e as in mete. Etymologically I is
most closely related to e, y, j, g; as in dint, dent,
beverage, L. bibere; E. kin, AS. cynn; E. thin, AS.
[thorn]ynne; E. dominion, donjon, dungeon. In English I
has two principal vowel sounds: the long sound, as in
p[=i]ne, [=i]ce; and the short sound, as in p[i^]n. It has
also three other sounds: (a) That of e in term, as in
thirst. (b) That of e in mete (in words of foreign
origin), as in machine, pique, regime. (c) That of
consonant y (in many words in which it precedes another
vowel), as in bunion, million, filial, Christian, etc. It
enters into several digraphs, as in fail, field, seize,
feign. friend; and with o often forms a proper diphtong,
as in oil, join, coin. See Guide to Pronunciation,
Note: The dot which we place over the small or lower case i dates only from the 14th century. The sounds of I and J were originally represented by the same character, and even after the introduction of the form J into English dictionaries, words containing these letters were, till a comparatively recent time, classed together. [1913 Webster]
2. In our old authors, I was often used for ay (or aye), yes, which is pronounced nearly like it. [1913 Webster]
3. As a numeral, I stands for 1, II for 2, etc. [1913 Webster]
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.